Michael Matthews Moves Into Points Jersey at La VueltaThu 29 Aug 2013
It was all hands on deck for Michael Matthews on stage six of the Vuelta a España. Matthews’ win on stage five inspired a confidence boast in his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates who once again rode the front to ensure the projected bunch sprint would come to fruition.
Ultimately, Matthews managed sixth on the stage as Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) snagged the stage victory ahead of Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard Trek). Although he missed out on the stage win, Matthews still earned a trip to the podium for his efforts. The 22-year-old donned the green sprint jersey in Caceres as the points classification leader.
“With Michael’s stage win yesterday, he showed he is on really good form,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “The plan today was to ride for him in the finish. We were 100% committed to working for Michael in the sprint.”
Time Trial World Champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) used stage six as an opportunity to fine tune his efforts in the race against the clock. He slipped away from the bunch alone and built up an advantage of 7’24 after only 26km.
Christian Meier, a familiar figure at the front of the chasing bunch, pegged back Martin’s gap to a more manageable five minutes before combining forces with Argos-Shimano to steadily eat into the gap during the final two hours of racing.
“Christian rode an unbelievable race again,” said Wilson. “There was only one guy off the front, but when that guy is Tony Martin, it’s not easy. Christian worked mostly alone for nearly 120km. Clarkey [Simon Clarke] came in to give him a hand in the last little bit. Those two did a huge amount of work to bring back the gap and control the chase.”
As Martin’s advantage dropped to one minute at the 20km mark, his catch seemed imminent. The German surprised as he continued to hold off the feisty peloton even as the sprint trains took shape at the front.
Although Argos-Shimano attempted to inject a sense of control into the bunch kick, the technical finish set the scene for a chaotic sprint. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) led the charge past Martin in the finish straight. Mørkøv powered past him, catching Martin metres before the finish line.
“The guys were together and trying to get organised, but they all seem to agree they were a bit too far back,” explained Wilson. “It was really difficult to get the front as a group today.”
“It’s very disappointing,” Wilson added. “For the amount of work we put in and our belief that Matthews is the fastest guy, it’s definitely not how we wanted things to go. The team is racing to win.”
Although Wilson sees the sprint jersey as a welcome consolation prize, he does not anticipate that the team will hold onto the lead in the points classification at the end of the three week tour.
“There are still something like ten hilltop finishes left in the race,” Wilson explained. “If you do a quick calculation, it’s pretty clear the point jersey is going to go to a climber rather than a sprinter. That said, you never know. Maybe Matthews will do well on three or four more stages and remain in contention. At this stage, it’s not something we’ll look to defend, but it’s certainly nice to have for now.”