Matthews sprints to fifth on stage two of the Tour de France

Sun 3 Jul 2016

After crashing in yesterday’s finale, ORICA-BikeExchange’s Michael Matthews bounced back strongly on stage two of the Tour de France today, sprinting to fifth place in a fast and furious race to the line.

Another controlled team performance from ORICA-BikeExchange saw the Australian team move up to the front of the race inside the final 35kilometres.

Paris-Roubaix champion Mathew Hayman put in a huge shift to keep Matthews and Simon Gerrans well positioned for the finale with 2016 Tour of Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini also in close attendance.

The last rider of the day’s long breakaway was caught inside the final kilometre with Matthews losing out in the sprint to stage winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

Matthews came home in fifth place with Sagan now moving into the race lead and the yellow jersey. Gerrans crossed the line just outside the top ten in 11th with Adam Yates close behind in 13th.

Gerrans is now ninth on the general classification, fourteen seconds behind Sagan going into tomorrow's stage three with ORICA-BikeExchange now leading the team classification. 

Sport director Matt White was content with the efforts with the team on what he acknowledged was a hard stage.

It was a tough finale today,” said White. “The stage was reminiscent of a classics race and the uphill sprint was made up of an eclectic mix of the world's best climbers and classics riders.”

“The team rode very well throughout the stage, Michael (Matthews) was in a good position going into the finish he gave it everything and came very close.

“It has been a solid start to this years Tour de France for us, but it is a long race and we have got work to do.”

How it happened:

A wet and drizzly morning welcomed the riders to the start of stage two in Saint-Lo today and just like stage one an early attack out of the neutral zone formed the day's first breakaway.

Four riders including Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) went clear inside the first few kilometres and quickly gained a developing advantage of over three minutes on the main field.

After 50kilometres of racing the Stuyven quartet, working well together in the wet conditions, had over five minutes on the peloton.

Dimension-Data were massed at the front of the bunch protecting the yellow jersey of stage one winner Mark Cavendish and with 100kilometres to go the lead of the breakaway had stretched to near seven minutes.

Fifty kilometres later and the situation was much the same, Stuyven and co. had five minutes 50seconds on the peloton with three climbs to tackle before the finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.

The rain had finally stropped though it remained grey and overcast as the leaders wove their way through Helleville with 40kilometres to go. The speed of the chasing bunch was gradually increasing and the gap now stood at five minutes.

The ORICA-BikeExchange formation led by Hayman moved up to the front of the peloton with 35kilometres remaining as the fight for position started to intensify.

The breakaway quartet became a trio inside the final 20kilometres with the peloton now less than three minutes behind and gaining time with every pedal stroke.

Stage two's final climb, the Cote d’Octeville, arrived with ten kilometres to go and the three leaders began the ascent with an advantage of two minutes over the peloton.

Stuyven attacked with gusto two kilometres later and immediately distanced his former collaborators in the breakaway. Accelerating away towards the summit Stuyven only had a handful of seconds over the chasing bunch that was fragmenting with the increased speed of Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff).

The Trek-Segafredo rider was caught inside the final kilometre, clearing the way for an epic sprint to the line. The rise to the finish thinned out the bunch even more with Matthews and Gerrans both present amongst the elite mix of climbers and one-day opportunists.

Matthews attacked bravely with 100metres to go and was passed just before the line by Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) with Sagan claiming the stage win.

Tomorrow’s stage three moves inland and south covering 223.5 kilometres from Granville to Angers. The route undulates and rolls in the beginning before settling down through the Loire valley for a flat finish in the medieval city of Angers.

Tour de France stage two results:

1. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 04:20:51
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) ST
5. Michael Matthews (ORICA-BikeExchange) ST 

General classification after stage two:

1. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 08:34:42
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) 00:00:08
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:00:10
9. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00.00.14