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Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge) finishing the stage at the 2013 Giro d'Italia
Orica GreenEdge sprinter fires back at critics after disappointing Giro
The 26-year-old sprinter was on the back foot from the start of the Giro d'Italia, struck down by the flu and eventually forced to withdraw from the race on Stage 16. Still showing signs of the illness back at home in Monaco after another course of antibiotics, Goss was confident his prospects are back on the way up, just over a week before his next race.
"The training the fitness and the shape's all really good after the Giro," he told Cyclingnews. "With this one more hit out at the Tour de Suisse, it's another nine-day race, so that's going to get me exactly where I need to be as long as I can get to there at 100 per cent healthy and not start that race sick. That's the biggest goal at the moment and then everything else should fall into place.
"I still feel like I've got a bit of a cough and a blocked nose – I always seem to have a little bit of a blocked nose – the cough's not so bad," Goss admitted. "I feel like I'm probably around 90 per cent but I'm definitely moving in the right way."
His sprint training in full swing, Goss is currently concentrating on shorter efforts in a bid for intensity and power with an eye to add to his lone win for the year from Tirreno-Adriatico.
Goss rode in Slovenia in the lead up to last year's Tour, with the Olympic Games still on the horizon but the Swiss race is the perfect fit this time around. It will be his second appearance at the Tour de Suisse, having last raced there in 2011 under the Highroad banner, his best result finishing runner-up to Peter Sagan on the penultimate stage.
While the 2013 Tour de Suisse will prove enough of a challenge for the likes of general classification hope Tejay van Garderen (BMC), there are enough opportunities for the sprinters from Stage 4 on with Goss' ability to handle lumpier days also working in his favour.
What has piqued the interest of Goss leading into the nine-stage race however, is the absence of rivals Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) or Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) on the provisional start list. Instead, the Australian is likely to face opposition from the likes of in-form sprinters Tyler Farrar (Garmin Sharp) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), along with Sagan.
"It's going to be a bit of a different group," he said. "It will be interesting but it can still be just as difficult sometimes where there's not so much the big teams controlling it; it makes it a bit harder because you don't have the big trains and the sprints a lot harder to control.
"It's also a good opportunity to pick up some results and some confidence before the Tour."
Hitting back at the critics
Loathe to make any judgements on his performance at the Giro due to his illness, it didn't stop others being critical of Goss' sprint form against an exceptional three-week showing from Cavendish.
"Cav's always fast – he's not got any slower, that's for sure," Goss told Cyclingnews. "There was only one stage that I had any real chance and that was the stage I run third."
Retired Swedish pro and sometime commentator, Magnus Backstedt suggested via his twitter feed that Leigh Howard should be Orica GreenEdge's lead sprinter on the flats, saying Goss' compatriot "looked faster", meantime there was a reasonable amount of talk back home that the 2011 Milan - San Remo winner and world championship runner-up wasn't up to the task.
Goss denied knowledge of Backstedt's comments, saying only "That's good of Magnus," while admitting that backing up his extraordinary 18 months of form which culminated in that silver medal behind Cavendish, will always prove challenging.
"Last year for myself wasn't as good as I wanted it to be but at the end of the day, it still wasn't that bad of a year. Eight times in the top three in Grand Tour stages… it's just the perception that's out there if you don't have as good a year as you did before there's always going to be people that saying you haven't lived up to expectations. Unless I have a better year every year for the rest of my career there's always going to be people that aren't happy. It doesn't really worry me. I know what I do and if people don't like it then they don't have to watch me."
While last year's Tour de France campaign saw a focus on the points classification, Goss explained that it will be a different approach from Orica GreenEdge, throwing any efforts in his corner on stage wins alone.
"I'm confident we can be as good as last year, if not better," Goss explained. "Last year we focussed a lot on the green jersey and that was all lost in one day when I lost 30 points which took away any chance. But if we go in there just focussed on stages rather than two sprints every day then I think there should be a lot more chance of winning a stage."
Something he's even more determined to do in the wake of the Giro d'Italia.
"Exactly," said Goss. "I'm certainly looking forward to it now."