For Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge) arriving back in Australia for the start of the 2013 season was a case of going from the fridge into the fire as he lined up for his start in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour less than 48 hours after touching down at the airport.
Not only was he without his bike until a few hours prior to leaving the start house for the prologue time trial, which kicked off the four-day tour, but temperatures on day two went into the 40s. Goss, riding for the Australian National Team, crossed the finish line on stage 1 in Bendigo on Friday a tad over 34 minutes behind the stage winner, Aaron Donnelly (Huon-Genesys).
"That was horrible," Goss tweeted after the punishing stage from Sunbury to the Bendigo Velodrome. "45 degrees on the SRM and 5 hours! That's a 40 degree temp change from 5 day[s] ago when I left Europe. Body didn't rate it!"
Speaking to Cyclingnews before he was given the not too subtle, gruelling reminder that he was back home in the peak of the southern hemisphere summer, Goss said that he was at the race to build his intensity having spent his pre-season doing a European-based training block.
"I've definitely got the volume behind me so it's good to use this for Nationals and the Tour Down Under," he explained.
Staying in Monaco rather than coming back to Tasmania is a different approach for Goss, and gives some indication that in his second year with Orica GreenEdge the stakes are a little bit higher. After 18 months of the best form and results of his career, while he was learning to work with his new teammates, Goss' progression stalled. Meantime, rivals like Peter Sagan continued their ascendency. The 26-year-old chose a Mediterranean winter in a bid for a more focussed lead in to 2013.
"I can train the way I like to train," Goss explained. "There's less commitments being there [in Monaco]. Simple things like having a massage nearly every day because it's the same guy that does it. If I'm back in Australia I've got to find somebody who can take me behind the motorbike, find someone to do massages. What I do every day at home in Monaco is not what I do every day in Australia."
Looking back at 2012, Goss was on the back foot from the start due to a knee injury suffered during the pre-season.
"I had pretty high expectations," he admitted. "The knee injury was a setback and I kind of chased my tail through Sanremo and into the Classics. I was trying really hard to be in the right shape but then I was getting really sick because I was trying so hard to be there. It was a catch-22 and it took me a lot of the season to get where I needed to be. This year I've tried to eliminate that - so far it's gone well. There's been no injuries, no illness and training's been pretty consistent."
In Orica GreenEdge's inaugural year, where he was arguably the marquee signing, Goss' season was far from a disaster. He claimed the team's first ever stage victory at a Grand Tour, winning stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia along with seven minor placings on stages between the Italian event and the Tour de France. All up: one win, and 11 occasions where he was close, but not close enough.
"It was frustrating but at the same time, it was consistent," Goss told Cyclingnews.
The 2011 World Championship silver medallist is hopeful that by the time the Cycling Australia Road National Championships roll around mid-next week, there will be a definite improvement in his form. Goss was runner-up in 2011 to Jack Bobridge and won't rule himself out of being able to go one better.
"I don't think the race will be too much different to what it is normally," he said about the slight change to the Buninyong course for 2013. "Hopefully it will be okay. We've [Orica GreenEdge have] got a lot of guys there so if I'm not, it shouldn't be a problem. I'd like to be in good shape or the same sort of shape as a couple of year ago there."
As his race legs once again find their rhythm, strength will remain Goss' priority over speed until April when the lead-in to the Giro begins. With that in mind, Goss believed that until he did the Sun Tour Prologue on Wednesday, his heart rate had not hit a similar peak since September last year.
"The start of the season will be fairly important - Sanremo and then a handful of the Classics," he explained. "The Giro and the Tour are on the cards again."
Goss set his Classics credentials in stone in 2011 when he won Milan - Sanremo but another of the Monuments has often been flouted as an opportunity, the Tour of Flanders. It's something he still gives thought to, but he admits that the changes to the course made in 2012 which will be repeated this year with the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg being climbed three times each in the finale, throws up an added challenge, not particularly in his favour.
"For me, I had to be having a great day to be on the old course," Goss admitted. "Now, it's probably a little bit difficult for me. I'm still going to go there and try - it's not a race I want to rule out for the future. I think every time you do that race you can take some experience into the next year."
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