Matthews sprints to fifth at Amstel Gold Race

Sun 17 Apr 2016

Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews finished in fifth place at the Amstel Gold Race today after a great team effort from ORICA-GreenEDGE kept the race under control for the best part of 200kilometres.

Paris-Nice stage winner Matthews and joint team leader Simon Gerrans were protected until the final few kilometres through superb teamwork but were both caught out by the wiinning move of Enrico Gasparatto (Wanty-Gobert-group). 

The Italian attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg and held off a group of around thirty riders that included Matthews and Gerrans.

After a fast race that had something of everything from crashes and breakaways to extreme weather and last minute attacks, sport director Matt White was pleased with the effort of the team in such a difficult race.

“The team effort was five star today,” said White. “We worked hard to give our two leaders the best possible chance for the finale but in the end we didn’t have the legs to go with last move on the Cauberg.”

“Because of the rain and the sudden drops in temperature we saw the smallest group in recent memory contest the final. Very suddenly it dropped from twelve or thirteen degrees to five for a short period and with many guys already stripped off for the finish it can have an effect.

“Normally in this race you see eighty riders up there to contest the final but today it was maybe thirty. We rode a perfect race up until the final few kilometres and we need to be positive about that.”

“It’s an important period of racing ahead and after the amount of time we spent on the front of the race today we can take a lot of confidence into the next event and move forward. When you see the champion of Paris-Roubaix, Mathew(Hayman) on the front with 30kilometres to go you know that the team has an exceptional work ethic.”

How it happened:

A pleasant spring morning in Maastricht made for a stark contrast to the adverse weather conditions that had been forecast throughout the build up to the race. The start took place at 10:15am CEST and for the first 30kilometres the racing was fast but controlled with attacks attempting to form without gaining any advantage.

A group of 11 riders eventually broke away and began to develop a lead over the peloton, after 50kilometres of racing the group had pushed their lead out to over four minutes. 

The key climb of the 251.8kilometre route is the famous Cauberg. Short but steep, the climb has been the one of the key elements to the Amstel Gold Race for many years and the first time over saw the peloton, led by Luke Durbridge of ORICA-GreenEDGE, sitting five minutes behind the eleven leaders.

The speed of the race was high for the first hour and a half before settling into a steadier rhythm and with 150kilometres to go the lead of the breakaway had fallen by 30seconds to four and a half minutes. 

Tension was beginning to build in the peloton as teams were starting to jostle for position on the narrow roads and short climbs. Team Sky were on the front of the main bunch with 130kilometres left to race and the leaders advantage had now dropped to four minutes.

The peloton started to seriously reduce the lead of the breakaway with around 100kilometres to go. Aside from the race finish on the Cauberg most of the major climbs in the parcours had been covered, leaving the kruisberg and rolling, flat roads ahead the main bunch again began to pick up speed. The advantage now stood at three minutes with Durbridge taking a huge turn at the front and the rest of the field strung out in a line behind him.

With 65kilometres remaining the rain began to fall as four riders attacked from the peloton in an attempt to make contact with the eleven leaders. Ten kilometres later and the race was now split into three groups, the four chasers had gained over one minute on the peloton and were less than two minutes behind the leaders. 

The breakaway had been ahead for over 150kilometres and the strain was beginning to show. The leader's group started to split as South African Daryl Impey pulled the now reduced peloton closer to the riders up remaining up the road.

On the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg an attack by Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep) almost brought the field back together but the five remaining riders from the day's early breakaway hung on for a few more kilometres. 

With 15kilometres to go Michael Albasini and Impey brought the race back together pulling the peloton over the undulating roads towards the finish. Paris-Roubaix winner Hayman, showing little sign of fatigue from his efforts last Sunday moved to the front, rotating with Albasini and Impey the ORICA-GreenEDGE trio led the field into the last ten kilometres.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) followed Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) in an attack with only seven kilometres to go and burst past the Tinkoff rider developing an instant advantage over the peloton. Wellens stayed clear for the next few kilometres before the field, now made up of around thirty riders, came back together again on the final ascent of the Cauberg.

Immediately the group began to split, as Wellens was caught Gasparatto attacked with Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) setting off in pursuit. The peloton stuttered behind and the pair developed a slim adavantage. 

With the climb crested and the finish almost in sight Gasparatto, the experienced Italian, sat on Valgrens wheel until the 300metre mark before launching his sprint. Coming past the young Danish rider Gasparatto held on until the line as the sprint for third unfolded behind him.

ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action on Wednesday 20th of April at the second race of the Ardennes Classics, La Fleche-Wallone.

Amstel Gold Race results:

1. Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Gobert-Group) 6:18:02
2. Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) ST
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) 0:00:03
5. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:03