Gerrans has rediscovered his champion verve this season after a 2015 campaign marred by crash related injuries and will return to the race fully fit and motivated.
The 35-year-old has finished three times on the podium and five times within the top 20 of the sinuous one-day test. Defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and old sparring partner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) are also set to start.
“I think I’ve got the record number of third place finishes in Amstel Gold so I’d love to improve on that,” Gerrans said on the eve of the Netherlands showcase.
“From early on in my career I realised this a race that suited my characteristics and it was a race that had a fantastic atmosphere. Slowly but surely I’ve been improving over the years, and to the last few years I’ve been pretty consistently around the podium. It hasn’t quite come together for me on the day just yet - to go for the win - so hopefully that happens come Sunday.”
Gerrans and Michael Matthews headline a crack Orica-GreenEDGE outfit that will surely animate the 248.7km classic from Maastricht to Valkenburg, which features a total of 34 short but steep climbs.
The Australian has, as ever, meticulously calculated his lead-up to title assaults at Amstel and then Liege-Bastogne-Liege next weekend. Gerrans substituted racing for training in February following a full throttle early season campaign on home soil where he dominated at the Santos Tour Down Under and finished fifth at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. It’s a more relaxed approach the experienced puncheur is hopeful will pay full dividends this weekend.
“[Previously] I just tried to maintain my condition on from the Australian summer and I was good right through to San Remo but then when the big objective in the spring came around, which is the Ardennes, I felt like I was actually running out of energy, and the form was coming off quite a bit.
“So I learned to back things off a bit through February and build again through March and I got that kind of right in 2014 [where he finished third]. I was much, much better for the Ardennes.” - Simon Gerrans
Gerrans will enter Amstel on the back of the Volta a Catalunya as well as the Tour of the Basque Country, which he left early last week to return to his new Europe base in Andorra, Spain.
“The first goal for the year was the Australian summer of racing and then the next big goal is the Ardennes period so I’ve had a really good build-up for the second goal of the year,” he said.
“I found if you go right through to the end of Basque Country all you basically have time to do is recover and then you’re back racing again. I did the majority of the final road stage and didn’t do the time trial just to get back home and freshen up a little bit so I could do a couple of specific days training leading into Amstel.”
Gerrans has an intrinsic knowledge of the race but has still tipped an open competition, referring to the calibre of the start list as well as minor course alterations that have changed the pace.
“There is no one standout guy like there has probably been in the past,” Gerrans said.
“The finish is no longer on the top of the Cauberg, which means there is quite a lot of time for any late kind of attacks to be nullified. In the past editions…it was a lot more of an aggressive race and the selections that were made in the final sort of 30km generally stuck, so it was in everyone’s incentive to be really aggressive and to really go for it on the final climbs.
"Whereas these days I think coming into the last couple of kilometres we’ve seen a group up to 50 or 60 riders still at the front so it’s kind of, for me, made the race a heck of a lot more negative. You’re not going to spend a lot of energy until the very final.”