Simon Gerrans hits his target

I did say after the Tour Down Under that Liege-Bastogne-Liege was one of Simon Gerrans’ targets. Target hit. Just look at his cheery munchkin face. He’s delighted.

Form

This year’s race was something of a who’s who of 2014’s form riders. Obviously, you don’t win if you’re massively out of form, but the podium only featured riders who have been really, really in form.

Gerrans started the season by becoming Australian national champion before winning the Tour Down Under and then finished third in Amstel Gold last week. Runner-up, Alejandro Valverde has won Roma Maxima, the Tour of Andalucia and La Fleche Wallonne, plus he’s racked up a string of top-five finishes in other major races. Finally, third-placed Michal Kwiatkowski seems to have become far higher profile this season. As well as winning Strade Bianche, he’s won the Tour of the Algarve, pushed Alberto Contador hard in finishing second in the Tour of the Basque Country, and finished in the top five in the two previous Ardennes classics.

At the other extreme, we have riders who haven’t been in form. Chris Froome’s been like a stringy half-remembered ghost this season, pulling out of races and generally being conspicuous by his absence. He missed this race because he’s got a cold. Richie Porte at least made it to the start, but didn’t make it to the finish. Nor did Joaquim Rodriguez, who seems to have caught crashing disease off Geraint Thomas – perhaps a sign that he isn’t fit enough to keep himself near the front, out of the melée.

Andy Schleck didn’t finish either. For some reason I still feel the need to mention him. It’s more that I can’t look away from the horror than that I’m waiting for him to return to his best.

Speaking to Cycling News, he said:

“Ask me how my week was because it was just shit.”

He’s missing the Tour of Romandie because he’s hurt his knee.

How did Gerrans win?

By being strong enough to survive to the end and then being fast enough to hold everyone off. That sums up most bike races, I guess, but different terrain results in different contenders at the finish. You can only win Liege-Bastogne-Liege if you can climb, but as it’s a series of short climbs rather than a couple of really long ones, different riders can come to the fore.

It’s good to see someone other than one of the Grand Tour contenders win. Every type of rider should have a day to call their own and Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a day for the puncheurs.

What’s next?

The Tour of Romandie starts tomorrow. Chris Froome is expected to start, but the way Team Sky’s season has been going, expect some sort of limp exit after a couple of stages.