Simon Gerrans found some solace after a nightmare season on Saturday, as he claimed the first leader's pink jersey of the 2015 Giro d'Italia. On day one in San Remo, not far from his base in Monaco, the Australian led the Orica-GreenEdge team over the line in the team time trial and took the overall lead. It could not have come at a better time.
Gerrans's early season was falling apart like the Italian economy. He crashed training on his mountain bike before the national championships and was unable to defend his 2014 Tour Down Under title.
In his first race back mid-march, he broke his elbow in Italy's one-day race, Strade Bianche and was unable to be fully fit in time to lead the Ardennes Classics. Instead of going to defend his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title, he returned in time to support teammates like Simon Yates.
"I had a very difficult start to this season," Gerrans said in San Remo.
"It seems I'm constantly coming back from a setback or injury, but I said my form could come back quickly, and this shows that.
"This is some pay back for the work I did of my teammates in the meantime. I hope this is the start of more results in this season."
Gerrans was the first Australian to win a stage in every Grand Tour, and as well as the the Giro's maglia rosa, wore the leader's yellow jersey in the 2013 Tour de France. In one-day racing, he counts monuments Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Milan-San Remo.
Last year, he won both the GP Quebec and Montreal ahead of the world championships where he placed second to Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx - Quick-Step) in Ponferrada, Spain.
The 2015 season, however, quickly unravelled due to crashes. Only Orica's team time trial along the Italian Riviera saved 'Gerro' from hitting rock bottom.
Today, he begins the second stage of the Giro d'Italia in Albenga in the race's famous pink jersey.
Further west along the Riviera in the French village Cagnes-sur-Mer, he did the same in the 2013 Tour’s yellow jersey the morning after Orica won the time trial in Nice.
This pink jersey could likely be passed over to his Australian team-mate Michael Matthews at the end of the day in Genoa or in the coming stages. Last year, Matthews took over the jersey for six days after Orica won the Giro's opening time trial in Belfast and put Canadian Svein Tuft in pink.
Gerrans said that he would gladly give the jersey away, but he just wants to keep it within the team.
He is aiming for more victories in the Giro and has a few more Giro days on his agenda, but he would not say which ones, only "stages where there will be reduced bunches."
The Tour de France is next for Gerrans and then the world championships in Richmond, Virginia, where he said he would have his last chance to win the rainbow jersey in his career. For now, he is enjoying the pink jersey after a season that nearly slipped down the drain.
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