Matt Goss of HTC-Highroad has continued his storming start to the 2011 season by winning Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under following a bunch sprint, the victory marking the 23-year-old Tasmanian’s fourth and biggest win of the year.
Defending champion André Greipel, who won last year’s race while riding for HTC-Columbia but has now moved to Omega Pharma-Lotto, came second, with Robbie McEwen of Team RadioShack third.
Today’s stage took the peloton from the Adelaide suburb through the Barossa Valley wine-growing region to Angaston, where the riders completed two laps of a 29km circuit for a total of 138km in the saddle.
All 133 riders began the stage, including Katusha’s Sergei Ivanov, who hours earlier had just learnt of the death of his father in Russia but decided to take part in the race after discovering he would be unable to make it home in time for the funeral.
A breakaway formed on the day’s first categorised climb, comprising Simon Clarke of Astana, Mitch Docker from UniSA, AG2R’s Mathieu Perget and the Euskaltel-Euskadi pairing of Miguel Minguez and Jon Izaguirre.
Those five escapees managed to stretch their lead to around four minutes at one point, but were reeled back in by the peloton as HTC-Highroad and Omega Pharma-Lotto in particular looked to set their men up for the sprint finish.
On Sunday, HTC-Highroad team manager Alain Peiper had confirmed that the team’s hopes of winning the race for the third time in four years – Greipel had also won in 2008 – would be built around Goss, with Mark Cavendish playing a supporting role and perhaps targeting a stage win.
That decision was revealed after the young Australian had won the Cancer Council Classic in Adelaide, his third criterium win of the season after taking two stages and the overall title in the Jayco Bay Classic series, and he also finished second behind Garmin-Cervélo’s Jack Bobridge in the Australian National Championships earlier this month.
"I am really happy to get the win for me and the team (because) they rode all day it's for them," said Goss afterwards. "Two for two [incuding Sunday's Cancer Council Classic], great for team moral and spirit, a good few days I think."
"It was a long sprint out of the last corner so I was 'kinda' worried, but [Mark] Renshaw did a great job," he explained, adding "He got me to 250 metres to go, and although it is slightly uphill, I managed to hold on to the end."
Looking ahead to potentially claiming the overall victory, Goss insisted: "It is an ideal start but there is a lot of days left of racing. I am in a good position now but it isn't just me, in the team.
"Cav is still one of the fastest guys here (and) I am sure we will see him, if not in the next couple of days (then) before the end of the race," he added.
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 takes the peloton 146km from Tailem Bend to Mannum.
Santos Tour Down Under Stage 1 Result
Name Team Time 1 Matt Goss HTC-Highroad 03:17:08 2 Andre Greipel Omega Pharma-Lotto st 3 Robbie McEwen RadioShack st 4 Chris Sutton Team Sky st 5 Elia Viviani Liquigas-Cannondale st 6 Romain Feillu Vacansoleil-DCM st 7 Alessandro Ballan BMC st 8 Inaki Isasi Euskaltel-Euskadi st 9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Movistar st 10 Greg Henderson Team Sky st
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.