Last year's Paris-Brussels champion Matt Goss is one of the key additions to HTC-Columbia's sprint train in 2010 following the departure of some big names and he's relishing his new role plus the possibility of being a spearhead for the team's Classics campaign.
The 23-year-old from Launceston, Tasmania, whose ability on the road is comparable to another Australian, Stuart O'Grady, thanks to his track background and speed in a sprint finish, left O'Grady's team at the end of last season, having spent three seasons at Bjarne Riis' squad.
He was first seriously noticed in Europe whilst riding the 2006 Tour of Britain for the SouthAustralia.com-AIS team, taking a stage victory for the Australian Institute of Sport squad on the first day in tough conditions - an indication of his strength and talent. Management at HTC-Columbia also recognised these qualities and agreed to sign him as a part of the team's train.
"I started speaking to these guys pretty early in the season - during the Classics last year - and we kept in contact during the Classics and the Giro, then we went from there," Goss told Cyclingnews.
It's easy to see why HTC-Columbia wanted him - Goss enjoyed a stellar season in 2009, with third in Ghent-Wevelgem coming ahead of fifth place in stage six of the Giro d'Italia and fourth place in stage nine of the same event. Then it was time for two stage wins at the Tour de la Région Wallonne against the likes of Classics star Philippe Gilbert, teammate Juan José Haedo, Wouter Weylandts, Juergen Roelandts and fancied British sprinter Ben Swift.
The biggest highlight came with victory in Paris-Brussels however, his win in the race won five times by compatriot Robbie McEwen the perfect end to a three-year stint at CSC/Saxo Bank.
"The ride with Columbia-HTC was already organised by Paris-Brussels, which was pretty lucky. To finish the season with a win was a good way to leave the team. I think out of my last eight or 10 races I won three of them for Saxo Bank, so it was a pretty good way to leave and a good foundation for the start of this year."
Goss readily admits that the move was made to satisfy his ambitions, although he's tempering those goals with a focus on being one of the team's big players in the final kilometre of sprint stages.
"At this stage I'm going to be the last man in front of [André] Greipel and from there we're going to see what happens at the next race. I think there's quite a big change at the team this year as there are a few guys missing, so they're going to trial a few different ways and see what works," Goss explained.
And with rising stars Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thomas Lovkvist heading to Team Sky plus George Hincapie's departure to BMC Racing, the door has opened for Goss to become a protected rider in the Spring Classics.
"I think this year's going to be a really good opportunity for me in the Classics; they're the races that I really like and last season I realised how well I can go in those events so now I've got a bit more responsibility and opportunity at HTC-Columbia. I'm looking forward to that and it's going to be one of my big goals this year," he said.
"Last year Saxo Bank had Fabian [Cancellara] and Stuey [O'Grady] so it's pretty hard to put myself in front of two guys who have won Paris-Roubaix so I was always going to sit in third spot there. Here [HTC-Columbia] I've probably got a bit more opportunity and a bit better chance to be one of the guys who's going to be looked after in the final," added Goss.
With talk already circulating about Mark Cavendish's tilt at securing the green jersey at this year's Tour de France after his heroics in last year's edition, Goss isn't ruling out a spot on the Manxman's leadout train if the stars align. "I'm looking forward to maybe going to the Giro at this stage; I did the Giro last year and I really enjoyed it," he explained.
"I think it's a pretty cool race but we'll see what brings... I'd like to try and push my way into the leadout train for a lot of races, so we'll see how it works out."