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3rd Gunn's Launceston International Classic - NE
Tasmania, Australia, December 27, 2004
Team-work delivers for Goss
By John Stevenson & Gerard Knapp in Launceston
Supported by a powerful contingent of TIS/Cyclingnews riders, 18-year-old Tasmanian Matt Goss rode the race of his life in Launceston this evening to take the Gunns Launceston Classic.
Goss was part of an eleven-rider break including Stuart O'Grady and David Mackenzie plus several other TIS/Cyclingnews riders that dominated the race after Barloworld's Sean Sullivan created the early break.
Goss hooked on to team-mate Mark Jamieson in the final sprint and with jamo's powerful lead-out to propel him toward the line was able to put a gap into O'Grady that the South Australian simply could not close. American Gui Nelleson, who admitted he had just been trying to hang on and finish during the break, was third.
Goss had one word for the feeling of beating one of the world's best sprinters: "Esctatic!"
"I can't believe it," said Goss, who was clearly exhausted from his efforts but also jubilant. "I had lot of guys there from the Tasmanian Institute of Sport there to help me through that race. They helped an unbelievable amount in the break. I want to thank them!"
They say no battle plan ever survives engagement with the enemy, but this time the TIS/Cyclingnews plan did pan out, Goss said. "It not very often that happens but today it went perfectly. You never feel safe when you've got guys like Stuart O'Grady in the break, but I had great support from my team-mates there. [Riders like O'Grady] made the race really tough; just to line up against those guys is unbelievable."
And victory was sweeter still for being at home. "It's awesome. [To win] the richest one-day race in Australia, in your home state and home city, it's unbelievable, and when there's such a huge crowd…"
The changes to the circuit since last year also made for a harder race. "It's a tough circuit being shorter this year, you go more times up the climb round the back and that really hurts the legs a lot more."
But when his chance came in the finale, Goss put aside the pain and the nerves of going up against Stuart O'Grady and grabbed it. "When Mark Jamieson went down the back straight there was a bit of hesitation so I jumped on to his wheel and the gap was too big coming into the final straight for the others to close it down… beautiful move."
Stuart O'Grady's mission in the final two laps had been to try and weaken the other remaining breakaway riders. "I just tried to make as hard as possible [for the TIS riders] because I wasn't too confident of my sprinting; I haven't been doing much sprint training at all. I felt pretty strong and just tried to loosen everyone up."
The TIS riders were determined not to be broken though. "They were there in numbers, there was about six of them up there so that made life pretty difficult," said O'Grady. "I didn't want to leave it till the last lap. I thought, 'If it's going to happen I've got to make it happen during the race.'"
I could tell from the first few laps that it was going to be a hard race and you had to be aggressive. In other years we've been able to sit back and it's come together at the finish, but today I could just tell that wasn't going to happen, so we just took it out to everyone else and made them try and catch us."
Taking a high-quality group with him when he crossed over to join Tanner, Menzies and Sullivan was deliberate, O'Grady said. "It was too tough to be out there with [just] a couple of guys, you had to be in a pretty good group, so fortunately when I saw six TIS shorts I thought we had a pretty good group!"
Third-placed Gui Nelleson played down his podium finish. "I was trying to [just] finish. I was trying to get to the finish - I didn't care what place I got. The place was a by-product of my suffering. I sucked!"
How it unfolded
It was apparent that the 2004 edition of the Launceston Classic was not going to be like previous years, when Sean Sullivan (Barloworld) put in a brutal attack on the second lap of the 2.1km street circuit in the Tasmanian city.
Sullivan, an Australian professional who rides for a South African-registered trade team, is first and foremost a Tasmanian, a local, and from the second lap, it seemed that the local riders were going to give the visiting professionals one hard work-out. Sullivan quickly built up a lead of 20 seconds, and on the his fourth lap off the front, he waited and sat up for chasing riders that included Karl Menzies (Tasmanian Institute of Sport - Cyclingnews) and David Tanner (McGee-NSW Institute of Sport). Other riders made contact but then dropped off the back, leaving the trio alone who the put in a sequence of hard laps.
