Matt Goss emerged as the surprise winner of a 60-rider bunch sprint in stage nine of the Giro d'Italia, on yet another day made legendary by wild weather conditions.
“We’ve been floating out there at some points,” the HTC-Columbia rider joked after the finish in Cava de’ Tirreni in Southern Italy. “I’m certainly very happy,” Goss told reporters after descending from the podium. “This is the best win of my career. I’m delighted.”
His Giro stage victory moves to the top of his palmares and replaces his 2009 Paris-Brussels win, where he defeated compatriot Allan Davis. He had caught the attention of HTC-Columbia – and several other teams who were unsuccessful in signing him – after a third place finish in the 2009 Gent-Wevelgem.
The 23-year-old, who turned pro three years ago with CSC, joined the American outfit at the beginning of this season with the intention of becoming a rider for the Classics. But in his first race for the team at the Tour Down Under, he revealed himself as a top lead-out man, setting-up André Greipel for the first win of the 2010 season.
Goss came to the Giro with a similar role and had carried out his duty until the very end of stage nine. “I was still trying to help André [Greipel], but he wasn’t there when there was a split with 10km-to-go,” said Goss. “He came back and I looked after him for most of the last few kilometres. At the 400m mark I thought, 'if he’s on my wheel, he’ll pass me in the sprint', but he wasn’t there, so I took the opportunity to win.”
Greipel doesn’t have to worry about Goss’s loyalty, as the latter explained there won’t be any competition between them at HTC-Columbia. “I don’t think I’m a pure sprinter,” Goss said. “Days like today suit me because many things make it different for the true sprinters. This was a tricky finish and it was dangerous with the wet. I’m not like Mark Cavendish or Thor Hushovd. I can win sprints, but in smaller groups.”
He promised this will not be the end of the show from HTC-Columbia at the Giro. “We had a bit of pressure, but we hadn’t won anything until today,” he added. “We heard this morning that Cavendish won in California, so it’s a nice couple of days for the team. Our goal here is to pick up more stage wins, whether it’s with me, André, or anybody else.”
Three of the fourteen Australians who started the 2010 Giro d’Italia have scored stage wins so far, Goss emulating the earlier efforts of Matthew Lloyd and Cadel Evans. The two other Tasmanians in the race, Cameron Wurf (Androni-Giocattoli) and Richie Porte (Saxo Bank), put aside their professional rivalry to acknowledge Goss' achievement.
“This is amazing,” Wurf told Cyclingnews in reaction to his mate's win. White jersey holder Porte was similarly impressed: “It’s fantastic, he deserves it so much,” he said.
News of Goss' victory is also likely to delight the Sulzberger brothers. Bernard is currently racing at the Tour of California with Fly V-Australia, while Wesley is preparing for his first Tour de France in the French Alps with his Française des Jeux team captain Christophe Le Mével.
“As a youngster I played Aussie rules football,” said Goss. “But an injury put me on a bike for recovery and my neighbours next door in Launceston, Bernard and Wesley, were cycling competitively already, so I learned from them and took off from there.”
Goss became the second Tasmanian to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. He follows in the footsteps of Michael Wilson, who won stage three back in 1982 ahead of a then-neo-pro Frenchman, Laurent Fignon.