Orica-GreenEDGE sprinter Matthew Goss has beaten the rain and the world’s top sprinters to claim stage two of the Tirreno-Adriatico, the Australian’s first win since stage three of last year’s Giro d’Italia.
Despite the gloomy conditions it was a brilliant day for Orica-GreenEDGE with their Swiss rider Michael Albasini also winning stage four of Paris-Nice just moments earlier.
But the Italian race belonged to Goss.
While the stage was billed as a potential show down between arch rivals Mark Cavendish (Omega Phama-Quick Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), it was Goss who prevailed.
Jumping on the wheel of cycling’s newest sensation Peter Sagan (Cannondale) as he broke early for the line, Goss was in good position coming into the final moments of the sprint.
He surged around the tiring Slovakian and won riding away from Manuel Belletti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) who made up the minor placings.
It was a timely victory for the Tasmanian, who has been struggling to establish himself as a genuine sprint threat against the elite fast men of the competition.
“I didn’t get the upper hand [against Cavendish and Greipel] that many times last year and so it’s nice to start off on a winning note this year. I hope it’s a year where I can turn a lot of second and third places into wins,” he said after the race.
Despite being plagued by timing issues in past races, Goss was full of praise for his lead-out train who delivered him to a position where he could fight and scrap for victory.
“We had a plan and thought that a good spot to hit the front was at about the 1.5 km point, at the overpass. We were right where we needed to be.
By contrast, Cavendish was struggling to come to terms with a disappointing sprint. Crossing the line in fifth position, the Manxman was critical of his team mates.
“I’m quite disappointed today with my lead out. I know they’re so much better than that. I had to do a lot of work in the last kilometre. I was 30 riders back and had to come round,” Cavendish said.
“I was coming and coming and still thought I was in with a chance with 500 metres to go. I was moving up but then the peloton moved to the right and I had to slam on my brakes with 200 (metres) to go.
“That was the end of the chance of winning. I feel we could have got more out of today. We’ve got to have words tonight.”
Of the other big name sprinters, Greipel was seventh while Sagan faded to finish tenth. John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), who was confident of his chances before the start of the stage, could only manage fourteenth.
The 232 kilometre stage from San Vincenzo on Italy’s west coast to the inland town of Indicatore was marred by rain and poor weather almost from the start.
A breakaway of three riders set the pace early, gaining a lead of seven minutes before the peloton hauled them in with 30 kilometres to go.
From there Cannondale set the pace for their man Sagan, but as their number dwindled Team Sky and MTN-Qhubeka took over on the front. Lotto Belisol made the final drive for Greipel but it was smart riding from Goss that paid the dividends.
Cavendish maintains his grip on the overall lead.
Tomorrow’s stage should be another one for the sprinters despite some hills toward the end of the day. The 190 kilometre stage travels from Indicatore to Narni-Scalo.