Smukulis. Latvian for Catalunya winner.
Call it the Goss After-Effect.
HTC-Highroad is on a definite high the last few days. Matthew Goss is the only sprinter to make the elite group of eight riders that blasted into San Remo, taking his first classics win.
Young Latvian Gatis Smukulis must have been inspired by Goss’ victory. The 23 year old jumped in a four man break and 145km later delivered a solo win in the first stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
Smukulis dumped Ben Gastauer of AG2R in the final kilometers and cruised in 28 seconds ahead of the peloton with a look of joy and shocked disbelief. If you’d like to share the emotion up on the podium, here’s the Latvian National anthem.
Alessandro Petacchi brought everyone else across and grabbed an asthma inhaler. Alberto Contador (Sxo Bank) finished 10th and said he’s not afraid of a UCI appeal to CAS.
“I’m really surprised that I could win today,” Smukulis said, “I’m in good shape for the Classics, but these sorts of long breaks don’t normally work out.” Things seem to be working out for HTC-Highroad just fine.
Was Smululis thinking about Goss and Milan San Remo as he pounded the pedals? He certainly keeps his wits just like the Australian did.
“There were a lot of attacks, it was a fast start, and then we got away on a bit of a downhill. I worked hard to open up the gap in the first half of the stage and then concentrated on keeping my strength for the final part of the day, which I knew would be tough,” said the Latvian.
First Goss,, then Smukulis. Now, if only they could get that Mark Cavendish riding faster.