The Australian opted to hit the front early on the deceptively difficult drag to the line as the peloton belatedly closed in on the break of the day, but rather than drawing the sting out of his rivals’ legs, Goss’ move saw the venom ebb away from his own sprint, and Greipel swept past him in the final 100 metres to take his second stage win of the race.
“I knew I was running out of legs, I don’t last forever unfortunately,” Goss said wistfully afterwards. “We went full gas from the very bottom of the drag, but I knew that if my legs were running out then just about everyone else’s were running out too. That was kind of why I jumped a little earlier because I thought everyone was tired.”
That thinking was enough to propel Goss clear of Mark Cavendish (who finished 5th, still suffering the effects of his fall the previous day) and Juan José Haedo (3rd), but he was unable to shake off the tenacious Greipel. The German barely avoided the crash that took Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) with 3km to go, but he composed himself sufficiently to put himself in the box seat ahead of the final kick to the line.
“Greipel got a good run behind me and he came past,” Goss said. “He nearly came off with 3km to go and he did a fantastic job just to stay upright and then get back up to his team and win the stage. Chapeau to him.”
3rd in Tournai and 4th in Rouen, Goss has been a model of quiet consistency amid the tumult of the Tour’s fractious opening exchanges. As the first week draws to a close, he finds himself second in the points classification, just 18 points off the green jersey of Sagan, whose imposing run of uphill sprint wins was interrupted by his crash in the finale.
“It’s not the way I want to take points, I don’t want to gain in the competition because someone has crashed but we did definitely take back quite a lot of points today,” Goss said. “That’s why we’ve kept at it for the whole time because you never know what can happen. It could be me who crashes tomorrow I could be completely out of it.”
Goss had already made up ground on Sagan at the intermediate sprint in Breteuil, where he came in just behind Cavendish in the bunch sprint for 5th place, but he admitted that contesting such sprints was a double-edged sword as far as stage victory was concerned.
“Sometimes that sprint can help you, sometimes it can put a dampener on you,” Goss said. “A lot of the guys are doing intermediates. It definitely takes it out of you, I haven’t got the same punch as when I’m doing just one acceleration. But just about everyone’s doing them,” Goss said, before remembering one glaring expection.
“Greipel hasn’t been doing them, maybe that’s what gave him the extra 100 metres over me in the final today.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.