Matthews retains lead at Vuelta a Espana

Wed 27 Aug 2014

Michael Matthews has retained the red race leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a Espana, finishing in the front group on stage five today.

Despite cross winds playing havoc with the peloton mid-stage, Matthews remained at the head of the race over the category three climb but suffered from the previous day’s efforts in the final sprint, managing 11th position.  Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb won his second consecutive stage.

“It was a difficult day all round,” the 24-year-old said.

“I didn’t expect the cross winds to come like that so the team did a really good job to get me onto the bunch at the bottom of that climb but from then on I was totally pinned.

“I just did my best to be up there in the final but I didn’t have the kick in the finish that I would have liked to have had.”

After a two huge days at the forefront of the peloton, ORICA-GreenEDGE took a more conservative approach on stage five.

“The boys have done a lot of work over the last couple of days and we have a lot of the Tour of Spain to come,” sport director Neil Stephens explained.

“Most of the teams haven’t contributed anything and today was an ideal sprint stage for a lot of other guys so we let them control the race.

“If we lost the jersey we would have had to have taken it on the chin.

“Fortunately for us that wasn’t the case, but the split in the peloton did mean we used the team to support our general classification rider Esteban Chaves which left Michael to fend for himself in a tricky finish.”

On what was another scorching day with over 40 degree temperatures, Tony Martin (OPQ) and Pim Ligthart (LTB) were the only riders willing to take their chances off the front but didn’t pose any threat to the peloton.

When the wind changed with 40 kilometres to ride, Tinkoff Saxobank pushed the pace causing the bunch to split. With the main general classification contenders recovering and the sprinters present, the stage was set for another reduced sprint.

Tomorrow’s sixth stage offers up the Tour’s first mountain top finish, the final ascent a five kilometre category one climb at 10%.  The challenging finale is likely to see the end of Matthews’ reign in the lead.

“Tomorrow will be a bit more of a rest day for me. I’ve had a hard five days so far and the stage three victory really hurt me so I am trying to recover each day,” Matthews said.

“Unfortunately I will lose the red jersey but you just have to enjoy the lead while you can and appreciate the jersey because as a sprinter eventually in grand tours like this, the time will come when you have to hand it over on the mountain stages.“