• The poster child of not just Australian cycling but cycling, period: Simon Gerrans. (AFP)
Michael Matthews might be next in line to the OGE throne but for now it's Simon Says, and so say all of us, writes Anthony Tan.
By
11 May 2015 - 10:31 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2015 - 11:02 PM

The antithesis of Floyd Mayweather, rated as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world but with a record of domestic abuse that makes him difficult to like outside the ring, Simon Gerrans is the poster child of not just Australian cycling but cycling, period.

Unlike Mayweather, who recently downed Manny Pacquiao to remain undefeated as a professional after 48 fights, it is easy to reconcile Gerrans the man with Gerrans the athlete.

"It would be the one who, since the team's inception, has placed this team front and centre in the psyche of the Australian cycling fan, and kept it there ever since."

Through his actions on and off the bike, his character, after a decade as a professional, remains unblemished. Over the years his métier has changed little - he was and will always be a one-day specialist; the difference now is that he is one of the best in the world at what he does. And when he speaks people listen, for these are not the contrived words of a juvenile neo-pro that needs constant media management but that of a wise and hardened professional; one who last year took his biggest ever scalp with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Despite being 34 years of age, you can see Gerrans continues to learn, and, just as importantly, improve. On the opening day of last year's Tour Down Under, after beating André Greipel in a sprint finish in Angaston, he told me he felt he was still growing stronger; with more opportunities to sprint, he said, he was learning how to best position himself. (Don't forget he also beat Peter Sagan on the third stage of the 2013 Tour de France in Corsica, kick-starting a memorable spell in the maillot jaune for he and his team.)

If not for a broken collarbone in the off-season Gerrans may well have experienced a similarly auspicious start like that enjoyed the previous three years. Then, just like when it looked he was about to get going again, Gerrans broke his elbow in a crash at Strade Bianche. And then, after another forced hiatus, two more crashes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège...

For the average pro it would have been enough to see their head fall off.

But he is no Joe Average pro.

Within the space of a fortnight Gerrans had regrouped, physically and mentally, and was rewarded last Saturday in Sanremo with the honour of leading Orica-GreenEDGE across the line on the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia.

It could have been anyone but for head sports director Matthew White there was no choice: it would be he who, since the team's inception, has placed this team front and centre in the psyche of the Australian cycling fan, and kept it there ever since. "It wasn't brought up in conversation until just before the stage," Gerrans said afterwards, but the decision was likely made as early as April 16, when it was announced he was down to race the year's first Grand Tour.

It was a subtle way of saying, "You're still our number one guy - and we need you in July."

Orica-GreenEDGE is what it is because of him. And for Simon Gerrans the athlete, he is what he is because of Orica-GreenEDGE.

Like birds of a feather.

Giro d'Italia broadcast details
SBS will broadcast every stage of the Giro d'Italia live. When possible, we will also live stream the race online here at Cycling Central before the television broadcast begins. In addition to morning highlights online, there will be highlights every day at 6pm on SBS 2.