It was oh-so-close for Matt Goss on stage five of the Tour de France. Delivered in perfect position to unleash his powerful surge, Goss led the charge past the four-rider break that looked potentially poised to steal the sprinter’s spoils. André Greipel managed to overtake Goss just ahead of the Saint-Quentin finish line to win the stage. Goss finished second ahead of JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
“We intentionally left things a little bit later today because the hard, uphill finish gave the sprinters more room to move around,” noted Sports Director Matt White. “Baden Cooke suffered a mechanical six or seven kilometers from the finish. By the time he made it back to the bunch, it was too late for him to participate in the train as planned. The rest of the riders had targets in the last ten kilometers -- and they all hit them spot-on.”
Four riders escaped three kilometers into the stage. Matthieu Lagadnous (FDJ-BitMat), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Julien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) nearly held off the charging pack, with Ghyselinck attacking under the flamme rouge and only being swallowed up in the final 100 meters.
“I’ve been surprised at the lack of help we’ve gotten from the other sprint teams in regard to the chase,” said White. “Basically, Lotto and our team have taken full responsibility to ensure we see a sprint. It would be nice if the other teams lining up to sprint decided to contribute to the chase tomorrow.”
In a repeat of the mid-stage sprint scene from stage four, Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) nipped Goss on the intermediate sprint line to take top points available to the field. With four riders up the road, Cavendish earned 11 points for fifth place. Goss, in sixth, added 10 points to his account.
“We put a little less emphasis on the team working for the intermediate sprint today,” said White. “Goss still needed to go for it, but we didn’t give him the full leadout. He got rolled at the last minute by Cav and made up the points he lost at the finish.”
For the second consecutive stage, a crash inside the final three kilometers marred the build up to the sprint. Tyler Farrr (Garmin-Sharp) touched wheels with an Argos-Shimano rider, and they both hit the ground, causing others to follow suit.
“Anyone who saw the crash on replay would tell Greipel to buy a lottery ticket,” said White. “It’s unbelievable that he didn’t crash for starters. To come back from that and take the stage win proves that he is in very good shape. Our hats off to him.”
Double stage winner and current points leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) wasn’t so lucky. Caught behind the mayhem, he was unable to contest the sprint and lost out on the points available at the finish. As a result, Goss closed the gap on the Slovakian phenom. Eighteen points now separate Sagan, with 155 points, from Goss, with 137 points, who retains his hold on second place in the green jersey competition.
“The points competition and our stage win objectives represent two related but distinct goals,” explained White. “Reaching both would be satisfying, but they’re a different kind of satisfaction. We’re still a long way from one and hopefully less than 24-hours from another. The stage win is our number one priority at the moment.”
Asked if the near-victories serve as a source of frustration for his team, White maintains that it’s just the opposite.
“Morale is certainly not a problem with this team,” insisted White. “We have debriefings each afternoon where we look at what we did right and what we did wrong. Then, we move on to the rest of the race. This is an easy group to work with because of the culture that we’ve created in this team. They’re chomping at the bit for every opportunity they can get, and they’re always ready for what’s up next.”
“Tomorrow is another chance for the sprinters,” White continued. “We’ll again have our targets, and we’ll follow our process. Eventually, we will win here.”