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Tour de France

Matt Goss, Orica-GreenEdge hunting stage wins 1st, green jersey 2nd in 2012 Tour de France

Aussie team brings sprinters and breakaway opportunists to its debut Tour

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LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) – The green jersey will not be the top priority for Matt Goss and his new Orica-GreenEdge team, which is making its Tour de France debut.

The 25-year-old Tasmanian sprinter said the green jersey would only become a priority if he’s in the hunt for the prestigious points competition going into the second half of the Tour.

“My big goal is to win a stage,” Goss said Friday in a pre-Tour press conference. “Winning a stage is the first goal. For sure we’ll have a crack at it, but we’re going to be having the entire team riding for the intermediate sprints.”

The team brings a strong lineup to help drive home the bunch sprints. Stuart O’Grady, Daryl Impey, Brett Lancaster and Baden Cooke will give Goss perhaps the strongest train in this year’s Tour.

Goss has only won one race all season long — stage 3 at the Giro d’Italia — but he is seen as one of the top rivals to defending green-jersey winner Mark Cavendish (Team Sky).

Goss said winning at least one stage is paramount before talking about the green jersey.

“The best way to get in the running for the green jersey is to win stages,” Goss said. “If we’re into the second week of the Tour and we’re close for the green jersey, for sure we will take a look at it.”

Goss is just one of many green-jersey candidates. The list also includes Cavendish, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), J.J. Rojas (Movistar) and Oscar Freire (Katusha).

Whether Cavendish rides all the way to Paris, however, remains to be seen. Many believe that Cavendish and some of the other top Olympic favorites might leave the Tour early in order to prepare for the London Games, set for just one week after the Tour’s conclusion.

Goss, too, is also thinking about London, but vows to ride all the way to Paris despite having the Olympic road race the following weekend in London.

“We do not have a lot of rest between the finish of the Tour in Paris and the start line to the Olympics in London,” Goss said. “Eighty-five percent of the guys in the Olympics are in the same situation.

“Some riders are especially preparing for the Olympics, but it all depends on how you race the last week of the Tour. It’s very important of what we do in that week between Paris and London.”

Goss will have strong support in his quest for a stage victory, including the experienced O’Grady, who came close but never won the green jersey a decade ago.

O’Grady made the transition from sprinter to elite helper, riding the past several seasons in service of the Schleck brothers at CSC and then at Leopard-Trek.

O’Grady joined Orica-GreenEdge this season and will once again be in the bunch sprints, just not as the team’s last rider.

“I’ve had to adapt as a rider as I’ve gotten older. I used be in there bumping shoulders and elbows in the sprints. I’ve gone from protecting the Schlecks or defending the yellow jersey with Fabian (Cancellara),” O’Grady said. “Gossie has a real good opportunity. We can make a green jersey a reality. It’s going to be exciting.”

Behind GreenEdge’s train are such riders as Milan-San Remo champion Simon Gerrans, Pieter Weening and Michael Albasini, riders who will have the freedom to go on the attack when the time is right.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who are capable of getting a result in this Tour,” Gerrans said. “We have a team for the sprint stages and the green jersey, but we have some opportunists as well.”

Gerrans, winner of a Tour stage in 2008, said he will be looking for breakaways in the second half of the Tour.

“We will be helping the sprinters out in the first part of the race. Our days will come later in the Tour,” Gerrans said. “We will be looking at the intermediate mountain stages and days that are good to get into a breakaway. On the other days, we will be riding as conservatively as possible to save our energy for the days that count.”

What’s sure is that Orica-GreenEdge does not have a GC candidate.

Team boss Shane Bannon said that the team’s immediate focus is to try to win at least one stage in the Tour. GC aspirations will come further on down the road.