Matt Goss and GreenEdge. The WorldTour neophytes and their number one signing are intrinsically linked – the team's main goals for 2012 are also his and with that, the 25-year-old is shouldering a lot of responsibility and the expectation that comes with it in his sixth season in the professional ranks.
Sharing a trait with many of the peloton's elite fast men, Goss is not afraid to name his race targets, but his is an ego that is not misplaced or by any means brash. Following a season where the Tasmanian incontestably proved his sprinting nous with victory at Milan-San Remo, Goss went on the record with Cyclingnews Australian Editor Jane Aubrey during some downtime and spoke frankly about the year ahead, his lead foot, Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw.
There are going to be a lot more eyes on me in 2012...
I no longer have Cavendish as a teammate and a lot more pressure is going to be put on my shoulders, but that's something that I'm happy to take on.
In my first years with CSC-Saxo I didn't have any pressure at all. When I went to HTC in 2010, there was a little bit more in doing some of the classics in my first year there but I was still behind Greipel and Cavendish. This year, leadership was split with Cavendish but we had opposite programs so it's been a gradual progression to this point – but it's good.
Things started to take off with the Giro stage win in 2010 and it definitely gave me confidence. Everything just got bigger and better from that point. There was Plouay later in the year – that was a race that I really wouldn't have expected to win in most cases.
When I won the stage of the Giro, it wasn't that I felt that I had to go and back it up, I just kept up the training and I got stronger.
This season I don't think I had any trouble backing up my results right through to the Worlds. My consistency has always been one of my strong points – I don't have big down times during the season where I'm not getting near the front.
I don't think about the pressure too much...
It's obviously in the back of my mind that I need to perform in these races where GreenEdge want me to. I put more pressure on my own shoulders from my own expectations.
There's probably going to be a bit more media coverage back in Australia so I'm expecting it to be quite time consuming but I think it's great. We're making history on the first Aussie pro team and I'd like to stay with these guys for as long as I can and hopefully build a really great relationship and be part of something that is quite successful.
There's something about going fast...
I'm not sure if it's the adrenaline rush or what... but it's the same with sprinting and when you actually nail something and you can actually get it right – things become almost easy to conquer.
I like doing things that are a bit out of the ordinary to what I'd usually be doing and I love motor racing so when I was offered the chance to drive a V8 Supercar recently, I took it.
You've got to really learn and you've got to listen to the person next to you and I like that kind of challenge and I like going fast! I didn't get many laps in but it was still enough to get a bit of a buzz out of it. They're just such brutal machines; that's what I love about it - it's just so raw.
If there's one good thing about HTC-Highroad folding...
It's not like we have to compete against them as well. It's going to be a really exciting year. You've got a lot of the sprinters like me, Renshaw, Cavendish all in different teams and all trying to recreate that same success that we had at HTC. There will be a lot of trial and error but it's going to make for exciting racing. It's going to be a lot different and maybe Cavendish won't win his first few races.
However, if it comes down to a sprint with all three of us...
I can't really not say Cavendish. He's just that much more explosive, unlike me. I can get up to a really top-end speed but I don't have that burst that Cavendish has. I like to wind up and I think Renshaw's pretty similar. He might change his style a little bit now he's going from the lead out. So it's going to be interesting to see how he goes. I think it's the punchy-ness that gets Cavendish over the line and he wins hands down.
Cav' and I actually get along really well but we couldn't stay on the same team...
Sometimes he doesn't come across as the nice guy on tv, that's for sure but I've got a lot of respect for him and I think he's got a lot of respect for me. Down Under and Oman are classic examples – if he's not on top form, he's happy to work for me just as I'm happy to help him.
Keeping both of us happy though was always going to be a little bit of an issue and I spoke to HTC earlier in the season when we were still talking about going through to next year. We've got very similar goals. It's great racing with him but I want to have a crack at the sprints in the Tour and I want to able to race San Remo for myself each time – that's not always going to be possible with Cav' on the same team. I can't knock him off his pedestal; he's got 20 stage wins at the Tour. He's the boss there.
Winning Milan-San Remo changed some things in my life, but not all...
After that race, it was not the way I approached races that changed but the way I looked at them did. It became less of a case of thinking 'one day' I can win something like this – I was no longer racing for experience, I was racing to win. I had more confidence to know I could get a good result.
The days after San Remo I think my phone went flat two or three times during the day. I get a lot more attention now and there's quite a bit more pressure going into races.
I'm not a superstitious person but it's getting that way with my beard...
I don't like to shave my beard off. A lot of the good results I've had, my beard has been there for the ride. It's kind of gross because it's ginger. I need a razor in the tent at the finish so I can shave it off before the podium.
I can't say that Mark Renshaw would have helped me beat Mark Cavendish at the worlds...
He's the best man at what he does and in hindsight he probably would have been very handy. But at the same time, it was really difficult for me to really push for his selection because I didn't know whether the form I had was going to allow me to be competitive and the last thing that I wanted to do was to put pressure on the selectors to have some people in the team, and then have to pull out after 150km because I didn't have the legs. I would have felt really bad if I had of wasted half the team on nothing.
If I had of gone to the Vuelta, had a good Vuelta and won a stage then I definitely would have put a lot more pressure on for Renshaw to be there but it's a tricky one. You know what they say about hindsight...
There's nobody in that team that I would take out. Everyone did exactly what we asked – we had a plan and we did it all bar about 300 milliseconds or whatever it was that I lost by. Heinrich did a great job, for a guy that could have done a great result for himself to completely commit himself to helping me showed a lot of respect on his behalf and I hold him in high esteem now because of that.
The London Olympic road race will be a replay, of sorts...
It's going to be a very different race for a start. The course in Copenhagen was quite easy and it was easier than what we probably thought – we averaged 46km/h or something. When it comes to London, the roads are a lot smaller and the race should be a lot more difficult. There's a five minute climb in there that we do nine times. If we all do come to the finish again I think riders will be a lot more tired than what they were in Copenhagen and I don't see it being a big bunch coming into the finish.
That's a super-important time there July and August, it's my two biggest goals and they're only about a week apart. Given the race comes so close to the conclusion of the Tour, the only good thing is that everyone is going to be in the same boat in terms of fatigue. It wouldn't surprise me if we see Cavendish or someone really take it easy and not focus so much on the green jersey because it's going to give you that last few days where you can take it a little bit easier than what you would if you were racing for green.