COPENHAGEN (AFP) — Australia’s Matt Goss believes he could have the edge over HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Cavendish if the pair come to duel for cycling’s coveted rainbow jersey at the road world championships on Sunday.
The 266km men’s road race is the blue riband event of the week-long competition with the likes of Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Oscar Freire and a handful of other big names out to try and succeed Norwegian Thor Hushvod.
Having taken his stage win tally on the Tour de France to 20 this year, Cavendish is the big favorite on a mainly flat but winding course which finishes on a slightly rising 800-meter home straight. Teammate Bradley Wiggins says it could be this year, or never, for the talented Isle of Man sprinter.
“If there’s ever a course for us to win on with Mark, with the team we’ve got, and the form the team is in based on recent results, this is it,” said Wiggins.
Whether Britain can gel in the way Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad team have during a record-setting spell in the peloton remains to be seen. Cavendish’s teammate Goss will be hoping the British sprint lead-out train comes unstuck.
Despite admitting his own preparation has been “less than ideal,” after pulling out of the Tour of Spain early with a virus, the Australian has emulated race intensity and distance by competing elsewhere in recent weeks.
Asked if he can beat Cavendish, Goss told AFP: “That’s something we’ll find out on Sunday. It’s different sprinting after 266 km than it is at the end of a 180 km stage race.
“My advantage is that I still generally have quite a strong sprint at the end of a hard race. But at the same time, he (Cavendish) won Milan-San Remo in a sprint as well, so it’s going to be (decided by) how our bodies are holding up at this time of the year.”
Starting with a 28 km stretch out of central Copenhagen, the race continues on 17 laps of a 14 km circuit. Although tactics and sheer pace should whittle the peloton down in the closing laps, the ultimate decider could be the finishing straight. Coming immediately after a sharp, right-hand turn, a 400-meter flat section leads towards another 400-meter long false-flat.
In theory it suits the sprinters who thrive on slight uphill finishes, although it could, in the closing kilometers, also prompt a late attack that could go all the way to the finish.
Gilbert, who has enjoyed his best ever season winning the three Ardennes classics, the Belgian title, a stage in the Tour de France, the San Sebastian classic and the Quebec GP, is one of the few who could arguably employ either tactic.
“He’s certainly going to be on my radar and everyone else’s,” admitted Goss. “If they (Belgians) set out to make the race hard then there’s a real chance that he could get the win at the end of the day.
“He’s definitely good at it (uphill sprinting). I think he’s got that thing where you don’t feel lactic acid or something! He’s a real threat, that’s for sure.”
Among the other favorites are Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan, a three-time stage winner at the Tour of Spain, while Spain’s Freire said he will retire if he wins a record fourth title.
Wiggins says Cavendish, however, won’t be handed anything on a plate.
“It’s going to take the ride of his life to win it, but it always does to win a world title,” added the Londoner. “As Thor did last year, he’s going to have to play it safe a bit and play it smart all day.”
Goss meanwhile hopes his failure to complete the Tour of Spain isn’t too much of a handicap.
“If my body holds up I think we can do good, but I can’t say I’m gonna beat Cav hands down. But I’m certainly not going into the race thinking I can’t beat him. Otherwise there’s no point in being here.”