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Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) is primed to make up for a rough, winless spring campaign with some big results at the Giro d’Italia.
Dogged by illness, the Australian sprinter has yet to put one in the win column so far this season.
Goss’s spring classics campaign was derailed after coming down with a stomach bug; he was unable to defend his title at Milan-San Remo, and pulled the plug at Tour of Flanders.
He returned to racing last week at the Tour of Turkey, with four second-places and the points jersey, but he’s confident things are on the right track for the Giro, which opens Saturday in Herning, Denmark.
“I wanted a win at Turkey. We came here for training and to get the sprint team happening for the Giro. We’ve been very consistent. I lost two stages by 50-thousandths of a second, I heard, so it doesn’t really matter,” Goss told VeloNews. “The team is riding really well. I am feeling very strong, very comfortable on the climbs. I am still going to go to the Giro with a bit of confidence.”
Considered one of the fastest finishers in the bunch, Goss will be squaring off against former High Road teammate Mark Cavendish (Sky) in the Giro. Goss won a Giro stage in 2010 riding in support of Cavendish, but this time, they will be locking horns in the bunch gallops.
All eyes will be on the sprint matchup, because Cavendish often says the only sprinter he truly fears is Goss. Team Sky and Orica will both bring their top sprint outfits to try to set up their respective leaders.
Goss takes confidence in the support he will see during the Giro and hopes to win at least one stage.
“Brett (Lancaster) has been doing a great job launching my sprints. Tomas Vaitkus will also be going to the Giro, as well as Daryl Impey,” he said. “With those three big guys, we got a lot of power to take me to the line in the last couple hundred meters.”
The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, winning San Remo and taking stages at Paris-Nice and the Tour of California before dashing to the silver medal at the world championships.
With that success, Goss is now one of the team leaders at GreenEdge, which announced the arrival of a major sponsor Tuesday with Australian mining company, Orica.
The pressure will be on him to win a stage, but that’s something he says he’s not too worried about.
“There is a little more pressure, that doesn’t worry me so much. I feel some more weight on my shoulders. You always put more pressure on your own shoulders. That’s something I’ve done the last couple of years, so it’s no different,” he said. “I am still doing the same thing as last year, trying to win.”
Goss admitted he’s keen to get onto the top step of the podium. His spring campaign simply didn’t go the way he expected. He rode as part of the team’s TTT victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, but pulled out after stage 5 when he was zapped by a stomach bug.
As teammate Simon Gerrans dashed to victory at Milan-San Remo, Goss rode to 15th before suffering through more of the spring classics with a half-tank and eventually pulled out of the Tour of Flanders when he knew it was a futile effort.
“The spring wasn’t perfect. Right at the start of the season, I had a knee injury and I lost three weeks in December, so that put me in the back seat. I started to catch up and I had good form at Tirreno, but then I got sick the last two days and went home. I was on antibiotics and came off San Remo, but I lacked a little bit,” he said. “I felt really good at Gent-Wevelgem, but I got messed up in the sprint, that happens, then I was on antibiotics again. It got all a bit backwards in the spring classics. It was like fighting a dead horse, it was better to take a break, get healthy, race Turkey and focus on the Giro.”
With the Giro, Tour de France and Olympic Games all stacked up over the next few months, it’s unlikely Goss or any other of the major sprinters will ride all the way to Milan when the Giro ends May 27. There could be as many as six stages for bunch finishes before the race hits the high mountains entering its third week.
“We will wait and see if I finish the Giro. I also have the Tour on the schedule as well. Finishing both could be a bit tough. We will take it day-by-day,” he said. “There are a lot of chances in the first couple of weeks. We want to pick up a stage at the Giro.”
Goss is lucky that he has already secured his ticket to London with his silver medal during last year’s world championships. There will be keen competition to earn one of the remaining four spots on the favored Australian team.
“It’s going to be tricky, because you have to use the TT guys in the road race. If they’ve been winning every race, we will bring two TT guys. Maybe we take one TT guy and four guys for the road,” he said. “I am glad I am not a selector because there are a lot of guys and someone is going to be left unhappy. I am glad I have the silver medal under the belt from last year.”
Goss says he is his licking his chops as the most important goals of the season — the Giro, Tour and Olympics — are right in front of him.
“Those are three big ones. We want to win a stage at the Giro and the Tour, that is one of the big goals for the team,” he said. “The Olympics only come around every four years, and to have a circuit that suits me pretty well, I am going to make the most of it.”
For Goss, that means finally kicking into the win column. And the Giro will be the first major test of what will be the most important three months of his young career.