Tour glory beckons for Tassie

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 29 Juni 2013 | 19.55

POWER: Launceston's Matt Goss, 26, adds grunt to the Green EDGE team. Picture: AP

IT is one of the world's toughest and most prestigious sporting events, and Richie Porte and Matt Goss have proudly flown the Tasmanian flag in the Tour de France for the past two years.

This year they will again represent the Apple Isle in the glamour cycling event, which starts tonight.

However, according to the man who fronts SBS's coverage of the race, Michael Tomalaris, both face differing pressures in the gruelling three-week event.

Porte will be a key lieutenant for Team Sky teammate Chris Froome, who is raging favourite for the race having swept all before him in 2013.

Sprint star Goss will again be the man entrusted with team leadership at Orica GreenEDGE as he strives to become the first rider to win a stage for the Australian outfit.

Unlike last year, though, GreenEDGE has not put all of its eggs in one basket with Goss, who reached the podium on five occasions in 2012, including two second placings, but was unable to break through for a historic victory.

Simon Gerrans, who has dedicated his training to winning stage three of the race, six-time track world champion and debutant Cameron Meyer and Swiss rider Michael Albasini are all expected to be given a longer leash.

Yet Goss will still carry the major hopes of his outfit and Tomalaris believes he may need a change of tactics if he is to reign supreme.

"Matt Goss, he is under a lot of pressure at Orica GreenEDGE, the responsibilities weigh heavily on his shoulders," Tomalaris told the Mercury.

"He definitely hasn't won as many races as he would have liked this year.

"He has finished second, third and fourth on many occasions, more times than he cares to remember.

"The fact of the matter is, he doesn't have that top end speed like Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel or Peter Sagan.

"There is nothing there that tells me anything will change at the Tour, which means he may have to endure more second and third placings if he chooses to play that role.

"Rather than trying to win a stage in the bunch sprints, maybe Gossy would be better advised to try and win stages in the medium mountains where he is certainly capable.

"When it comes down to the pure, flat stages when you are one-on-one against Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Sagan, the form guide suggests Gossy just doesn't have the top end speed."

Tomalaris is more bullish about the prospects of Porte, who enters the race in career-best form.

Already this year the 28-year-old has become the first Australian to win the prestigious Paris-Nice, has clinched three second overall finishes at the Criterium International, Tour of Basque Country and Criterium du Dauphine and an eighth-place finish at the Tour de Romandie.

And although Porte's sole focus is on ensuring Froome ends up in the yellow jersey on the final day, Tomalaris is in no doubt he has all the attributes to be a grand tour champion sooner rather than later.

"Richie Porte is in a really good place right now and when he first re-signed with Sky, everyone was sort of scratching their heads and asking why is he doing that, he is capable of leading his own team and possibly leading a team that could win the Tour de France.

"He has played the right card by re-signing with arguably the best cycling team in the world right now and given Bradley Wiggins is not coming back to the tour to defend the title he won last year, it puts Richie in the deputy role to Chris Froome who is the unbackable favourite.

"With Richie playing the deputy, all it could take is for Chris to fall over or get sick, and I'm not hoping that happens but it is a three-week event and given the conditions and terrain these guys have to go through over 21 stages, it is not out of the question that Chris Froome may not finish the race due to unforseen circumstances.

"That means Richie Porte will be in a position to step up and assume the role as team leader.

"If it doesn't happen this year for Richie, he will learn a lot from his experiences at Team Sky in the past and his experience from Team Sky this year as a No.2 to the Tour favourite.

"There is no doubt about it, he is only 28 ... he has the capabilities of winning a grand tour, in fact he has the capabilities of winning the Tour de France in the not too distant future."

adam.smith@news.com.au


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