Matthews retains Pais Vasco lead with narrow second place on stage two

Tue 7 Apr 2015

Yesterday’s stage one winner Michael Matthews has narrowly missed out on the double at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, finishing a close second place on stage two in Vitoria.

From the lead out of South African teammate Daryl Impey, Matthews jumped across to the wheel of Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) who went early in the sprint but the 24-year-old fell agonisingly short as he came around for the finish.

The second stage was a target for the ORICA-GreenEDGE outfit, having tasted success into the finish town of Vitoria on the previous three occasions courtesy of Impey (2012 and 2013) and Matthews (2014).

Matthews’ second place was enough to retain the leader’s jersey for another day as the race heads into the more difficult stages.

“The lead in to Vitoria was textbook,” sport director Neil Stephens said.  “Our finish guys committed to setting up Michael, right down until the final lead out from Impey that dropped him off within 200m of the finish and unfortunately he just fell short.”

“Full credit to Felline, he has gone from a little team to a big team. He is great shape and he got the jump on Michael. Our reign in Vitoria had to come to an end at some point and unfortunately today was the day.

“The commitment of the team was fantastic, the pressure put on the team over here today was unbelievable, you can’t beat that, but now we just look forward to the next part of the race which is the harder stages and general classification aims.”

Earlier in the day, the race started after a five-minute protest from riders as a result of the heavy crash caused by dangerous road furniture in yesterday’s final. The crash caused a number of serious injuries and hospitalisations, including ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Adam Yates who broke his finger and did not start today.

Once underway, a breakaway of five riders established a hefty ten-minute advantage in the first 30km of racing.

Movistar contributed to the chase in support of their general classification ambitions whilst ORICA-GreenEDGE also spent a considerable amount of the day at the head of the chase in defense of the lead and in attempt to set up their second consecutive stage victory.

“When the break went, it was a little bit of responsibility of the general classification teams to keep it under control,” Stephens explained. “Yes, we were keen on the stage but we had won a stage yesterday so if they wanted to keep control of their overall chances they needed to contribute.”

“Whilst a few teams were absent, Movistar committed to that and when it got to a point were the stage was winnable we committed to it. Pieter Weening did a fantastic job whilst Simon Gerrans also went up to help give him some rest and between the two of them they brought it back.

As the race entered the final 30km, the lead group had reduced to three riders and their advantage under control at two and a half minutes.

With positioning important for the descent into the finish, the intensity increased as teams pushed to the front coming into the final climb and part way up, with 15km to go, the race was back together.

The solid pace of the climb eliminated any attacks on the final ascent but several attempts were made on the descent in the finish as the peloton stretched out from the speed. They proved unsuccessful, again thanks to the chase of ORICA-GreenEDGE, but the pace made for a challenging and intense sprint finish.