Michael Matthews Extends His Time in the Maglia RosaFri 16 May 2014
ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Michael Matthews sprinted to fourth in Foligno to retain his maglia rosa following stage seven of the Giro d’Italia. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won the field sprint, outkicking Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) to the line. The sprint finish left the general classification relatively untouched. Matthews heads into mountainous terrain on Saturday with a 21” advantage over Cadel Evans (BMC) in second overall and 1’18 over Rigoberto Uran, who rounds out the top three.
“We had two objectives today,” said Sport Director Matt White. “We wanted to give Michael a chance in the sprint, and we also wanted to keep the jersey. Michael did a good sprint. It was a tight one. He was a bit boxed in, and when he did get out, it wasn’t early enough to make up the distance before the line. The fastest guy won today, and we kept the jersey.”
“I used on a lot of energy yesterday on the final climb,” added Matthews “I don’t think I was at 100 percent. I also started my sprint a bit too far back. It would have been great to get another stage win, but today was more about keeping the pink jersey. It’s already been an amazing week for the team.”
Despite concerns that neither Cameron Meyer nor Svein Tuft would start stage seven in Frosinone, the Australian outfit only started the day one man down. Brett Lancaster was amongst the non-starters. His race ended Thursday with a broken hand suffered in the late race pile-up. Tuft and Meyer soldiered on despite their respective injuries and illnesses.
“Cam was in a lot of trouble yesterday,” said White. “He felt incredibly sick and couldn’t hold a wheel at 25 kilometres per hour riding uphill. Luckily he managed to get through the stage. He struggled today as well, but it was a major improvement over what we saw yesterday. We just need to nurse Cam through to the rest day. It’s quite hard to recover from illness when you’re spending nearly seven hours on your bike.”
“Svein surprised everybody today,” White added. “As most people saw, he was very banged up. He has some major injuries to his thighs. We thought he could have trouble making it through the day. Instead, he rode on the front. We didn’t ask him to, but he knew we needed someone to control. He wanted to mentally be a part of the race rather than sit in the bunch. Given the injuries he is carrying, Svein did an incredible job for us.”
Five riders animated the early action, jumping up the road and into the break. The quintet stretched out their advantage to eight minutes before several different teams came to the front to combine efforts in the chase. Just outside the two kilometre mark, it was game over for the breakaway.
“We worked today, but a lot of the sprinter teams had the same ideas,” said White. “It was always going to be a hard day for the break to stay away. There aren’t too many bunch sprints left, and some of the sprinters won’t get all the way through the Giro. The teams weren’t going to waste an opportunity for the sprint today.”
Giant-Shiamno and FDJ.fr had the most prominent sprint trains in the high speed finale. Matthews enjoyed strong support from Luke Durbridge and Mitch Docker in the finish.
“It was a technical run in,” said Matthews. “We stayed at the front in the final five kilometres. I didn’t have the legs I needed to get over the line first, but it was another really good day for the team.”
Racing continues tomorrow with the first mountaintop finish of the 97th Giro d’Italia. Matthews will take a back seat to Ivan Santaromita. The Italian National Road Champion currently sits in seventh overall, 1’47 off the race lead.
“We’ll support Ivan as best as we possibly can tomorrow,” said White. “He has a place solidly in the top ten on the general classification at the moment, and we would like to keep him there. Ivan’s done a lot of great work for the team this week, and now it’s his chance to shine.”