Matthews opens season with strong Paris-Nice prologueSun 8 Mar 2015
Multiple Grand Tour stage winner Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews has opened his 2015 racing season with a top ten performance today, finishing eighth in a packed time-trial field at Paris-Nice.
Matthews finished just 12seconds adrift the 6.7km prologue winner, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick Step), who stopped the clock at seven minutes 40seconds.
In a field stacked with some of the best time trial riders in the world the 24-year-old took some big name scalps, including world time trial champion Bradley Wiggins and Australian champion Richie Porte (Team Sky) who finished 12th and 13th respectively.
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was impressed but not surprised with the 2014 Vuelta Ciclista a La Roija champion’s season debut.
“He was really strong, especially when you think it was his first race of the season,” Lapage said of Matthews.
“It was a time trial for guys with stronger legs. It was not technical at all, but after a few kilometres we took a right and it was going uphill for the next three kilometres and he rode a really strong hill. That’s where he made the difference.
“We knew he was really focused coming in and for the moment he is lighter than he was last year. It was great to see that he did it but it was not really a surprise, we know he has the potential to do this.”
Another of ORICA-GeenEDGE’s priorities, British rider Simon Yates will start the road stages 41seconds down in his general classification ambitions.
Lapage said that whilst not ideal, the opportunity exists for the 22-year-old to make major moves up in the overall rankings.
“First of all we know Simon is not one the greatest time trial specialists and then we also have to consider that he has been sick the last ten days,” Lapage said.
“He did a good time trial in relation to his capacity and now it’s important for the first flat stages that he stays safe, without losing time before the mountain top finish.”
Tomorrow, the action hits the road with the first of a series of flat stages from Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse to Contres.
Despite not necessarily the stage best suited to Matthews, Lapage said it provided another valuable opportunity for the punchy sprinter to test his legs.
“Tomorrow we will 95% likely ride for Bling,” Lapage said. “The weather forecast is predicted to be good with no wind and it should end in a bunch sprint.”
“If you see the field here and the level of pure sprinters, it will not be easy, but Bling has big potential and you never know.”