British sprinter Mark Cavendish will start the Tour Down Under on January 16 with an HTC team helper in top form. Matt Goss clinched the overall Jayco Bay Classic today in Australia with a stage win.

“I’ve put in some hard yards over the last couple of months and really tried to be in better form here than in other years and it has shown,” Goss told The Age newspaper.

“It’s a great start to the year. The next goal is the nationals and Tour Down Under. Hopefully this is just a little step to bigger things there.”

In addition to today’s stage and overall win in Williamstown, Goss won the opening day’s stage in Geelong. He raced for an all-Tasmanian team, E3/Pure, but will line up with Cavendish at the Tour Down Under in his normal, HTC-Highroad colours.

Cavendish and Goss will form HTC’s Tour Down Under team with Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Danny Pate, Mark Renshaw and Hayden Roulston. They will defend the team’s title won last year by German sprinter André Greipel. Greipel won three stages and the overall ahead of Spaniard Luis León Sánchez.

Over the winter, Greipel switched to Belgian team, Omega Pharma-Lotto. At the Tour Down Under, he will join team-mates Mario Aerts, Adam Hansen, Olivier Kaisen, Vicente Reynes, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.

His duel with Cavendish is made even more interesting since the two were often critical of each other as team-mates. Now, in Adelaide, Greipel will face Cavendish as a direct rival for the first time in four years. In the spring of 2006, Cavendish finished ninth behind a victorious Greipel at the first stage of the Rheinland-Pfalz Tour.

The tables have turned since. Cavendish won five stages at the Tour de France last year and six the year before.

Goss has improved, as well. Last year, he won a stage at the Giro d’Italia and the GP Plouay one-day classic. He also helped Cavendish win three stages and the green sprinters jersey at the Vuelta a España. Prior to the Tour Down Under, Goss will race the Australian national championships.

Related links

Cavendish to start 2011 Tour Down Under

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile