Hugo Gladstone recently caught up with Matt Goss, one of Australia’s hottest young talents who has set the world alight in 2006 and recently signed a contract with CSC.
Just as any career advisor, self-help book or drunken pub philosopher will tell you, first impressions last. The story of Matt Goss’ season is testament to this. When the curly haired 19- year-old Tasmanian flew over to Italy to embark on this year’s road season, he got stuck into it straightaway. Having already claimed a World Championship title on the track in France, he out sprinted the rest of the bunch in his first European road race this year, the prestigious GP Liberazione in Rome. The very next day he was at it again, outfoxing four other breakaways in the first stage of the Giro delle Regioni, including the then reigning under-23 world champion Dymytriy Grabovskiy. A team time trial win and a second place followed in the Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany, preceding two more stage victories and the point’s classification in Spain’s Vuelta Navarra. A week or two later, he was at the Baby Giro, the amateur equivalent of the Tour of Italy. On the third stage, still within just a few weeks of touching down in Italy, Goss claimed his fifth individual road win of the season.
The upshot of this impressive start to his road campaign, was that as the European season drew to a close, Goss was signed by one of the biggest team’s in cycling, CSC. Although not quite so hard hitting, Goss emitted good first impressions when I met him in Glasgow before the start of the first stage of the Tour of Britain.He was about to start a race against some pretty big names (Boonen, Kloden, Astarloa), but still came across as relaxed and friendly. Perched on the bonnet of the South Australia.com-AIS team car, he happily compared what was a cold Scottish summer’s day to winter back home in Launceston. An hour or so later, Goss was impressing on me further. As the race radio crackled into life for first time that day, his number was revealed as one of three members of a runaway breakaway.
One time check they had 45 seconds, and the next, four and half minutes. Our car slotted in behind the move and we spent the rest of the day tracing Goss, Luis Pasamontes and eventual overall race winner Martin Pedersen through the rolling Scottish countryside. Although Goss lost the stage after being forced to lead out the sprint, he claimed the yellow jersey by winning time bonuses the following day. He then had to abandon the race while in the lead on the third stage after a niggling knee injury had flared up during an aggressive day of racing. Other riders in his position might have battled on, but Goss still had bigger fish to fry. “I could have kept going to try to finish the Tour but I’ve got the Worlds in two weeks,” he explained afterwards. “I don’t want to have to take time off the bike and then have to miss the Worlds.”
Route Map to Success
As it turned out Goss cracked in the closing stages of the under-23’s event at Salzburg and eventually finished 119th. Nonetheless he had very much been amongst the favourites and rightly so. Having spent the season putting in top performances against both riders of his own age and against the likes of the pro teams, he is currently one of the hottest prospects in cycling. Four or five teams had expressed an interest in signing him and it was purely a matter of choice that he’s ended up at CSC. Five days after first meeting him, I sat him down in the foyer of a London hotel and asked him how he ever came to be in such a position. “My next door neighbours cycled,” he replied. “They just asked if I wanted to go down the track and ride. I was maybe 13 or 14 and had a knee injury from playing football. I went down the track on my mountain bike and I started to like it.” From there he upgraded his bike and, like we all do, got more involved in the sport. “I went through all the age groups but I didn’t win anything at a national level until my second year in the under-17s and first year under- 19s,” he said. If Goss was a little less modest, he’d have perhaps outlined exactly what these results were. Then again, the list is quite extensive and ranges from national road, criterium and time trial titles through to gold medals in the Commonwealth Youth Games and junior world track championships.
But it was when Goss moved up into the under-23 category that he made the real big step forward. “I went straight from under 19 to the national track team,” he explained. “Thankfully there was a bit of a void there after the Olympics— most of the team had wanted a break from it—and that gave guys like me an opportunity to jump straight into the top-level. We went to the World Championships and I picked up a medal in my first year as a senior.” This inevitably instilled a lot of confidence. As with so many Aussies who have been given the chance to make their name on the track, it also assisted him a great deal on the road. “You watch those guys ride that fast and think: ‘I don’t think I could do that’,” Goss admits. “But then get down there on the track and ride nearly as quick and realise ‘I’ve got the strength and power after all’. You can then use that on the road too. Riding the track helps the road a lot, especially in terms of power and on the shorter climbs of two to three kilometres.” From winning a bronze in the team pursuit in Los Angeles, Goss went straight to the AIS road program it Italy where he spent four months riding events like the GP Liberazione—won by Chris Sutton—and the Giro delle Regioni. Although he gained a single road victory in 2005, he generally had a hard time. In the long term, however, this proved beneficial.