Australian Matt Goss could further capitalise on career best shape at the Giro d’Italia with his Orica-GreenEDGE outfit in the mix to take the leader’s jersey after today’s team time-trial.
That’s the best leadout that I’ve ever received from a team. We were absolutely flying and it left my job really simple in the end so I’d be confident if the team was to select those guys (for the Tour).
The 25 year old recorded his first individual victory of the season two days ago and has four more opportunities to win a 'flat' stage before he withdraws from the race after Stage 13 with his biggest season objectives in mind.
"After that they kind of head into the mountains for the last week," Goss told Cycling Central from Italy yesterday on the first rest day.
"There's one more sprint, Stage 18, but that's a long way to go just for one sprint when I've got the Tour de France and the Olympic Games, hopefully, not long after. The big goal is to not go into the Tour de France too tired so I can come out a little bit fresher if possible."
Goss convincingly claimed Monday's third stage a week after Orica-GreenEDGE team owner Gerry Ryan announced a naming rights sponsorship with global mining service company, Orica, a fact that was not lost on the 2011 Milan-San Remo champion.
The marquee sprinter admitted securing the race lead after the Stage 4 team time-trial would be a big ask, but not impossible, with Garmin-Barracuda entering the 33.2km race against the clock as favourite.
"They've got a really good team here but we’re not far off the jersey and that would be great for the team to be able to pick that up as well in its first Grand Tour," Goss said.
"The guys are obviously really motivated after having a good start to the race so we're definitely going to give it our all. Whether that is a stage win and we get the jersey or whether that's just to put in a good ride, the boys, we're all going to do the best we can and I think we’ll be competitive."
Goss's 190km stage victory came after he finished second to road world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) the day prior. The Tasmanian had several team-mates at his disposal in the run to the finish at Horsens that saw Cavendish, who lost the wheel of pilot Geraint Thomas prior, crash at high speed when Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) deviated from his line.
Goss praised his team-mates, some who he has not worked with before the Giro and last month's Tour of Turkey, declaring his current leadout as Tour de France ready.
"We wanted to try and take the sprint from the front rather than try and take from behind and we did that well. That was a pretty good day to be in the front by the looks of the crash after but the team did really a great job," he said.
Goss has not worked with Kiwi leadout specialist Julian Dean this year and may not. Dean's season has been plagued with crash-related injury and the 37 year old has competed in just one race in Europe, the Volta a Catalunya, this year.
"If he gets ready for the Tour de France it would be great but I’m not 100 per cent sure that he will," Goss said. "At the moment we've got a pretty good leadout train already with Tomas Vaitkus, Daryl Impey, and Brett Lancaster; seeing how much power the guys had (Monday) they just rode around everyone straight to the front and took control.
"That's the best leadout that I've ever received from a team. We were absolutely flying and it left my job really simple in the end, so I'd be confident if the team was to select those guys (for the Tour)."
It's a fair compliment from Goss who transferred to the fledgling Orica-GreenEDGE outfit this season after two years at the now defunct HTC-Highroad squad that boasted one of, if not the, most well-drilled leadout trains in the business.
"I don't have to tell them anything. I just follow their wheels and they put me in position," Goss said.
"I think the Highroad train had a lot of years of experience and had been doing it for a long time but for where we're at, doing two race days together, I can't really fault the guys. They’ve done an incredible job."
The road world championship silver medallist has tagged in his race manual Stage 6 and another in the second week of the Giro as specific targets with both a little longer and more undulating, which he hopes will "take the edge off a couple of others sprinters".
Evidently he has the form to meet those specific targets.
"I'm actually about a kilo-and-a-half lighter than what I finished the Tour," he said. "I'm about the same weight or maybe a bit less than San Remo last year. I'm definitely the lightest I've ever been in my career that's for sure."
Goss will not finish the Giro but plans to complete the Tour de France, six days after which he is set to vie for gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games road race. There's been some media speculation that reigning green jersey winner, Cavendish may withdraw from the Tour early because of the London 2012 road race, which he has been bullish about winning. The move would not hurt Sky, which is also looking to support Bradley Wiggins to a maiden general classification victory.
Conversely, Goss is set to spearhead the Orica-GreenEDGE line-up in its Tour debut. Despite that he says the Australian-based squad does have other stage-winning options should he opt for an early exit, which is unlikely to be the case.
"I generally don't come out of a Grand Tour too bad so hopefully I get through to the race finish OK, recover well in those five days and I should be right for the road race at the Olympics," Goss said.
"Everyone is a little bit different in the way they prepare for races and it might work best for Cav if he does pull out but at this stage I'll be definitely riding right through.
"I don't really know what the (Tour) team is going to end up being for GreenEDGE but there's plenty of guys that could win and we've seen that this year. In three or four months we've had five or six winners in the team already.
"I think there's many riders in this team that can win races and definitely win races on that level so I think if one was to go home it wouldn't make too much of an impact."
At the Giro, Goss and team-mate Lancaster are on equal time in the overall standings ahead of today's fourth stage in Verona, both 23 seconds down on 21-year-old race leader Taylor Phinney (BMC). Orica-GreenEDGE will need to make up 23 seconds on BMC, finish 14 seconds faster than Sky and be 10 seconds quicker than Garmin should it wish to be in pink at day's end. It will enter as the No.3 seed.
The outfit has won one team time-trial this season at Tirreno-Adriatco in March.