Matthews sprints to second on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana

Wed 10 Sep 2014

Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews has sprinted to second on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana this afternoon.

Matthews, who won stage three earlier in the Vuelta, made a final dash for the line but was unable to close the distance from the behind the wheel of John Degenkolb (GIA) who took out his fourth victory for the tour.

“I played my cards on following Degenkolb,” Matthews said after the finish.

“In the end it was the right move to follow him because he obviously won the race.”  

The 23-year-old explained the challenging finish that wiped away sprint trains, as well as many of his rivals.

“With about six to seven kilometres to go there was a fairly big kick uphill,” Matthews said.  

“It was maybe a kilometre long and pretty steep so that zapped a lot of the legs of the lead out guys so in the end it was (Simon) Clarke and I.

“With about three kilometres to go Clarkey came to the front and that strung out the peloton so a lot of the sprinters couldn’t really move up if they lost ground on the climb.

“In the final kilometre there was no real lead out trains anymore, just guys attacking from left to right. 

“I was as close as I could have been so it’s one of those situations coming off for second that is not so bad. There are still another two stages that suit me in this Vuelta so we will keep fighting for that second stage win.”

On what was a reasonably flat 190.7km stage, the main breakaway of five riders, who escaped after 20km of racing, were never provided much of an advantage with Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma - Quick-Step contributing with ORICA-GreenEDGE to keep the pace at the front of the peloton and the gap at no more than four minutes.

Eventually, the remnants of the breakaway were swept up with just two kilometres to the finish.  A rolling final made a difficult finish with the remaining sprint contenders positioning themselves for the final kick lacking the support of thier lead out.

“Everybody was without numbers, it was a deceptively hard final,” sport director Neil Stephens said.

‘When we got to the cobbles and it was down to (Simon) Clarke and Michael (Matthews) and they were well positioned. 

“Clarkey had to do a final turn and by then Michael was riding really well and super confident, he got on Degenkolb's wheel and in the rush to the line was just beaten by a better man today.

“We will look back on it later on, but I’m not too sure there was a way to alter that result.”

Tomorrow, two category two climbs within the last 30km of stage 18’s 157km trek from A Estrada to Monte Castrove Meis promise to make an interesting finale.