Unlucky Matt Goss should keep his head up
Matthew Goss causes interference in the 2012 Tour de France, much to Peter Sagan's displeasure (Image: ASO)
Things have not being going Matt Goss’ way the last couple of days. Hopefully he can keep his head up, because he’s not far away from the guys who are winning stages.
Sadly for Goss, his relegation and points penalty for a sprinting infraction on Stage 12 effectively killed his green jersey campaign.
Then on Stage 13, he missed the selection over the Cat. 3 climb 25 km from the finish, and had to be content with soft-pedalling to the finish 12 minutes behind Andre Greipel.
It’s tough for the sprinters when GC favourites start attacking each other and driving the pace on sharp inclines.
Not much of a return then, after all the work his teammates had done on the front of the peloton, closing down the day’s major breakaway on one of the flattest stages of this Tour. His lead-out man Daryl Impey managed a creditable fifth, after Michael Albasini’s daring attack with Alexander Vinokourov was caught, but the team wants more than TV airtime.
It’s a shame, because Goss has been consistently thereabouts, without quite managing to collect the stage win his Orica-GreenEDGE team desperately wants.
The decision to relegate him from the bunch sprint of Stage 12, and dock him 30 points, was harsh. Peter Sagan had plenty of space to move around Goss, and the Australian’s deviation from his line was only a touch more radical than we see every day in bunch sprinting, but it seems that a big reputation and an angry hand gesture are enough to get favourable treatment from the race judges.
Short of a crash, Sagan is now certain to be the first Slovakian winner of the points competition, and at his first attempt.
Chapeau to him, he has had an amazing Tour and deserves to be wearing the jersey, but I’d prefer to see the competition decided on the road on the final stage, not in a back room with a week remaining.
Goss has won plenty of intermediate sprints, and has been in the top five in most of the bunch sprints, without managing to get it together in the stage finishes.
I think the problem is that he has the speed to beat Andre Greipel and Sagan, with some support from his team. But when Greipel’s well-oiled Lotto Belisol machine takes control, their experience and power is bossing Orica-GreenEDGE out of position, and giving Greipel a distinct advantage.
Orica-GreenEDGE has often been working hard on the front for many kilometres, trying to close down breakaways or control the peloton, only to see Lotto Belisol bump them off the head of the peloton with 2km remaining, giving Greipel the perfect sit.
You can’t fault the work ethic of the Australian team, but experience counts for a lot, and many of Greipel’s train have been riding together for years.
Sagan doesn’t have the advantage of a strong leadout train, but he’s also not winning the dead flat stages. His wins have mainly come on uphill sprints where he can use his power, rather than outright speed.
Mark Cavendish, deprived of his leadout train, hasn’t been the same lethal threat he was last year, and has seemed uninterested in most of the intermediate sprints. He is clearly focused on the Olympics.
Goss knows all of this, so the last couple of days must’ve been incredibly frustrating. You could see it written all over his face in interviews after stage 12.
The good news for Goss is there are still a few more opportunities to grab a win, if he can survive the Pyrenees and maintain his confidence.
Stage 15 from Samatan to Pau is lumpy and will probably suit a classics-type rider more than Goss, but the last few kilometres are flat, giving him a chance if he can survive the Cat. 3 and 4 climbs around 30km from the finish.
Stage 18 has a similar profile, although a Cat. 4 climb 7km from home may be a challenge, and the chance of a successful breakaway is high.
And finally, the big one: stage 20 on the Champs Elysees. A win there would certainly melt away this week’s frustrations.
Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. A former A-grade club athlete, and now a keen recreational cyclist and roller racer, he once rode very slowly up Mont Ventoux. Tim tweets about sport at @timehhh_sp.