Less than half an hour after Michael Albasini won the fourth stage of Paris-Nice, Matt Goss won a wet field sprint on stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico. It is the first win for the Australian since his stage victory at the Giro d’Italia last May and the ninth victory for Orica-Greenedge of the 2013 season.
“This is the first road stage I’ve done in Europe this year,” said Goss. “To come away with the win is great. It’s huge for my motivation and confidence, and it’s hopefully great for the team as well. With the win also in Paris-Nice today, we’re all on a bit of a high at the moment. It’s a great day for Orica-Greenedge.”
Grey skies at the stage start in San Vincenzo gave way to a long, rainy day in the saddle. The early break formed towards the end of the first hour of racing. The peloton, controlled by Omega Pharma-QuickStep, allowed Kevin Hulsmans (Fantini Vini-Selle Italia), Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) a maximum advantage of seven minutes.
“Before the start of the stage, we all had a chat,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “I sat down with the team and told them that while Gossy is in good shape, we weren’t going to assume the role as a team with a top sprinter. We didn’t go great yesterday. We didn’t have the lead. Gossy hadn’t won a bike race yet this year. I wanted to downplay our chances to our competitors and the media. We didn’t put the pressure on, but of course, if we were in the hunt, we’d ride for Gossy.”
While the team may have done what they could to ease the pressure for Goss, he put plenty of pressure on himself to perform.
“The pressure doesn’t generally come from the team or the media,” he said. “It comes from me. I thought today was a good opportunity but tomorrow was probably a better one. Still, when you have a team helping you, there will always be pressure at the finish to repay their work.”
Although the team was ready to commit to Goss at the finish, they left the chase work to the other teams eager for the sprint.
“Stuey [Stuart O’Grady] took control of our boys,” noted Stephens. “He kept them near the front and out of danger.”
The heavy rainfall continued as the peloton rolled through Siena and Chianti. At the mid-point of the race’s longest stage, the leading trio saw their advantage begin to tumble as the pace behind increased. The breakaway had a 3:15 advantage at the start of the first of five laps around the Indicatore finishing circuit.
During the first circuit lap, Bravo sat up. Benedetti and Hulsmans forged ahead alone. The peloton allowed the two riders to dangle out front but within reach until they made the catch just inside the final 30 kilometres.
“As the pace ramped up again towards the finish, the main nucleus of the lead out got together,” said Stephens. “It might have looked a bit chaotic. Because of the rain, it was pretty split up there. Usually things bunch up in the build up towards the sprint, and that didn’t really happen today. No team was 100% organized. [Daryl] Impey wasn’t on a good day, so unfortunately he wasn’t there, but Brett Lancaster put Mitch Docker into a really good position. Docker set up Gossy, and Gossy kept it up for the win.”
Goss credits his teammates with following the pre-race plan to perfectly position him for the win.
“We had specific markers,” explained Goss. “We wanted to come to the front at 1.8 kilometres before we went over an overpass. After the overpass, there was a right hand turn. It was the last corner at one kilometre to go. We knew if we weren’t in the top ten around that corner, we’d have no chance to win the race.”
Orica-Greenedge had four riders in the top ten around the final corner.
“From there, it didn’t matter how fast you were or how many teammates you had to help,” explained Goss. “Everyone is sprinting at the point, and it is vital to be at the front. We were there, and it set me up for the win. Big thanks to the team, especially to Lancaster and Docker, for helping me out today. It was a complete team effort.”
Goss sees his stage win as only the beginning.
“We have a strong team here,” he said. “It’s not a team only suited to the sprints. We have guys that can go well in the time trial on the last day and guys that are targeting other stages later in the race. We got the win out of the way nice and early, and hopefully it sets the tone for the rest of the week.”