Michael Matthews fought to a solid third place, his second podium placing of this year’s La Vuelta a España, after Team BikeExchange led a hard chase to bring back a four-rider move inside the final three-kilometres.
The brutal stage in blistering heat saw a breakaway group of eight riders finally get away after 75km of racing had been completed, before being again caught with 21km to go, only for a dangerous counter-attack to immediately follow.
Digging in and surviving a fast pace on the final two climbs, Matthews made it to the flat run-in to the finish line and was given full support from his teammates to go all in for the stage win.
The entire Team BikeExchange squad came to the fore with 10km to go and buried themselves, in an attempt to bring the race back together and set up the 30-year-old Australian for the sprint. With the help of UAE in the final kilometres, they were able to make the catch with just 650metres to go.
It was then all up to Matthews, after Luka Mezgec did the final pull into position, with the eight-time Grand Tour stage winner launching from the wheels and to third place; his sixth top-10 placing so far at the 2021 Vuelta a España.
Michael Matthews – 3rd place
“After yesterday, today was always going to be difficult. We all came together in the final there and even after I was struggling on the last two climbs to get to the finish, the boys still put it all on the line for me to go for the sprint.
I already told the team on the first climb I wasn’t going to contest the stage today. I thought it was going to be too much for me, but I gritted my teeth and got myself over the climb and the boys said we will go for me in the sprint.
We just got jumped a little bit in the final from Magnus Cort, they just timed it better than I did in the sprint there, but I think all-in-all we did a really good team performance today.
When you have a team like this that supports you through the highs and the lows of a Grand Tour, then you always give it your all to try and finish it off.”
Julian Dean – Sport Director
“Clearly today was a disappointing day for us but the team was really good, they threw everything at it. I think we had more than any other team left there in the final to chase down those final four riders.
The boys all committed, we didn’t quite make it count as we were hoping for in the end, but there’s still some stages left. We will have a rethink about today and move on to tomorrow.”
2021 La Vuelta – Stage 12 results:
1. Magnus Cort 3:44:21
2. Andrea Bagoli ST
3. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) ST
Photo courtesy of Getty Images