Sky’s Vuelta a España riders are re-adjusting their season’s plans following the team’s withdrawal from the race. Team manager, David Brailsford made the decision on Saturday following the death of Sky’s soigneur, Txema Gonzalez.
”Initially, I thought: ‘Wow, that is pretty extreme, life has got to go on and we had all busted our arses to be there,’ as much as we all felt the loss of Txema,” Simon Gerrans said in a teleconference, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “But when you sit down and look at the decision a little more closely, you can see the reasons why.”
Spaniard Gonzalez began the race with the team, but died in hospital in Seville six days later, on Friday after a bacterial infection developed into a sepsis blood infection. Brailsford pulled his remaining six riders from the race and attended Gonzalez’s funeral with the rest of the riders and staff members in Vittoria, Spain.
Gerrans, as with many other cyclists, uses the three-week Vuelta a España as part of their training for the World Championships. This year, the Worlds comes two weeks after the Vuelta a España and along the same roads Gerrans’ used ride as a boy in Geelong, Australia.
“My initial goal was to go there and try and win a world championship. To be honest, I really have to reassess my aspirations at the Worlds,” said Gerrans.
”I haven’t got any other racing in Europe, so I’ve decided to come back to Australia in the next days. By the end of the week, I’ll be chasing a motorbike around.”
Gerrans plans to train behind a motorbike near Melbourne, where the men’s road race starts, to simulate the fast training he will miss in the remaining two weeks of the Vuelta a España. In addition, he will participate in some local club races.
Last year, he co-led the Australian team with Cadel Evans in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Evans went on to win and take Australia’s first gold medal. This year, on more of a sprinters’ course, the team will support Allan Davis and Mark Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia’s team-mate, Matt Goss.
Australia will race with nine riders, whereas Great Britain will only have three riders – David Millar and Jeremy Hunt – for Cavendish due to national rankings. Both Millar and Cavendish are still racing the Vuelta a España, which continues today with a 175.7-kilometre stage to Vilanova i la Geltrú.