Goss upstages the favourites in San Remo

Sat, 19 Mar 16:25:00 2011

Australia's Matt Goss held off Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert in a small group sprint to win a thrilling edition of Milan-San Remo.

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With his HTC-Highroad team-mate Mark Cavendish caught in the wrong part of the peloton, along with defending champion Oscar Freire and world champion Thor Hushovd, after a split on the descent of Le Manie, Goss proved the strongest of a group of eight riders who contested the final sprint on the Via Roma.

Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) and Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) claimed second and third respectively, with Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) the best-placed Italians in fourth and fifth.

"I knew I'd been going well, I knew I could get a good result, but actually to get the win is  incredible," Goss said.

"I knew Gilbert was dangerous and would try for an attack on the Poggio so I rode across to that front group just as we reached the top, and once I was with them I knew I was in with a chance.

"It was an advantage knowing the route. I live nearby and I've trained over the Poggio a few times in the last few days just to check it again.

"The descent was fast, but it wasn't too tricky because fortunately it wasn't wet, and with 500 meters to go I just gave it everything I had and hoped for the best."

Goss has had a spectacular 2011 season thus far, with stage victories in the Tour Down Under, the  Tour of Oman, and most recently in Paris-Nice. Milan-San Remo is his eighth win of the year so far.

"It's been absolutely incredible," Goss said, "I couldn't have dreamed up a better start to the year."

last minute Milan San remo

Though the quartet of Alessandro De Marchi (Androni), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) broke clear early on, their advantage never grew over 13 minutes - a moderate lead by the standards of this 298 kilometre race - and they were caught with over 70km still remaining.

The key moment of the race came on the descent of La Manie, just before the lead quartet had finally been reeled back in, as light rainfall turned the road surface into a treacherous one, and a fall in the middle of the peloton caused it to be split into two groups.

The lead group, including the likes of Gilbert, Pozzato and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), sensed their chance and their teams sped to the front to set a punishing pace that saw them quickly establish a lead of over two minutes on the bigger chasing group including Freire, Hushovd, Cavendish and Tyler Farrar (Garmin).

Though the Rabobank, Euskaltel and Ag2r squads assembled at the front of the chasing group and managed to reduce their deficit to 1'40" with 40 kilometres remaining, it soon became clear they were not making sufficient inroads into their deficit to bring themselves back into contention.

Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) was the first to launch an attack on the Cipressa from the front group, though he was immediately chased down by Ballan while Lampre's Michele Scarponi put in a titanic effort to bridge the gap across to the lead group all on his own.

Yoann Offredo (FDJ) used the descent of the Cipressa to launch an attack and was immediately joined by his team-mate Steve Chainel as well as Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard-Trek).

They extended their lead to 30 seconds by the foot of the Poggio on which van Avermaet launched a huge attack. Meanwhile Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali jumped off the front of the chasing group and surged across to join O'Grady and Offredo in pursuit of the Belgian.

By the time they reached the top of the climb, Van Avermaet's lead had grown to 15 seconds though several riders from the front group including Cancellara and the tireless Scarponi had also managed to catch the Nibali-led trio.

Despite a gutsy effort from Van Avermaet, he was caught with three kilometres remaining as they entered the outskirts of San Remo.

Gilbert tried his luck two kilometres from home only for Pozzato to jump onto his wheel and it was the persistent Offredo who led the final group of eight through the final turns and onto the home straight on the Via Roma.

Scarponi opened the sprint, though faded quickly, and was passed on both sides by Goss and Cancellara. It was the Australian who had the stronger legs in the final few metres though and he surged clear to record the biggest victory of his career.

Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

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