The heat is on Australian cycling star Matt Goss as he starts the last year of his current contract with Orica-GreenEDGE.
Goss will be one of the stars of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, the traditional year-opening series of criteriums in and around Geelong and Melbourne that starts on Thursday.
The 27-year-old sprinter, who became the first Australian to win the Milan-Sanremo classic in 2011, has only posted three wins over the last two years and needs some big results.
Goss will use a busy schedule of racing in Australia this month to build form ahead of his first major 2014 objective, the Paris-Nice stage in March.
After the four-day Bay Classic, he will race at the road nationals in Ballarat and Adelaide’s Tour Down Under.
“Matt Goss, he’s under the pump – everyone who comes up for their contract is under a certain amount of pressure,” said Orica-GreenEDGE team director Matt White.
“We’re going to support Gossy as much as we can, because we know he’s capable of winning some big bike races.
“I’m sure he’d love to go back to Europe and start Paris-Nice with a one or two (wins) on the board.”
Not only has Goss struggled to post big wins, but team-mates such as Michael Matthews and Leigh Howard are developing well and threatening his status as the No.1 sprint option at Orica-GreenEDGE.
Caleb Ewan, rated as one of Australian cycling’s biggest young talents in a decade, will join the team in August.
White said there will be plenty of competition for spots in their Giro d’Italia and Tour de France line-ups.
“There’s no golden tickets for those big races any more,” he added.
“We have a few sprinters who all have a point to prove.
“If you’re asking a team to sacrifice individual goals for you, then you have to get runs on the board.
“It’s a healthy atmosphere to have in the team.”