Flat Tyre Costs Michael Matthews Chance for Second Vuelta Stage Win

Thu 5 Sep 2013

Michael Matthews suffered an untimely puncture in the build-up to the Vuelta a España stage 12 sprint and was denied the opportunity to contest the finish. Having lost Matthews 6km from the line, the team rallied around Mitch Docker in the technical finale. Docker sprinted to 12th place on the same time as stage winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC).

“The boys were taking control on the front coming into a really technical final 5km,” Sport Director Matt Wilson explained. “Just at that moment, Matthews punctured. Basically, it was at the worse possible time. If it happened 5km earlier, maybe we could have paced him back to the bunch, but it was impossible with 6km to go.”

“The team carried on and did a great job in the finish given the situation,” Wilson added. “We slotted Mitch into the role for the sprint. He gave it a good shot, but it wasn’t really the type of finish that suits him.”

The peloton enjoyed a rather relaxed day until the business end of the race. A three rider breakaway established within minutes of the stage start. The trio built up their advantage to 6’22 in the opening hour of the race before ORICA-GreenEDGE sent Christian Meier to the front to begin the chase work.

“Christian Meier once again did a phenomenal job with the chase,” said Wilson. “He did a huge amount of work. He was on the front for nearly 120km today.”

Eventually, Meier received help from Lampre-Merida and Garmin-Sharp. Astana sent troops in support of Vincenzo Nibali’s race lead. The gap began to tumble quickly in the last hour of racing. Eighteen kilometres from the finish, the peloton swept up the break.

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) slipped away from the peloton at the second intermediate sprint, 15km from the finish. He built up a slim advantage before rejoining the peloton inside the final 10km.

As the bunch powered toward the line, it passed through round-abouts, under bridges and over narrow roads. The highly technical finale caused high nerves in the strung-out bunch.

“The team did an absolutely perfect job in the finish,” said Wilson. “That’s why the puncture was disappointing. It was probably the best lead-out I’ve seen them do during this Vuelta. We missed out on a chance to get Matthews up for the sprint, but it was a really positive outcome for the team in terms of the sort of work they did.”

The Australian outfit may have another chance to work for Matthews on Friday. Wilson will discuss several scenarios in the pre-race meeting.

“It’s a hard finish tomorrow,” said Wilson. “We’re not quite sure how it will go down. There’s a potential for the breakaway to stay away, but on paper, it looks like it could be a good finish for Matthews. We’ll discuss our options tonight and make a decision from there.”