Matt Goss claimed his maiden grand tour stage win when he took out stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia last year so you wouldn't have blamed him if he was disappointed not to be joining the HTC-Highroad team in Milan next week. The 24-year-old however says that it's all part of the plan.
Goss, who capped a magnificent start to 2011 with victory at Milan-San Remo in March, will instead take on the Tour of California for the first time in his career where he plans to add to his winning ways.
"I'd really prefer to go to the Tour and if everything goes well, that's where I should be going," he told Cyclingnews before heading out to train around his Monaco base. "Then also with the Vuelta – that will be really nice preparation for the Worlds I think that's a really nice way to finish the season. To do the Giro, I'd have to do all three grand tours if everything went right and I think that's a bit much – especially after having a full-on classics program."
On the day of our interview, Goss has only been back on the bike for a week but is confident that he can come up with the goods on the loops around Lake Tahoe which form the Tour of California's 191km opening stage.
"The first stage really suits me," he said. "There's a little climb not far from the finish... There's also a few sprint stages after that but my main focus is going to be on those first few days to try and get something there and then I can try and use the last part of the race for race fitness."
Down but not out following Milan-San Remo
Goss became the second Australian after Stuart O'Grady to claim one of cycling's monuments with his win over Fabian Cancellara at La Primavera.
"It's certainly changed my outlook," he said of the win. "I go into these races now not hoping that one day it's a race that I'll win, but with aspirations to do well in all of them. I expect results because I know now that it can happen."
It would be an understatement to suggest Goss' win resulted in the 24-year-old from Launceston living off a massive buzz in the days that followed. Like so many other riders however, Goss was forced back to earth with the flu. It was his body telling him to back off. He could have continued racing and "pushed it" at Gent-Wevelgem, his other target for the Classics, but in the end the risk just wasn't worth it. It was a let down.
"Sometimes the body just gets a bit tired and it becomes harder to recover," Goss said before adding this ominous warning for future seasons. "I think if I hadn't of been sick then I would have had a lot more to look forward to."
Money doesn't always talk
Apart from his win at the Giro in 2010, there was also stage wins at the Tour of Denmark, in the team time trial at the Vuelta and in the GP Ouest Plouay. Goss then proved to be the form rider of the Australian summer, despite missing out, by just 2 seconds, on the overall win at the Tour Down Under. The roll continued with a stage win in Oman before finishing second at Paris-Nice.
Putting it simply, it's those kind of results that make contract negotiations a breeze and Goss has a quick chuckle to himself when the topic is raised.
"There's been a lot of interest," Goss, now in his fifth year as a professional, admitted. Back when his first major contract was negotiated, he jokes that he wasn't entirely sure what he'd agreed to, so intimidated was he by CSC's Bjarne Riis. Goss stepped up again at the end of 2009 to sign on with HTC-Columbia as the team was then known but two years on, his objectives in finding the right contract are similar despite talk of a bidding war for his services.
"Everyone's talking about the money but it's not really about that for me at this point because it's still so early in my career and I've still got to grow as a rider quite a lot," he rationalised. "The team I'm with has been really great and has been perfect for me. I've got to go to, or stay, at the place that's going to help me grow and take the next step as a bike rider."
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