Soon, they had 30 seconds on the peloton and riders such as Lotto's Robbie McEwen became worried. The reigning Tour de France green jersey tried to kick-start the bunch into action and he had support from Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), but the two Tasmanian riders worked hard to stay away, with Tanner really not contributing much to the break, leading to the odd comment from the impartial crowd along the streets suggesting he should work a little more.
Behind them, a succession of Australia's leading professionals such as Matt White (Cofidis), Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly), McEwen, Cadel Evans (T-Mobile) all tried to counter the moves by putting in serious turns at the front on the circuit's only climb, but it was clear they were facing a very committed duo from Tasmania, not to mention another eight riders turning out for the their home state in TIS-Cyclingnews team kit, who were always loitering at the front.
Finally, it was Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady who put in the counter move that worked at 11 laps down in the 35-lap race. However, the classy rider found he some company, including no less than five riders in TIS-Cyclingnews kit, including 18 year-old Matt Goss, the 2004 junior world Madison champion, former junior world pursuit champion, Mark Jamieson, Caleb Manion (another Tasmanian who rides for Jelly Belly in the USA but was turned out in TIS-CN colours).
By the time O'Grady's attack went clear, the leading trio had built up a lead of almost 50 seconds and despite the stiff headwind on the front of the circuit, they were taking advantage of the cross-tailwind on the climb and continued to build their lead.
But O'Grady was not going to give in that easily. His chase group worked hard to put time into the front trio and eventually they made contact with 13 laps to go. However, O'Grady still had three TIS-Cyclingnews riders with him, who then joined another two locals in the leading trio. By this time, the peloton was well and truly out of the race, trailing this lead group by two minutes.
Clearly out-numbered, the Cofidis rider continually attacked his group on the climb on the back part of the circuit and gradually he whittled the numbers away. But still, each time he attacked, it was countered by either Menzies or Goss for the TIS-Cyclingnews team, as well as the Navigators' David McKenzie, who was also riding strongly.
With five laps to go, O'Grady finally shattered the lead group of 11 and he was left with only four other riders, but two were Tasmanians. Behind him, four riders went out the back and into no-man's land, but respite was just around the corner as the leaders eventually lapped a fading peloton.
One of those dropped by the O'Grady attacks was Jamieson, who then made a remarkable recovery to re-gain contact with the leaders as the tactics began to be played out, slowing their progress. Jamieson had the American rider Gui Nelleson on his wheel, and they re-joined the leaders with one to go. Again, O' Grady put in another attack on the climb, but still the TIS-Cyclingnews riders continued to counter, with Menzies especially strong and committed. As they descended the back part of the course to head into the final 500 metres, the seven were still together, with the Tasmanians' tenacity countering all the moves by O'Grady.
As they approached the finishing straight, it was Jamieson who strongly led them out of the final right hand-corner, with Goss on his wheel and O'Grady waiting, ready to pounce. With 200 metres to go, Goss came around his team-mate who was facing a block headwind and O'Grady grabbed his wheel. But the 18 year-old track sensation pinned back his ears and put in a sprint that gapped the classy professional, winner of some of the world's biggest bike races. O'Grady looked up to see the teenager still powering away, watching as Goss crossed the line in a victory salute to an ecstatic reception from the local crowd.
Afterwards, the visiting professional were effusive in their praise for way the Tasmanian riders put them to the sword on the day. It was a triumph of teamwork for all the riders, and their head cycling coach, Kevin Tabotta.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Images by Gerard Knapp/Cyclingnews.com
1 Matt Goss (Aus) TIS/Cyclingnews 1.35.47 2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 3 Gui Nelesson (USA) 4 Karl Menzies (Aus) TIS/Cyclingnews 5 David Tanner (Aus) NSWIS/McGee 6 Mark Jamieson (Aus) TIS/Cyclingnews 7 David McKenzie (Aus) HLP Group 8 Josh Wilson (Aus) TIS/Cyclingnews 9 Sam Lee (Aus) 10 Sean Sullivan (Aus) barloworld 11 Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) TIS/Cyclingnews 12 Chris Wilding (Aus) 13 Mike Friedman (USA) 14 Aaron Rusden (Aus) 15 Chris Sutton (NSW) NSWIS/McGee 16 Jason Phillips (Aus) 17 Josh Kerkhof (USA) 18 Adam Hartley (Aus) 19 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 20 Michael Wilson (Aus)