Matt Goss burst out of a group of attackers to become the first Australian to win Milan-San Remo today in Italy. With Mark Cavendish caught behind a crash, Tasmanian Goss took leadership responsibilities for team HTC-Highroad.
Goss responded to attacks by Vincenzo Nibali, Philippe Gilbert, Fabian Cancellara and Yoann Offredo after the Poggio climb to contest the sprint along the Italian seaside. He succeeded, first ahead of 2008 winner, Swiss Cancellara and Belgian Gilbert.
“I was actually a bit worried, there were so many strong guys and attacking guys in there,” said Goss. “I knew I was going to have my work cut out, especially since I was one of the fastest sprinters in there. It was tough, but I’m happy.”
Goss won a stage of the Paris-Nice stage race earlier this month and earned his spot as HTC’s second captain. Once a 44-man group formed due to crashes ahead and on Le Mànie, HTC turned off the gas and let Goss play for the win.
“It’s really, really incredible,” said Cavendish, “and he was alone as well.”
The Poggio, topping out with 6.2 kilometres to race, almost ended Goss’ chances. Two other favourites, Garmin’s Heinrich Haussler and Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, lost contact from the lead group as the others lifted the pace to pull back Belgian Greg Van Avermaet.
Vuelta a España winner, Vincenzo Nibali blew the group apart with an attack. He caught Van Avermaet’s former companions – first Steve Chainel (FDJ) and then Stuart O’Grady (Leopard-Trek) and Yoann Offredo (FDJ) – and crossed the Poggio 10 seconds behind.
The group, though, caught the Nibali’s trio and locked in on the sole Belgian. Goss – by far the best sprinter – marked Cancellara, Gilbert, Alessandro Ballan and Michele Scarponi.
Offredo put in a desperate attack at 2.5 kilometres out and Cancellara responded, but Goss remained attentive. Gilbert was next, but Filippo Pozzato followed and the group started the final kilometre.
Offredo led Cancellara, Gilbert, Goss and Ballan. Scarponi attacked on the left and Goss started his sprint off Gilbert’s wheel.
Nearly 300 kilometres earlier, the sun came out in Milan for the 102nd running of Milan-San Remo. It added to the picturesque sitting at Castello Sforzesco, where 198 cyclists signed the start sheet.
Sky’s Brad Wiggins, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas were there for Norwegian Boasson Hagen; Roger Hammond for Garmin-Cervélo’s three leaders: Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar and Heinrich Haussler; and Cavendish to try to repeat his 2009 win.
Cavendish was happy to see his fellow Brits. He exchanged a few words with Wiggins on the start line prior to the race getting under way with a 7.5-kilometre parade route to kilometre 0.
Japan was in the spotlight due to the earthquake and tsunami last week. The race organised a minute of silence led by national champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini), who 12 kilometres into the race attacked with three others.
Miyazawa, Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) quickly gained an advantage, 13 minutes by kilometre 53. They had 10 minutes in Ovada, but by the top of the day’s first climb, their gap was down to 7’08.
Garmin led the group for its three leaders. Thor Hushovd was safely tucked behind, in his all-white kit, except for when his tyre punctured. Cavendish had a puncture nearly at the same time.
Japan’s hope for San Remo faded, only Russian Ignatiev and Italian De Marchi remained at the top of Le Mànie. They had 1’20” at the top with 94 kilometres until the finish.
Le Mànie finished Hushovd’s chances, he was caught up in a crash of 20 cyclists ahead of the climb. He chased, but team Liquigas lifted the pace on the climb and made it difficult.
Oscar Freire crashed on the descent of Mànie. It was possibly due to the wet pavement – it had been raining earlier in the day, especially on the Turchino. His crash and Hushovd’s caught out many of the top sprinters, including Cavendish.
Three groups formed: the two leaders, a second group of 44 with Goss, Alessandro Petacchi and Garmin’s Haussler, a third group more than 2’00” back with Cavendish, Freire, Farrar and Hushovd. Italy’s Scarponi, between the Cipressa and Poggio climbs, was the only one to bridge to the lead group.
The main group caught the lead duo, but Offredo formed a four-man group with Van Avermaet. Van Avermaet went solo after an attack, near the top of the Poggio, at 8.6 kilometres to go.
Milan-San Remo 2011: 298km
1. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing
5. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
7. Yoann Offredo (Fra) Francaise des Jeux all at same time
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 3 secs
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 10 secs
10. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Leopard-Trek at 12 secs
44. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 5-23
52. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 5-23
60. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 5-23
102. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 6-10
147. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 18-25
Peloton hits Le Mànie
Oscar Freire took a fall, his chance of a win ended
World champion Thor Hushovd descends
Steve Chainel in the late escape group
Chase group work hard
Stuart O’Grady takes his turn to lead the escape
Matt Goss celebrates the biggest win of his career