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Olympic road race: the contenders part three – Australia and the USA

In the third of our Olympic road race contenders series, we take a look at the threat posed to Mark Cavendish and Team GB by two English-speaking nations.

Both Australia and the USA could deploy a strategy conducive to Great Britain’s efforts: shutting down breakaways in the hope of forcing a sprint. Each, however, have world class riders capable of going clear.

The Australians are expected to ride for Matt Goss. The GreenEDGE sprinter (like the German contingent of Greipel, Grabsch, and Martin) is a former teammate of Cavendish at HTC-Highroad.

Matt Goss enjoys one of his few victories this year, winning stage three of the Giro d’Italia. Significantly, Mark Cavendish had crashed just seconds before this picture was taken

Goss has endured a frustrating season of significant effort with little reward, typified by his performances at the Tour de France earlier this month where he was a consistent top five finisher while failing to win a stage.

His Giro d’Italia was only marginally more successful, securing victory on stage three when Cavendish was wiped out in an kamikaze move by Roberto Ferrrari.

The greatest win of Goss’ career came last year at Milan-San Remo, where he outsprinted Fabian Cancellara in a move clearly studied by GreenEDGE teammate, Simon Gerrans, for his win at the expense of the Swiss in March.

Gerrans, who has also won the Tour Down Under this year, is part of a superb supporting line-up that includes 2010 world road race champion and recently deposed Tour-champion, Cadel Evans, a rider in his best form able to match the effort Wiggins is expected to deliver for Cavendish.

Elsewhere among the Australian’s star-studded ranks are two riders who helped deliver Wiggins to Paris in yellow: Richie Porte, winner of the Volta ao Algarve and three-time world time trial champion, Michael Rogers.

In Australia, likely to be our closest rivals on the track, Great Britain might find their closest allies on the road, at least until the closing kilometres of the run back to London when positioning will become ferocious.

Can Goss outsprint Cavendish? Based on this season’s results, it seems unlikely. Only a fool, however, would disregard of a team of such quality and tenacity.

The USA is another team with five excellent riders, though perhaps a notch below Australia and Great Britain. Significantly, they have two cards to play, with riders strong enough to break away and a world class sprinter.

That sprinter is Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar, a man struggling for stage wins this year, but who has experienced a degree of success in the semi-Classics in previous years. He was second this year to Marcel Kittel this year at Schelderprijis, a race he won in 2010.

Tejay Van Gaarderen’s efforts at the Tour for Cadel Evans earned him the white jersey of best young rider. Will efforts for Tyler Farrar bring gold for the USA?

Tejay Van Garderen, however, is a man with an ‘engine’ large enough to stay away should he escape in a break. His peformances in the Tour de France, where he led a fading Cadel Evans through the Alps and Pyrenees, proved that Box Hill will be of little concern to him. His time trialing prowess could be an asset to Farrar in dragging him to The Mall, or to himself if he escapes the attentions of Cavendish and co.

Taylor Phinney, winner of the Giro d’Italia prologue and widely regarded as one of the hottest talents in cycling, is another with the engine to provide able support to Farrar or to prove a dangerous escapee should he find himself in a breakaway.

Recently-crowned national time trial champion, Tim Duggan, could play a key supporting role, while veteran, Chris Horner, second at Tirreno-Adriatico and briefly team leader of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek at this year’s Tour de France, might play the David Millar role as road captain.

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Tomorrow: Italy, Spain, and significant others

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