It begins as the outline of a shadow. So vague and fleeting that you barely notice it. You begin to think you’ve imagined it. But it grows, its outline becoming more visible, distinct. You can’t help but feel for the poor victim who too, must be becoming increasingly aware of the outline of a monkey beginning to take residence on their back.
Poor Matthew Goss, now has a constant, invisible yet painfully visible monkey on his back.
His 2011 produced wins at Milan-San Remo and a silver medal at the worlds. It was a brilliant season finishing with signing to GreenEdge, the first professional Australian team in the international peloton. Along with this signing though, comes expectations and there is no doubt that his expectations for his own performance is higher than our supporter expectations, but an up and down 2012 and a similar start to 2013 is beginning to raise some questions from supporters of cycling and it’s impossible not to wonder if these questions are in Goss’s mind.
For athletes there can be nothing more crippling than the proverbial ‘monkey on the back’. Andy Murray’s career so far, has really been defined by his ‘monkey on the back’ issues and I can’t help but thinking that Goss is beginning to suffer the same fate.
Let’s rewind the clock to ANZAC Day last year and the Tour of Turkey. Goss’s second place to Mark Renshaw was literally decided by a ‘bee’s dick’, as my (usually) very proper mother would say. There was nothing in that race and for me, it’s where the shadow of our primate friend began to appear, even though he did take out the points classification.
Gallantly, as we would expect from Goss, he picked himself to fight another day.
Along comes the Giro. Goss had a victory on Stage 3 but it was marred by a nasty accident that saw Italy’s Roberto Ferrari take Cavendish out and began a deluge of angry tweets from the Manx Missile. Whilst Goss’s win was fair and legitimate it is hard not to imagine that eating away at the back of Goss’s mind is the argument used by some in the media that it was a win without a challenge from Cavendish.
That monkey’s outline is growing. The controversial finish to the stage has not abated it, only given it a more defined outline.
Now, the Tour de France. Goss’s expectations are high. The team’s expectations are high. GreenEdge has had a somewhat fairytale beginning to their existence and a win in their maiden TdF would be unbelievable.
Goss came, oh so close, so many times. He came second to Greipel on the 5th stage and mistimed his sprint on the 6th stage, won by Sagan.
It is this mistimed sprint on the 6th stage and his sprints on the 4th and 5th stages, where he finished behind Greipel, that the outline of the monkey became clearer.
On the 4th stage, Goss was in a poor position and tried taking on ‘The Gorilla’ from behind. That can only end in tears, and although he finished second in the next stage, he was, well, behind Greipel again.
So, what is going on here?
Lotto-Belilsol have an exceptional lead-out train. But what makes that so? Is it the camaraderie, respect between the riders? Maybe, but surely Goss also has that in spades? Are they just more confident in what they do? Everyone knows their place and they all perform their role to perfection?
Please, give me your opinions on this, and I know you will.
Then there is the mistimed sprint on Stage 6. This error on Goss’s part was the point where his desperation for the win takes over. Rightfully so, he wants this so badly. We all do. Goss is so desperate for the win that he momentarily loses concentration and takes off too early and I wonder if I am the only one who believes that had this not have happened, he probably would have won the stage?
To cap it all off, and we can’t forget it, Stage 12. A day I am sure Matt Goss has reflected on many a time. He sprinted for the line and should have been awarded the win, if not for coming off his line.
It was at this point that it became clear Goss’s frustration had clearly morphed into the dreaded monkey. Goss’s movement off his sprinting line was a clear demonstration of his desire to win his maiden stage and his frustration at not having achieved it. He didn’t need to come off his line. He had Sagan but sadly, he had a stab of self doubt. The monkey took over the steering and kissed goodbye his Green Jersey hopes.
All of that hard work, gone. All of those intermediate sprints, for nothing.
The rest of 2012 did not produce the results that we all know he would have liked. Knackered by the Olympics, the year rolled to a close.
So what has happened so far in 2013? Jayco Herald-Sun Tour was abandoned, he completed the Men’s Road Race at Ballarat.
Next, the Tour Down Under 2013. Once again, a couple of second places, although there was an unfortunate crash at the end of Stage 4 that left Goss on the road and Greipel romping to victory. But what is telling, is a comment Goss made alluding to the lead-out rain being inexperienced, as he concedes he too is inexperienced. Is this clutching at some straws in a desperate search for the answers?
It was during the TdU that I was involved in a twitter conversation where it was suggested to me that unlike Cavendish or McEwen, Goss is ‘an untidy sprinter’. This is an interesting perspective. So, does this then mean that Goss would find greater success without a sprint train? Is it the sprint train that is the problem?
I want to be clear fellow Roarers. I am a HUGE Matthew Goss fan. I have spent countless nights, sitting up watching the cycling, jumping up and down in my lounge room, trying not to wake my husband, and yet hoping my cheers will be enough to get Goss over the line in first place. What I want most of all this year is to see success from Matthew Goss, but just as Andy Murray found Ivan Lendl to banish his Grand Slam monkey, Goss needs an Ivan Lendl of his own to banish the monkey that is beginning to entrench itself on his back.
Published on www.theroar.com.au 30/1/13