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COPENHAGEN (VN) — Matt Goss was relieved in more ways than one after delivering a huge win in Monday’s crash-marred finale at the Giro d’Italia.
The Australian got a monkey off his back with his first victory of the 2012 season, after posting five second places in his eight race days. And he squashed any lingering doubts about his team’s ability to lead him to victory in the bunch sprints.
Goss, who scored four second places at the Tour of Turkey to tune up for the Giro, was impeccable in the wide-open finale, easily fending off J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) to hand Orica-GreenEdge its first grand tour win and its first victory for new title sponsor Orica.
“It’s always good to get the win,” Goss said. “I’ve been real close a few times this year. I was also sick and wasn’t at my best during the spring. I hope this is the first of many (wins).”
The victory was also an important confidence-booster for the Tasmanian sprinter, who is now going head-to-head against former High Road teammate Mark Cavendish in the bunch sprints.
Cavendish beat back Goss in Sunday’s Giro stage but did not have a chance to challenge the 2011 Milan-San Remo winner on Monday when Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) swept out his front wheel with about 200 meters to go.
There’s no way of knowing how Cavendish, who was surging forward after starting uncharacteristically far back in the final dash to the line, would have fared. After blazing toward the finale on Sunday, Cavendish’s leadout hit the skids on Monday, leaving the world champion to fend for himself ahead of the final corner in Horsens.
For Goss, the victory will confirm that his Orica-GreenEdge train is hitting the rails just in time for the most important races of the season.
One of the key players in the Aussie train is Brett Lancaster, who helped guide Goss into the final sprint on Monday. Daryl Impey also played a key role, helping drive the pace in the closing kilometers to keep the lid on late-stage adventurers in both of the Giro’s opening bunch finishes.
Lancaster said after Sunday’s near-miss against Cavendish that Goss and the team were amped up for another shot at the stage victory.
“The last three laps on that circuit was absolute madness. It was like junior crit days, with a lot of traffic furniture,” Lancaster told VeloNews. “I was in Turkey with him and I led him out to four second places and second place yesterday. We’ve been banging on the door, we knew Gossie had the form. It was a matter of time.”
Lancaster is one of the sport’s best lead-out men, having worked with Thor Hushovd at Cervélo and Alessandro Petacchi at Milram before joining Orica-GreenEdge this season.
The Aussie team has built up a strong train for Goss, with its sights set squarely on trying to knock Cavendish off his sprint-king pedestal.
Lancaster said the real battle to beat Cavendish comes in the closing kilometers of a stage, when positioning is key and maintaining a viciously high speed to the line can prove the difference between winning and losing.
“Cavendish is a very fast guy. Sometimes you got to catch him off-guard if you can. If he’s at the front, it’s game-over, but if your train can come past him and get him a bit stuck in there, that’s the only way to beat him,” said Lancaster. “Cav has said that Gossie is the only rider that he fears at the moment. I don’t think Goss has got that real top-end speed that Cav does, but he can do a long sprint.”
Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White said derailing Cavendish’s train is the only way to beat the world champion in a bunch sprint. As the sport director at Garmin until 2011, White’s teams had limited success at forcing the Manxman off his rhythm.
“If Cav has the front wheel, there’s no way anyone can beat him,” White told VeloNews. “If you’re in front of Cavendish, at least you have a chance. We did that (Monday), getting Gossie in perfect position to the line. You have to have Cavendish come over the top. It’s the only way.”
The sprinters step out of the spotlight in Wednesday’s team time trial, but will likely be bumping shoulders again in Thursday’s fifth stage.
The battle of the trains is just heating up. Cavendish and Sky will surely be champing at the bit to get another victory in the aftermath of his high-speed crash in Monday’s finale. Goss and company will be equally as motivated to again put the brakes on the Sky train in Fano, Italy.