Heroic effort from Matthews in crash strewn Milan-San Remo

Sat 19 Mar 2016

Two-time Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews narrowly missed out on the opportunity to contest the sprint at Milan-San Remo today after a crash in the last 30kilometres of the race left him chasing heroically back onto the peloton.

As the race approached the Cipressa climb a large group of riders went down at the front of the peloton, effectively ending the race for Matthews and ORICA-GreenEDGE. The race was eventually won by Arnaud Demare (FDJ)

”Obviously I’m devastated,” said Matthews at the finish. ”I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the team rode really well all day and everything was going perfectly.”

”The cuts on my arm are superficia. I can’t really feel it at the moment because the disappointment is so painful. I will be back though.”

Sports director Matthew White echoed Matthews' sentiment and also praised the efforts of the team.

”The boys rode excellently throughout the race,” said White. ”When an accident happens that close to the final there is  not much you can do about it. Matthews actually made it back on but had used too much energy to be able to contest the sprint.”

”It’s disapointing but that’s also cycling. It was a race that really suited us but now we have to look forward to our objectives for the Belgian classics and the rest of the season.”

How it happened:

For the first time in nearly twenty years the sun shone brightly from blue skies for the start of Milan-San Remo. The riders made their way through the neutral zone to kilometre zero and the race was officially underway.

Within the first kilometres a breakaway of 11 riders formed and after 25km the group had developed an advantage of five minutes. With a total of 291km to race, the peloton were happy to let the group forge ahead and 50kilometres into the race, their lead had increased to over ten minutes.

After 70kilometres of racing the break had been brought down to eight minutes. Team Katusha began to work on the front of the bunch along with Tinkoff. The two teams remained on and off the front of the peloton, seemingly playing an early game of cat and mouse. The break moved back up to nine minutes and stayed this way for the next 70kilometres.

A landslide on the ligurian coast near Arenzano, 150km into the race, forced the route to be diverted onto the motorway for approximately five kilometres. This increased the total distance of the race to 296km. The breakaway group of 11riders arrived on the Passo del Turchino, with the time gap dropping to around six minutes.

With 100kilometres left to race Sam Bewley and ORICA-GreenEDGE arrived at the front of the peloton and set about reducing the advantage of the leaders. The race now following the windy coastal road, the time gap fell to five minutes immediately. Riders from Etixx-Quickstep, Katusha and Dimension-Data all followed Bewley to the front of the main group.

Approaching the three iconic climbs of the race, the ‘tre capi’, the Cipressa and the Poggio, the advantage of the escapees had fallen to two mninutes and forty seconds and the race began to come alive. Two crashes occurred in quick succession as riders towards the rear of the peloton touched wheels and hit the tarmac. ORICA-GreenEDGE, safely positioned at the front of the main group were not affected. Under 40kilometres to go and the gap was down to virtually a minute.

The battle for position began early, with ORICA-GreenEDGE and Tinkoff fighting hard for control at the front of the peloton. BMC pushed their way to the front on the Capo Berta climb and on the descent the advantage of the day’s breakaway had disappeared. The peloton began to stretch itself across the road as the increased speed combined with the distance raced began to take its toll.

As the peloton hit the run into the Cipressa there was a big crash involving many riders including, Matthews and Simon Yates. The peloton advanced onto the climb as Daryl Impey dropped back to help Matthews who lost a minute on his rivals as the field sped away. Working hard with Impey to regain contact, Matthews battled on with blood pouring over his handlebars. At the other end of the race attacks were beginning to form. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) made a move off the front with Ian Stannard (Team Sky) immediately giving chase. 

On the descent of the Cipressa the pair pushed the gap up to 18seconds as Daniel Oss (BMC) gave chase with two other riders in tow. Now five, the group attempted to forge ahead towards the Poggio. Three kilometres from the base of the climb the group were all back together. Matthews managed to reach the back of the peloton and hung on as the bunch raced over the climb.

Michael Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) was the first to attack on the descent with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attempting to give chase followed by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafreddo).  With under 5kilometres to go Kwiatkowski was caught and Cancellara tried to go it alone. The attack lasted a few hundred metres before being brought back with only a couple of kilometres left to race.

The finish was shaping up for a bunch sprint when another crash happened. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep) went down in the last 200metres with Sagan losing his wheel and subsequently the chance for the win. Frenchman Demare (FDJ) took the win just ahead of Ben Swift (Team Sky) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal).

Despite the amount of crashes, all the riders of ORICA-GreenEDGE finished the race without serious injury and will be in action again at Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium on Wednesday 23rd of March.


Milan-San Remo Results:

1. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 6:54:45
2. Ben Swift (Team Sky) 0:00:00
3. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) 0:00:00
59. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:36