Defending Jayco Bay Cycling Classic champion Matt Goss (GreenEdge) is playing down his chances of a repeat victory in the four-race series, which begins this Sunday January 1 at Geelong's Eastern Beach.
Last January, Goss sealed the title by claiming his second race win on the final race which resulted in a two-point victory over compatriot Michael Matthews (Urban). It was the start of a hot run of form which saw the Tasmanian finish second at the national road titles to Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervelo), before winning the Santos Tour Down Under prelude, the Cancer Council Classic. A stage win later that week and second overall in the Australian WorldTour race preceded another stage win, this time at the Tour of Oman. At Paris-Nice in early March, Goss outsprinted Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) to claim stage 3. Later that month, Goss bettered Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to become the first Australian to win Milan-San Remo. A better three months of form in that part of the season would be hard to find.
Goss told Cyclingnews that it was a succession of events that was only possible due to the fact that he'd had minimal time off the bike during the off-season, having wrapped up 2010 at the Vuelta a Espana.
"This year took a lot out of me – it was all down to timing and it required a lot of hard work in training," he explained. "I've had to take a bigger break and I'm probably not going to be in quite the same form at Bay Crits, but I shouldn't be too far off."
By the time Goss lined up for the UCI Road World Championships in Denmark in September where he finished a heart-breaking, close second to Mark Cavendish , it was the fourth time he was coming into peak form having previously launched assaults on the Tour of California in May and then for his Tour de France debut in July.
"It was a long year mentally as well as physically," he admits.
While obviously acutely aware of his own form heading into the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, Goss said that trying to predict a winner was like stepping into the great unknown – all because of the question marks that an off-season brings.
"There's always the usual culprits like CJ [Sutton – Urban Hotels] who are going ok but you don't really know because there could be one guy who's put in a lot of effort over the summer and comes out flying," he suggested. "By the same token there could be someone who you think's going to win who hasn't had the best off-season or pre-season so they might not be up to scratch. It really is a wide open race."
Goss' teammate at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, Robbie McEwen who is a six-time winner of the series, confirmed that the four days of racing will be a time for fine-tuning combinations ahead of an all-important first season.
"I think the main thing for myself and my new teammates as of January 1, we'll be riding together and just getting acquainted with each other's riding style," McEwen told Cyclingnews.
"There'll be some important work with Matt Goss and Leigh Howard, trying a few things out, learning a bit about ourselves as a combination. It will be an important proving ground and a good test under pressure."
As GreenEdge embark on their debut season in the WorldTour, Goss will be thrust into the limelight throughout the Classics and then quite possibly the Giro d'Italia where all going well, the 25-year-old will take on the first fortnight of the race. July and August then manifests as Goss' bulls-eye with the Tour de France and then the London Olympic road race.
"That's a super-important time there, July and August, it's my two biggest goals and they're only about a week apart. So it's a very precise time for me, I have got to be in form," he warns. "I can't be in form at the Down Under and then the Giro, the Tour, then Olympics."