Matthews 10th on first road stage of Paris-Nice

Mon 9 Mar 2015

Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews has finished tenth in a messy bunch sprint on the first stage at Paris-Nice.

A late catch of two breakaway escapees saw many of the sprint trains depleted heading into the final kilometre. Katusha’s Alexandra Kristoff had the pace and the head to pick the right wheels and lead over the line for victory.

After a strong opening prologue, ORICA-GreenEDGE committed for Matthews and the team led him strongly in the final kilometres. The 24-year-old held Kristoff’s wheel after the team peeled off, but eventually lost it in the scrap and settled for tenth.

“We discussed the lead in to the finish on the bus this morning and the team stuck to the plan,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said.

“It was his first road race for the season and his first sprint for a long time so we are happy with today.

“As the race goes on and gets a little bit harder, the boys will put him in the same position and he will be up for an even better result, that’s for sure.”

Earlier in the day Matthews contested the first immediate sprint, claiming two bonus seconds to move him up one place overall to seventh.

Flat terrain and little wind set the day up perfectly for the bunch sprint finish and proceedings went in accordance.

An initial solo move by Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne-Séché) was immediately followed by that of Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

The duo extended to a maximum advantage of a little over six minutes 100km into the stage but were closely guarded by a number of teams in the peloton, including Etixx-Quickstep in defense of the yellow jersey.

With 20km to race an increase in intensity saw the pair hang on much closer to the finish than expected as the peloton took their time organising trains for the chase and looming sprint.

Tomorrow, Paris-Nice offers another opportunity for the fastmen with a 172km flat journey from ZooParc de Beauval - Saint-Aignan to Saint-Amand-Montrond.