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2011 Milan-San Remo champion Matt Goss (HTC - Highroad)
Australian to focus on undulating finales
Goss' cool-headed victory at Milan-San Remo in March confirmed his arrival among the ranks of the world's best finishers, but speaking in Les Herbiers on the eve of the Tour, he explained that the team's sprinters would be able to divide up the stage finishes accordingly to their characteristics.
"We'll look at each stage and have a decision before the start," Goss said. "If someone feels bad on the road then we'll make the decision to change then, but you're not going to see me and Cavendish sprinting for the line against each other, that's for sure."
While Goss sat on the steps in front of the main stage and chatted with a small group of reporters after the HTC-Highroad press conference, Cavendish was hemmed in by a veritable armada of television crews behind him.
The scene offered a stark outline of their respective standings within the team's sprint hierarchy but Goss acknowledged that the undulating nature of race's opening week might present him with his own opportunities to shine, beginning with stage one to Mont des Alouettes.
"I've had a bit of a quick look through the route," he said. "Tomorrow's obviously one I'd like to have a crack off. There's a bit of extra motivation too with the yellow jersey up for grabs.
"There are maybe two other stages later in the race where there are 1.5km climbs inside the last 10 or 15 kilometres. So I think there's maybe three possibilities for me to race for myself along with the other ones to help Cavendish."
With Mark Renshaw set to be the last man in HTC-Highroad's lead-out train on the flat stages, Goss' role in helping Cavendish add to his haul of 15 Tour stages has yet to be established fully. "We probably won't know until the first real bunch sprint on the third day, which is going to be a guaranteed sprint," he said.
Before that, HTC-Highroad tackles the team time trial, a discipline in which the squad has enjoyed considerable success. The team delivered Marco Pinotti to the Giro d'Italia's first pink jersey in Turin in May, and Goss was hopeful that they could repeat that feat on the Tour's second stage.
"The team time trial's super important for the team," he said. "Being so early in the race, it virtually guarantees the winning team the yellow jersey, and for myself and Tejay there's the white jersey as well."
Still without a sponsor for next season, the HTC-Highroad team is riding to secure its future beyond the end of 2011. With a number of riders already rumoured to be leaving the team, Goss denied that the Tour line-up felt any additional pressure to attract a new sponsor.
"I think the most pressure you get is from yourself because you always just want to do the best you can," Goss said. "Of course I want to see the team keep going, I want there to be a Highroad next year. But I think the pressure comes more from within yourself."
Building form in Switzerland
Although Goss is prepared to do his bit in the service of Cavendish at the Tour, he acknowledged that Milan-San Remo victory has altered the way he approaches races.
"Now I go into these races with a different mindset," he said. "I used to go into races and think I'd love to win that race in five or six years, whereas now I go in and think I've done it there, so why I can't do it in another one. I've got a lot belief of what I can actually do in a bike race."
After such an intense spring campaign, however, Goss was in need of some time off the bike. The limited amount of racing he has in his legs since was done with the build-up to the Tour de France firmly in mind.
"I had a big break after Roubaix and I really needed to have it because I'd been going pretty hard since the start of the season," Goss said. "California was just to get back into some racing form. And even in Suisse, I didn't really have that intensity that I needed to race on those hard uphill finishes where you have to go full gas for three to four minutes."
By the end of the Swiss race, Goss had begun to rediscover some of his spring form, and he was mindful not to be over-enthusiastic in his training ahead of the Tour.
"Suisse was really quite hard this year, so I had to be careful not to come out and get too excited and go and train full gas, so I took a few days easy and tried to be fresh for the first stage," he said. "Because the first week's so important it's better to be fresh now and suffer a bit more in the last couple of days than to come in here a bit knackered and then be good in the mountains where I'm only going to make a difference of one group."