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Gerrans puts crashes behind him for Vuelta

  • Gerrans puts crashes behind him for Vuelta

Simon Gerrans aims to put his horror run of crashes behind him when he returns from his latest injury to contest the Vuelta a Espana starting Saturday.

The 35-year-old Australian suffered multiple wrist fractures in a high-speed crash at July's Tour de France, which forced him and five other cyclists to abandon the race.

A stage winner at all three grand tours in a decorated career, Gerrans faces a tough task coming straight back into the last big three-week race for 2015.

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He is joined in the Orica-GreenEdge team by South African veteran Daryl Impey, returning from a broken collarbone sustained in the same Tour de France crash, and 21-year-old Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan who makes his grand tour debut.

Gerrans' fall in France followed previous Grand Tour crashes in May's Giro d'Italia and last year's Tour, as well as an elbow fracture sustained in March's Strade Bianche road race and a broken collarbone from mountain biking last December.

Team director Neil Stephens admitted Gerrans' and Impey's return to racing form would be a gradual process.

"Realistically, we can't expect too much out of them in the first week as they get back into racing, but over the three-week block I am sure they are going to be able to pick out their moments to shine for the team," he said.

Stephens said racing the Vuelta was a natural progression for Ewan, who won the Vuelta a La Rioja in April.

"As we do with all of our young guys, we will certainly support him and have high hopes, but any pressure will only come from himself," he said.

Saturday's first stage team time trial at Puerto Banus has been overshadowed by questions surrounding the safety of the 7.4km Costa del Sol route.

Tour de France champion and 2014 Vuelta runner-up Chris Froome was one of many riders to challenge the track design, posting pictures of the route to Twitter and showing how bike wheels struggled over the dirt surface.

Sky Teammate Nicolas Roche also tweeted "Vuelta ttt! Are you joking????"

Froome starts as the clear favourite for the Vuelta title, as he aims to become only the third rider in history to win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year.

To do so he'll have to conquer a field led by Colombian Nairo Quintana and Italian former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali.

Spanish favourite Alberto Contador will sit out the 2015 race, which ends in Madrid on September 13.

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