Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad) took victory in a thrilling edition of Milan-San Remo with an emphatic sprint finish on the Lungomare Italo Calvino. The 24-year-old Australian had time to savour his win over Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as he proved by far the quickest of the elite eight-man group that formed over the top of the Poggio.
While Goss’ rapid kick to the line will understandably grab the headlines, his stunning victory owed as much to his sangfroid in a frantic finale as it did to his pure speed in the finishing straight. As attack followed attack all the way from the summit of the Poggio down to the finish line in San Remo, Goss held his nerve and allowed the pre-race favourites to wear one another out in the streets of the Ligurian town.
“I really didn’t expect to win,” an emotional Goss said afterwards. “I just did what I needed to do. I managed to stay in front and even though I was without teammates, I managed myself well.”
An incident 2km from the line offered a perfect microcosm of Goss’ intelligent race: as Philippe Gilbert put in the fierce acceleration that marked his final throw of the dice for La Classicissima victory, it was Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) who led the chase, with Goss tucked comfortably on his wheel.
Indeed, time and again in the dramatic final 20km of racing, Goss found himself in the right place at the right time, an oasis of calm in the chaos that surrounded him, as he quietly covered the moves without expending the kind of energy that might blunt his finishing sprint.
“In the finale, I looked to hold onto the wheels on the Poggio, because I knew it would be the decisive moment,” Goss said.
The sprint itself was chaotic, and lacking in organisation, with just eight riders left in contention after a white-knuckle descent of the Poggio, but again Goss was able to pick his way through the disarray. He marked Gilbert in the finishing straight, and when the Omega Pharma-Lotto man dived to follow Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Goss simply ghosted off his right hand shoulder.
The only real competition came from Fabian Cancellara on the other side of the road, but Goss had enough sparkle in his legs to hold off the fast-finishing Swiss and take a surprising but richly-merited victory.
“I was here to win, the team rode really well and I tried to finish that off, but I didn’t succeed,” Cancellara said. “I even tried to go alone but everyone was on my wheel. In the end I did one of the best sprints of my life, but Goss was unbeatable.”
1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD
7 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
9 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek
11 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team
12 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre – ISD
13 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek
14 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
15 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team