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Gerrans buoyed for cycling tour
Roger Vaughan
17:30 AEST Sun Jan 20 2013

Defending Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans is unsure about his own form, but buoyed by the firepower around him.

Gerrans will lead Orica-GreenEDGE at the six-day tour, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday.

He gave Australia's first top-level professional team a perfect debut a year ago by winning the national road title and then the Santos Tour on a countback from Spanish star Alejandro Valverde.

But injuries and the teething problems of starting a new team meant Orica-GreenEDGE had an interrupted lead-up to the Adelaide race.

This time, Gerrans warns they are far more dangerous.

"I feel I'm in good shape, but you never know how you're really going until you have a number on your back," he said.

"One thing for sure, the few races I've done, including the national championships, I can see the team is in good shape.

"The team as a whole is definitely up on where they were this time last year."

Gerrans will make history as the Tour's first three-time champion if he can go back-to-back.

He also won in 2006 and last year joined team-mate Stuart O'Grady and Germany sprint ace Andre Greipel as two-time champions.

O'Grady is now the team's on-road captain, while Greipel again will be high among the race favourites.

Gerrans made the top 10 overall in the Herald Sun Tour at the start of the month and then was ninth in his road race title defence at the nationals.

Team-mate Luke Durbridge produced a storming ride to keep the national champion's jersey at Orica-GreenEDGE and he will be another to watch at this week's Tour.

O'Grady missed the nationals through illness, but will be back for his home-city Tour.

While there is much less outside pressure on Orica-GreenEDGE to produce a big result this week, it will always be one of their priorities for the season.

"This year, the pressure is probably a little bit less because we really proved ourselves last year," Gerrans said.

"This year obviously I'm motivated, being defending champion, but the Tour Down Under is one of many goals we have at Orica-GreenEDGE.

"The pressure is probably spread a bit more evenly across the season this year.

"As you well know, it's an important race for us being an Australian team."