Matthews sprints to fourth on stage 2 and fifth overall at Paris-Nice

Tue 10 Mar 2015

Canberra’s Michael Matthews has sprinted to fourth place, narrowly missing out on a podium, on stage two of Paris-Nice today.

The 24-year-old was dropped into position following a desperate chase of three escapees and strong lead out by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates. Powerful sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) took the victory in a long dash to the line.

With the help of an extra bonus second won at the second intermediate sprint, ‘Bling’ moves into fifth overall, nine seconds behind Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quickstep) who retains the yellow leader’s jersey.

“Today went really well when you consider the level of sprinters that finished in front,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said.

“And even if you look at the results behind him, (Alexander) Kristoff was in eighth spot. You can lose a lot of positions in the finish so the guys did a good job to drop him off in a good spot and he got fourth.

“Bling is in a position now were he is just nine seconds behind overall, so imagine if he had won today and been one second down. When you are in that position, there is not a breakaway and it doesn’t require too much energy, for sure you have to try for the bonus seconds.”

On paper, stage two into Saint-Amand-Montrond looked set for a second consecutive bunch sprint. 

The 172km journey was relatively flat with just a category three climb that posed no big threat to the sprinters and the weather promised another day of racing without the influence of strong winds.

A solo rider, Arnaud Gerard of Bretagne-Seche Environnement, attacked from the flag and spent a long, lonely day out in front. He was given over eight minutes advantage after 60km of racing before the peloton began to close it down.

With 38km the race was back together to heading towards the expected bunch sprint before Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) attacked with just under 10km to race and was joined by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Lars Boom (Astana Pro Team).

ORICA-GreenEDGE led the chase before being joined by eventual stage winners Lotto Soudal to shut the late move down in the final two kilometres.

“I was surprised, but in these races you have to always be alert to the end,” Lapage said. “Guys like Tony Martin, especially now Etixx-Quickstep have lost Tom Boonen, for sure know what to do and can help take bonuses away from other teams to keep yellow.”

Tomorrow’s stage, albeit again forecasted for calm conditions, involves three smaller categorised climbs offering the potential for a reduced finish.

“I think tomorrow it could be a smaller group, but with the weather calm the same as today and yesterday, we are still going to have 50 to 60 guys come together for the sprint,” Lapage predicted.