Matt Goss gave ORICA-GreenEDGE its first Tour de France stage podium today as he sprinted to third in Tournai. His strong sprint came on the heels of another successful intermediate sprint. Goss was once again the best of the bunch mid-stage, winning the sprint and garnering 13 points for fourth place towards the green jersey competition.
“Goss nailed the intermediate sprint,” said Sports Director Matt White. “The team rode well as a single unit today. I’m happy with how thing stand. We wanted to win the stage, of course, but it was only our first opportunity in the sprints. We still have plenty of chances.”
A three-rider break dominated the early action. They opened the gap to 7:40 before the field brought them back to a more reasonable five minutes ahead of the only categorized climb on stage two. The intermediate sprint provided the first signs of life in the field as those with an interest in the points competition came to fore.
“The intermediate sprints are obviously not as highly contested as the stage finish,” said White. “There are maybe only five or six sprinters who consider themselves in contention for the green jersey, so there’s less competition for the intermediate sprints. The rest of the sprinters put more effort into the final.”
“For us, the effort on the intermediate sprint, whether that be for fourth today or seventh yesterday or even for the win, won’t be the same effort we give on the final,” White continued.
“Still, under the current point system, the intermediate sprints are just as crucial as the sprints at the finish, and we will plan to contest them whenever possible.”
The intermediate sprint injected a temporary increase in pace that saw the advantage between the lead trio and the peloton reduced to two minutes. Although the gap crept up slightly following the sprint, the inevitable catch came quickly. Two of the three breakaway riders rejoined the pack at the 30 kilometer mark. Anthony Roux (FDJ-BigMat) stayed away alone for another 15 kilometers.
With Roux back in the pack, the sprint trains formed. ORICA-GreenEDGE joined Omega Pharma – QuickStep and Lotto Belisol on the front. Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) claimed his 21st stage victory ahead of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol). Goss rounded out the podium. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan Trek) finished in the main bunch to easily retain his overall lead.
“It was a pretty hectic finish, and the boys did what they could,” said White. “They rode well, but they were a little lost towards the end there. For our first sprint with this group, it was a pretty good outcome. It was encouraging to get some points back on Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), and we were right in the mix for the win with Gossy.”
Racing continues tomorrow with the Tour entering France on the fourth day of racing. White expects stage three to feature a "high level of difficulty" during the final hour of racing.