Matt Goss Sprints to Fifth in Naples on Stage One of the Giro d'ItaliaSat 4 May 2013
Around 12 riders survived a late race crash to contest the sprint finish of the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia. Brett Lancaster and Leigh Howard avoided the mayhem, and with Matt Goss on their wheel, they charged towards the finish line in sunny Naples. Goss opened the sprint before ultimately finishing fifth on the stage.
“The boys did a great job today,” said Matt Goss. “It was a perfect lead out. I went at 225 metres, but unfortunately the headwind was too strong. I ran out of legs with about 35 metres to go.”
The day’s break went as soon as the flag dropped. Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r La Mondiale), Marco Canola (Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox), Brian Bulgac (Lotto Belisol), Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM), Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) quickly built up a two minute advantage but were never able to extend the gap beyond their early lead. Omega Pharma – Quick-Step and Argos-Shimano assumed responsibility for the chase on the 16 kilometre circuit.
While the race action followed a predictable format, the streets of Naples presented several challenges. Crashes and mechanicals befall the peloton on each of 12 circuit laps (four large laps / eight small laps).
“It was probably worse than we had expected,” said Brett Lancaster. “The quality of the circuit was really poor. When you combine bad roads with the typical nerves of the first stage of the Grand Tour, things can get really dangerous. I saw lots of guys dropping it. It was a bit insane.”
“We managed to avoid the majority of the crashes,” noted Sport Director Neil Stephens. “Unfortunately, Jens Keukeleire came down in the final crash. Fortunately, he had already done his work by then, and he didn’t hurt himself.”
“We were less lucky in terms of mechanical issues,” he continued. “We had more flat tires today than we had in the whole Giro last year. Many thanks to Continental, our great tire partners, for allowing us to avoid flats in most cases. That we couldn’t today is a good indication of how bad the roads were.”
As the peloton contended with potholes, cobbles and crashes, the break fought for points over the two category four climbs on the larger circuit loop. Wurf proved strong over the hills and eventually broke away from the escape group. He built up a two minute solo advantage as the peloton began to reabsorb his former break companions.
By the time the race had passed the four large circuit laps and moved onto the smaller circuit for eight flat laps, Team Sky took charge at the front. With four laps remaining, the gap between Wurf and the peloton had dropped below a minute. Twenty kilometres from the finish, Wurf had rejoined the peloton.
The pace picked up during the final two circuit laps. ORICA-GreenEDGE directed Goss up to the front seven kilometres from the finish. Pieter Weening found himself off the front inside the final five kilometres when his injection in pace opened a small gap. The peloton swept him up as duelling sprint trains fought for control at the front.
A crash around two kilometres from the finish split the field. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) made the split and went on to win the stage ahead of Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ)
“I didn’t see the crash,” admitted Lancaster. “Luckily Leigh and I made it through with Gossy on the wheel. We were up there and able to get a nice little sit behind Cannondale. It worked out pretty well. Gossy gave it his all, but it’s hard to beat a guy like Cav on a stage like this. We need a bit of a climb or something at the end.”
“We managed to pull off fifth,” added Stephens. “It’s not a win, but we have the satisfaction of a job well done.”
Both Stephens and Lancaster believe what they saw today is an indication of better things to come from the Australian outfit in Italy.
“The most positive thing I saw was the commitment to Gossy,” said Stephens. “We’ve shown throughout the year that the only way we’re going to achieve anything is through the unity of the team, through putting it on the line for this teammate today and that teammate tomorrow. They did an excellent job supporting each other on the opening stage, and I’m sure they’ll do that on other occasions throughout the Giro.”
“Morale is really good,” said Lancaster. “Everyone did their bit. We’re all ready to step up and perform.”