Milan San-Remo champion Matthew Goss returns to racing at the Tour of Switzerland this week keen to add to his expanding season account.
Goss headlines a strong and experienced HTC-Highroad team and together with British sprinter Mark Cavendish will be on the hunt for stage victories.
The 24-year-old has taken a three-week break from racing since the Tour of California last month in which he won a stage.
“I'm going really well and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the Tour de Suisse, which is a race I've never done before,” Goss said.
“I’ve done a big block of training, my race weight is good and I'm feeling fine."
The Tasmanian did not defend his title at the recent Philadelphia International Championship and hopeful of making his Tour de France debut this year the change in program is a positive indication Goss could do so. The nine-day Swiss race is considered a serious warm-up to the Tour de France.
Cavendish’s primary lead-out man Mark Renshaw will skip the meet and instead compete at the June 15-19 Ster Elektrotoer as he prepares for Le Tour. Goss worked for Cavendish at last year’s Tour of Spain and vice versa at January’s Tour Down Under.
"Mark and Matt worked really well in last year's Tour of Spain sprints, so we've got that area wrapped up,” HTC sports director Allan Peiper said.
The 75th edition of the tour begins Saturday night (AEST) with a 7.1km time trial in Lugano. There are limited opportunities for sprinters in Switzerland with stages four, five and eight likely to suit the fast men including Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Greg Henderson (Sky), Allan Davis (Astana), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and reigning world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo).
Hushovd’s Australian teammate Heinrich Haussler is set to return to the race after crashing out last year in a dramatic collision with Cavendish some 50m from the finish line of stage four. The crash came after an injury affected season for the 27-year-old Haussler and further derailed his season but not before a perfectly timed late attack into Sierre that saw him take line honours after a tricky 5km climb, 15km from the finish of stage two.
The remainder of the tour comprises two time trials and mountain stages. Quadruple time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is an obvious favourite in both the 7.1km opener and 32.1km closer while Australian road champion Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervelo) is a podium chance in both stages.
Defending champion Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) returns to the race that will provide him and other general classification riders including brother Andy as well as Tour of California champion Chris Horner and RadioShack teammate Andreas Kloden a chance to test their legs. BMC’s Marcus Burghardt, who won two stages last year and the points classification, will be one to watch again in the hilly stages.
Peiper said his American-based team also had overall options including Peter Velits, who finished third at the Tour of Spain last year.
"Michael [Albasini] showed in the Bayern Rundfahrt and again in the the GP Kanton Aargau that he's in great shape for his home race, Tejay [Van Garderen] had a great Tour of California and Peter Velits is coming into top form after his injuries in April," Peiper said.
“That means we've got three guys for the overall and some great all-rounders like Bert Grabsch, Bernie Eisel and Martin Velits for the teamwork.”
Thirteen Australians are set to start the tour including: Bobridge, Haussler, Davis, McEwen, Goss, Simon Clarke, Stuart O’Grady, Baden Cooke, David Tanner, Luke Roberts, Adam Hansen, Mathew Hayman and Chris Sutton.
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