Australia's Robbie McEwen could only look on in admiration at British sprinter Mark Cavendish's blazing start to the Tour de France. But the former fast man of the peloton, now working as a consultant with Orica-GreenEdge, hopes his team's own sprinter Matt Goss comes good in the coming days to break his Tour duck. On the first flat finish of this year's race Goss was among the many sprinters aiming for victory. But despite having the support of his Australian outfit during a high-octane finish to the 207 km ride from Vise, he had to settle for third as Cavendish, riding without a sprint 'train' because of Sky's commitments to yellow jersey contender Bradley Wiggins, took his 21st victory.
McEwen only hung up his bike last month and is on the Tour hoping his expert analysis about the sprint-friendly finishes can pay dividends for Orica-GreenEdge. In the meantime, the 12-time stage winner could only applaud after watching Cavendish hop from one sprint train to another before unleashing his top end speed to beat German Andre Greipel at the finish. It was almost reminiscent of McEwen's trademark sprint tactics, and he said: "It was a very good ride." He added: "He's shown time and time again he can do it from a train, on his own, he's very handy on the bike and he's good at positioning. "This is the Tour and you always know Cav's going to be good. The Tour is where it counts. He got beaten at the Ster ZLM Toer the other week but it only matters what you do at the Tour."
Goss, McEwen believes, should be feeling buoyant. "Coming third on the first day, it's very, very good - a lot of green jersey points and his confidence has to be good," said McEwen. Goss was first from a chasing peloton at the intermediate sprint where he bagged 13 points and took a further 30 at the finish to sit fourth in the points competition on 52, behind Sagan (78), Cavendish (63) and race leader Fabian Cancellara (55). "He's won the sprint of the peloton for two intermediate sprints ... a third place, so he's looking to go better than that, obviously," added McEwen. "But it's a good start." With the flat finish of stage four scheduled to host the next sprinters' battle for stage glory, Goss is hoping to make amends after finishing over a bike length behind. "We didn't quite get the result we wanted but we are getting closer and closer," Goss said. "Hopefully in the coming days things will start to settle down a little bit. "It's a great start. We can definitely keep moving forward. We have the right tools to get a win."
The uphill finish to the third stage at Boulogne-sur-Mer on Tuesday could prove a little too difficult for the more versatile sprinters like Goss. But McEwen believes former teammate Simon Gerrans could take his chance with both hands. "Tomorrow's going to be a complicated stage, with the hills running into the finish. The final climb to the finish is only 700 meters, but it's also quite steep at seven percent (gradient)," he said. "I think we're going to see the bunch shatter a little bit over those final kilometers and I think it's going to be more suited to a guy like (Peter) Sagan, who we saw yesterday. "And maybe someone like Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). With a tough little final like that, there's a chance to slip away."