Matthew Goss got a perfect lead-out from his Orica-GreenEdge teammates Brett Lancaster and Leigh Howard in today's opening stage of the Giro d'Italia but when he opened up his sprint, he faded and had to settle for fifth. The Australian was full of praise for the work of his teammates but said that a strong headwind ended up being his undoing.
Orica-GreenEdge has proved on plenty of occasions that they have one of the world's best lead-out trains and once again they put their superiority of show in today's opening stage of the Giro d'Italia. With 6km to go Svein Tuft and Pieter Weening hit the front with sprinter Matthew Goss well-placed a little further behind.
For a moment they were overtaken by the Cannondale team but as they passed under the flamme rouge, Brett Lancaster and Leigh Howard hit the gas with Goss in their wheel. They delivered their sprinter perfectly but once he had to put down the hammer himself he was overtaken by several riders and took fifth behind winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
“The boys did a great job today,” Goss said. “It was a perfect lead out. I went at 225 metres, but unfortunately the headwind was too strong. I ran out of legs with about 35 metres to go.”
The team was lucky to escape the big crash that took out most of the sprinters with 2km to go when only 10-15 riders were left at the front to contest the sprint. Lancaster was happy to see the team rewarded for its careful work to stay near the front but admitted that the stage should probably be a little harder if Goss should be able to challenge Cavendish.
“I didn’t see the crash,” he said “Luckily Leigh and I made it through with Gossy on the wheel. We were up there and able to get a nice little sit behind Cannondale. It worked out pretty well. Gossy gave it his all, but it’s hard to beat a guy like Cav on a stage like this. We need a bit of a climb or something at the end. Morale is really good. Everyone did their bit. We’re all ready to step up and perform.”
Sports director Neil Stephens was not pleased with the result but had all reasons to be satisfied with the work done to deliver Goss to the line.
“We managed to pull off fifth,” he said “It’s not a win, but we have the satisfaction of a job well done. The most positive thing I saw was the commitment to Gossy. We’ve shown throughout the year that the only way we’re going to achieve anything is through the unity of the team, through putting it on the line for this teammate today and that teammate tomorrow. They did an excellent job supporting each other on the opening stage, and I’m sure they’ll do that on other occasions throughout the Giro.”
The sprint came at the end of a hectic stage with plenty of punctures and crashes. It had been a dangerous day for the Australian team who was lucky to avoid the tumbles but the mechanics had plenty of work to do as the bad road surface to its toll on the team's material.
“It was probably worse than we had expected,” Lancaster said “The quality of the circuit was really poor. When you combine bad roads with the typical nerves of the first stage of the Grand Tour, things can get really dangerous. I saw lots of guys dropping it. It was a bit insane.”
“We managed to avoid the majority of the crashes,” Stephens added. “Unfortunately, Jens Keukeleire came down in the final crash. Fortunately, he had already done his work by then, and he didn’t hurt himself.”
“We were less lucky in terms of mechanical issues,” he continued. “We had more flat tires today than we had in the whole Giro last year. Many thanks to Continental, our great tire partners, for allowing us to avoid flats in most cases. That we couldn’t today is a good indication of how bad the roads were.”
The team now turns its attention to tomorrow's team time trial on the island of Ischia. With the likes of Lancaster, Luke Durbridge and Tuft in their line-up the team is one of the favourites to take the win after the squad triumphed in the discipline in last year's Eneco Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Starting at 15.30 you can follow the stage in its entirety on CyclingQuotes.com/live.
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