Now riding with the Italian Amore & Vita squad directed by longtime domestic rider Roberto Gaggioli, Gerlach jumped away just several laps into the race. The 35-year-old quickly forged a gap that had spectators measuring not his advantage over the front of the field, but the gap from Gerlach to the tail of the single-file peloton.
At times, Gerlach hovered just 10 seconds from lapping the field, threatening to close the gap on the technical, five-turn circuit at any moment, all but locking up the biggest win of his return in the process. Sensing the danger, Kelly Benefit put six men on the front to drag Gerlach’s advantage back to a mere half a lap before leaving the rest of the job up to other teams and Gerlach’s fatigue. Twenty laps later, to the peloton’s surprise, Gerlach was not only still out front, but was once again knocking at the back door of the field, this time just 8 seconds back.
It was a move astounding for its strength and duration, but according to Gerlach, it wasn’t part of any grand plan. “It was really slow those first couple of laps, and I just attacked to kind of get the race going. They just let me go, and all the sudden I had 10 seconds, 15 seconds, so I just put my head down,” he said.
Pick up the pace they did – staying single file until Gerlach, now over an hour and a half into his solo, was finally within striking distance. When the countermove finally rolled up, Gerlach rallied again, sticking to the back of the break, continuing to roll through, and taking a late-race prime before finishing sixth in the sprint.