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Matt Goss (HTC - Highroad) is the first Australian to win Milan-San Remo.
HTC-Highroad rider the first Australian to La Classicissima
Later in the race winner's press conference, he was still struggling to understand that he had single-handedly taken on some of the biggest names in the sport and won Milan-San Remo.
"I couldn't have dreamed of a better race today and better start to the whole season. To be on the podium is one thing but to be on the top step of the podium with Gilbert and Cancellara there is an incredible feeling," he said.
"To be the first Australian to win is incredible too. There have been so many Australians who have finished second and third time after time, you can’t count them on one hand. To win is absolutely incredible."
Goss was the only HTC-Highroad rider in the front group of 44 riders that was not delayed by the crash on the Le Manie climb with 90km to go, yet he kept his cool and did everything right.
He stayed well protected in the group, chased after the attacks on the Poggio and then went with Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) when they chased down Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the final two kilometres. He then made sure he was perfectly positioned for the sprint and accelerated to the line at just the right moment to leave Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) and Gilbert behind as he crossed the line with his arms in the air.
"Maybe it looked like I was cool but I was stressing about everything and thinking about everything in my head," Goss said.
"I knew I had the form to be in the front but I didn’t know I'd feel quite as good as I did today, but I had a long time to think about it, about a 100km when Mark wasn't there. There was a lot of guys in the bunch and I didn't have anyone there, so I was just trying to save everything for the Poggio.
"The Poggio was where it was all going to come down to, where Gilbert finally attacked. I got across just on the top of the Poggio and so I knew I had a good chance for the win. I knew if it came to a group finish that I'd have a good a chance in sprint. I had to cover a lot of guys but I knew that it as the best thing for me.
"I knew it was going to be very difficult with Gilbert, Pozzato, Cancellara and Ballan, they're all very attacking riders. I remember watching when Fabian won a few years ago, when he went and nobody followed. So I made sure to instantly go when Fabian attacked. After that I just had to stay on the wheels when they were attacking. I knew when it came to 500 metres to go, and if I was in the front, that I could go for the sprint. It wasn't easy but it worked out."
Australian Football's loss is cycling's gain
Goss, 24, has been racing since he was 11 and opted for cycling instead of Australian Rules Football. He has an impressive pedigree as a Junior and Under 23 rider and came through the Australian development programme based in Italy. He won the GP Liberazione and a stage in the Baby Giro, as well as being Under 23 team pursuit world champion.
He turned professional with CSC in 2007, winning a stage at the Tour of Britain in his first year. He joined HTC in 2010 and won five races, including a stage at the Giro d'Italia, the GP Ouest France and a stage at the Vuelta.
This year he has already won eight races, including a stage at the Tour Down Under, a stage in the Tour of Oman and a stage at Paris-Nice. Now he will turn his attention to the Spring Classics.
Goss lives in Monaco and is reportedly a good friend of Tom Boonen. The Belgian is convinced that Goss is a huge talent but perhaps lacked a big win to prove to himself that he can be one of the best classics riders of his generation. He conceded that winning Milan-San Remo will be a massive boost to his self-belief.
"After winning a race like this, of course I'm going to look at races differently and believe I can win a lot more and a lot bigger," he said.
"It's going to give me more confidence for the coming races. I don't think you get that confidence till you win something like this."
Goss will now target the cobbled classics, starting with Ghent-Wevelgem.
"In the coming weeks I'm riding Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix," he said.
"I'd like to do well in Ghent-Wevelgem next weekend. It’s a race I think I can win and Flanders and Roubaix are races I dream of winning. Maybe not this year, I don't know. I didn’t expect to win this race and so perhaps I can get another result but I'm not going to say they're races I can win this year. But they're races I'd love to win in my career."