Matthews moves into Paris-Nice lead with stage 3 victory from perfect team rideWed 11 Mar 2015
Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews is the new leader of Paris-Nice following a perfectly executed sprint on stage three by the entire ORICA-GreenEDGE outfit.
The slightly uphill finish caught the eye of Matthews and his intentions were clear as a full train of ORICA-GreenEDGE jerseys proved prevalent at the front of the field in the closing kilometres.
Capping off their efforts, the 24-year-old came around the wheel in the final 100metres and never looked back, crossing the line ahead of Davide Cimolai (Lampre – Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing).
“Full credit to the team for the win, it was all them,” Matthews said. “I just had to do the last 200metres and that was probably the easy part.”
“We had a good meeting this morning and said everyone is in good shape and if we work together we can really nail this. The way they rode was absolutely text book, it was exactly the way we talked about in the meeting, I couldn’t ask for a better lead out.
“From four kilometres to go we dominated the race and we showed our strength in the lead out and no one could come near us with the horse power we had.”
The victory puts ‘Bling’ into the yellow jersey, leading the race by one second to Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quickstep).
“The last few days we have been trying to go for a few intermediate sprints and ended up with a few bonus seconds,” Matthews said. “That’s how it was possible to take the yellow jersey.”
“To put it all together and take the win and the jersey in one day, it’s really a special day.”
The 172km stage three from Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioul featured a strong early breakaway of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).
The trio established a maximum lead of five minutes 20seconds, and with 30km remaining held onto three minutes advantage.
The catch was made with 10km remaining but was immediately followed with a counter attack initiated by Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and joined by Ag2r La Mondiale riders Jan Bakelants and Romain Bardet.
The new threat gained 16seconds advantage but a determined peloton, including ORICA-GreenEDGE, Katusha, Team Sky and Etixx-Quickstep shut it down with two kilometres to race.
Leading for much of the finale, one-by-one ORICA-GreenEDGE riders peeled off before Matthews completed a textbook perfect day in the office for the team.
“The boys were awesome,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said. “They knew the plan and they never panicked.”
“We knew the last seven kilometres were on a big road so we had time to come to the front and they were perfect, they couldn’t have done it better.”
Paris-Nice is Matthews’ first race since the world championships last year, but a strong off-season has seen the 24-year-old fit immediately back into the race environment.
He kicked the week off with a strong eighth place in the opening prologue on Sunday, and followed with a tenth and then fourth place in the sprint finishes ahead of today’s victory.
“Of course you need someone like Bling to finish it off,” Lapage continued.
“Like we have said and seen in the last couple of days; even after such a long time since his last competition, he is in really good shape and we have seen him sprinting better and better over the last few days.”
Tomorrow’s stage four increases again in difficulty with a finish atop category one climb, Croix de Chaubouret.
“I have been looking at tomorrow from a long way out,” Matthews said. “It’s going to be a hard climb 100%, but I’m going to do my best to try and hang on as long as possible, if not all the way to the top.”
“If I can’t hold on, then I want to ride with respect to the jersey, all the way to the finish.”