Tour Down Under stage 1: Goss beats Greipel, Cavendish sits tight
January 18, 2011 6 Comments
The 2011 UCI World Tour is finally under way, as the Tour Down Under kicked off in Adelaide earlier today. And while it was hardly a shock to see an HTC-Highroad jersey crossing the finish line first, the identity of the winner did come as something as a surprise.
It shouldn’t have, however. Matthew Goss comfortably held off defending champion André Greipel on a deceptively tough uphill finish to claim the leader’s ochre jersey and his fourth win of this embryonic season, while teammate Mark Cavendish cruised home in the main field, content to keep his powder dry.
Australian Luke Roberts (UniSA-Australia) headed an early attack up the day’s single climb 11 kilometres into the stage to claim the lead in the King of the Mountains competition. A subsequent break of five riders saw Mitchell Docker (UniSA) and Mathieu Perget (AG2R-La Mondiale) claim maximum points at the two intermediate sprints. They eked out an advantage of four minutes before being reeled in around 15 kilometres from home to set up the final sprint.
In the final 1.5km the HTC-Highroad lead-out train did what it does best. First Hayden Roulston and then Bernhard Eisel drove the pace at the front, putting Mark Renshaw in prime position to launch Goss, who accelerated hard with 250 metres to go. Greipel was unable to make any impression, and Goss was able to cruise over the line, arms aloft, with a margin of nearly two lengths. Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) was third.
The season may be barely two weeks old, but this was Goss’s fourth win of the year. He also won Sunday’s warm-up Cancer Council Classic criterium, in addition to two stages and the overall in the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic.
Goss was delighted to have claimed the win on a difficult finish:
Mark gave me the perfect lead out once again and dropped me off at 250m to go. It was a long sprint uphill and I could see André on my wheel, so I was a little worried for a moment there. But I managed to hold them off so I’m happy about that.
He hopes to either defend the ochre jersey or keep it within the team all the way to Sunday’s final stage:
It’s a great start for us and I’d love to be able to hold this lead for the whole week but there’s a long way to go and we’ll just have to see how it goes. We also have a very strong team and we have other riders who can also win here so we’ll take it each day at a time and hopefully we can have the jersey at the end of the week.
On a day which was much lumpier than it appears at first glance, Cavendish was happy not to contest the finish. As Rabobank‘s Graeme Brown warned before the outset:
You’d think [stage one is] relatively straightforward and simple but it’s pretty up and down. When you ride the final three kilometres, you realise it’s the complete opposite to what the profile says. It’s about 1,500m of proper uphill.
Cavendish has downplayed his rivalry with Greipel – “he’s simply another guy I have to beat to the line” – and admitted that he is not in peak condition right now as he builds towards his main goals for the year. Before the race, he told VeloNews:
I wouldn’t say I’m bringing my A-game to the race. Obviously I’m not in Tour de France condition right now. I like to win when I’m racing, but it’s January, you know. I’m not going to bust a gut to be as skinny as I can to win here. It’s nice to win races but I’ve got bigger goals: the Tour de France is the biggest race in cycling, I’ve got Milan-San Remo to contend for and I’ve got the World Championships. If I go full gas right now it’s going to be a hard ask to do the other things I want to do in the year.
And although Renshaw claimed that Cavendish’s turn will come this week, the Manx Missile was more reticent:
I just want to be able to help. I can’t really contribute anything at the moment. If we weren’t winning then I would be disappointed.
Is Cav bluffing, or not fully race-sharp? Only he will know for sure, but if he feels he is too far short of his ultimate pace there is little point in him trying, failing and conceding any early psychological advantage to Greipel.
Certainly Greipel, while recognising Goss as the more significant threat to his hopes of claiming a hat-trick of Tour Down Under wins, is hawkishly monitoring Cavendish’s every move, saying afterwards:
I saw that Cav was not good, he was dropped on the first climb, so it was for sure that they [HTC] were going for Goss. I did not notice [other sprinters].
Actually, Greipel was wrong. Of the leading sprinters only Italian Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step) was dropped on the first climb. Nonetheless, the comment reveals much about the German’s focus for the coming season. The much-anticipated showdown with Cavendish may have to wait until bigger races later in the year – which is when both riders will be targeting peak performance and there will be no excuses for anyone to hide behind.
As Renshaw says:
It’s January. When we get to the Tour de France and he has won 16 stages, I am sure everyone will forget about the Tour Down Under.
Tomorrow’s stage covers 146 kilometres from Tailem Bend to Mannum. According to Rabobank’s Brown, the wind may cause the peloton some problems on an exposed run to the finish, but if the pack can stick together the final two kilometres is essentially straight and flat – perfect for a traditional bunch sprint. It may prove to be a finish too tempting for Cavendish to resist.
Stage 1 result:
1. Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) 3:17:08
2. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) same time
3. Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) s/t
4. Chris Sutton (Sky) s/t
5. Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) s/t
1. Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) 3:16:58
2. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0:04
3. Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) +0:06
4. Mitchell Docker (Uni SA-Australia) +0:07
5. Mathieu Perget (AG2R-La Mondiale) +0:07
Tour Down Under posts
- Goss wins first stage of Tour Down Under (news.theage.com.au)
- Australia’s Matthew Goss wins 1st stage of Tour Down Under (sports.espn.go.com)