Matthews masters opening day of Pais Vasco

Mon 6 Apr 2015

2015 Paris-Nice stage winner and sprint classification champion Michael Matthews has won the opening stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco in Spain today.

Matthews won from a reduced bunch sprint, ahead of world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step), following a challenging finale that involved a category two climb in the last 20km.

The victory was the 24-year-old’s second at the race, following a stage win in 2014, and the second consecutive victory for ORICA-GreenEDGE in Spain after Caleb Ewan’s performance at the Vuelta a la Rioja yesterday.

“I was quite confident going into the stage,” Matthews said. “We did a recon of the final climb yesterday and I knew what I was in for, it just came down to what legs I had today.”

“It turned out I had really good legs, got myself over the climb and I knew from that reduced bunch I had a pretty good chance of cleaning up the sprint.

“The Yates brothers were following a lot of attacks in the final five kilometres, which was great that I didn’t have to worry about any of them.

“There wasn’t any lead out trains, it was more of a grovel, so I just placed myself within the top five in the final and started my sprint a little earlier, rather than waiting like I did in San Remo, so I couldn’t get boxed in.”

A trio of riders formed the day’s early breakaway, establishing a quick five-minute lead in the first ten kilometres. 

Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-RGA), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) and Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) worked well together until Bulgac dropped off the pace with just under 50km to ride.

Shortly after, Turgis attacked his surviving companion attempting a solo 30km move on the local lap of Bilbo.

Unseen for much of the day, ORICA-GreenEDGE hit the front of the peloton on the last climb of the day. The effort ended the day of Turgis before further teams joined them at the fore to put on the pressure.

The result was a select group who, despite being challenged by some of the world’s elite descenders including three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx Quick-Step), held together to contest for opening stage glory.

Sport director Neil Stephens, ambitious for a stage win at the Basque race, had identified the first stage as a potential opportunity for the team and proceedings went to plan.

“We knew the stage pretty well, but we weren’t exactly sure how hard the last climb was going to be,” Stephens said. “We were hopeful we were going to get to the finish with Michael and in the end it was just him with the climbers.”

“We knew Simon Gerrans is still working his way up and Pieter Weening was feeling much the same so we identified that before the stage and they helped place the team going into the final climb.

“It would have been great to have Daryl (Impey) and (Michael) Albasini in the finish and they gave it everything to get over the climb but they weren’t able to be there.”

In mixed news, general classification riders Colombian Esteban Chaves and British twins Simon and Adam Yates were given the winning time of the front group, however Adam Yates hit a signage post and crashed in the final sprint and at first assessment looks to have broken his right middle finger. The 22-year-old will undergo scans this evening.