LIEGE, Belgium (AFP) –
Australian Matthew Goss believes “some of the fastest finishes in years” will light up the sprint battles and green jersey competition on this year’s Tour de France.
Tasmanian Goss, 25, will spearhead Orica-GreenEdge’s bid for glory on their debut by aiming for victory in the sprints and points competition’s green jersey.
Standing defiantly in his way is none other than Mark Cavendish, the British sprint king who has 20 Tour stage wins and who beat Goss to road race gold at the world championships in Copenhagen last year.
Once teammates at HTC, Goss and Cavendish now have a healthy rivalry that will be a feature at the race and continue on to the Olympic road race six days after the Tour ends in Paris on July 22.
Despite Cavendish’s pedigree, Goss believes a quality-packed sprint field will make the first week of racing — in which there are potentially five sprint finishes — one to remember.
“We’ve also got guys like (Tyler) Farrar, (Andre) Greipel, (Marcel) Kittel, (Alessandro) Petacchi and (Jose Joaquin) Rojas,” Goss told AFP here Friday.
“It’s probably one of the biggest bunches of sprinters to come to the Tour de France in a while, with teams that are set up to try and deliver their sprinters to the finish line.
“I think these are going to be some of the fastest finishes we’ve seen in years.”
With Orica-GreenEdge making their debut and Goss’s only Grand Tour win to date coming at the Tour of Italy in 2010, a stage win remains their priority.
“We’ve been working hard to make sure we have a strong lead-out,” said Goss, referring to the ‘train’ of riders who ride at pace in front of the sprinter to eliminate as many rivals as possible.
“The first aim is to get a stage win under our belt, and then take it from there.”
In that respect Goss, a former Milan-SanRemo winner, won’t be given any favours.
While Cavendish’s big aim this year is the Olympic road race — for which he has lost four kilos during hill training sessions — he remains a threat in the sprints and the green jersey competition.
“I might not absolutely dominate the sprints but I should be there or thereabouts,” the Isle of Man rider said midweek.
Goss has all but dismissed the theory that Cavendish’s trimmed-down frame could impact his impressive power output.
“It doesn’t really change a lot for a lot of the sprint stages in the Tour. He’s still going to be a really tough competitor, no matter what,” said the Australian.
One man who won’t be sacrificing his chance is Slovakian Peter Sagan, arguably the stand-out sprinter this season whose only handicap is that his Liquigas team is committed to yellow jersey outsider Vincenzo Nibali.
“He’s probably one of the bigger favourites for the green jersey,” added Goss.
“He’s shown that he can climb with some of the best guys in the peloton when he wants to. He’s as fast as many of the guys in the peloton when he wants to.
“Maybe he doesn’t have the lead-out train and the team around him with the rest of the team racing for Nibali, but he can probably access a lot of the stage finishes that a lot of the other sprinters can’t.”