Michael Matthews Sprints to Sixth to Keep Maglia Rosa on Giro Stage Five

Wed 14 May 2014

Michael Matthews finished sixth in the uphill sprint in Viggiano, battling with overall contenders and stage hunters on the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia. His efforts, coupled with the work done throughout the entire stage by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates, earned him another day in the maglia rosa.

Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) won stage five with a late race attack, crossing the line one second ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing). Pieter Weening finished amongst the elite front group that formed over the last lap that included the first climb to Viggiano, a dangerous descent on wet roads and the uphill finish. Weening’s effort saw him move up on the overall classification to second place, 14” behind Matthews. Evans leapfrogged up to third overall, one second behind Weening.

It was a difficult day to defend the race lead and required all hands and legs on deck. Eleven riders went on the attack in the opening hour of the race. A mix of teams and strengths were represented with the likes of Elia Viviani (Canondale), Ben Swift (Team Sky), Fabian Wegmann and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Kenny Dehaes and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Belisol), Tony Hurel and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar), Yonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia) amongst the move. The Australian outfit allowed the escape group four minutes before assuming control for the chase.

“The guys were incredible today,” said Sport Director Matt White. “It was a hard one to control. They did it the hard way. Today is one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a sport director.”

“They all had to chase 11 guys for 200 kilometres,” White elaborated. “There was more than 2000 metres of climbing and 40-50 kilometre per hour winds. No one helped us until very late in the day because they knew we believed Michael could win the stage.”

The third category Valico di Serra di San Chirico split the breakaway. The descent that followed inspired several attacks from the remnants of the break. ORICA-GreenEDGE continued to plug away on the front, wholly committed to the chase. 

On the slopes of the final climb to Viggiano, with the last loop looming, the peloton overtook the final men standing. The speed had increased in the bunch as the overall contenders sent their teams to the head of the race, and the pace would remain high throughout the final 20 kilometres. The peloton remained largely intact on the ascent. It was the wet descent that proved more decisive.

Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) attacked on the downhill, zipping through the corners along with a 30” advantage on the peloton. Katusha lent men to the chase of the lone leader, finally closing Brambilla’s advantage on the final climb. Following the catch, a group of four opened up a small gap on the run in to the line.

“I was in a good position in the last kilometre,” said Matthews. “I was somewhere around fifth wheel. Katusha was riding the front at a really solid pace, so no one else would attack. It was quite a good situation for me. With no one attacking, I didn’t have to follow any moves.”

“There was a little bit of a split from fourth wheel,” Matthews added. “I assumed someone else would close the gap, but nobody did. I had to jump to shut it down. From there, it was just trying to survive. I had used my sprint to get back the four guys out front, so I didn’t have anything left for the finish.”

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) jumped with half-kilometre left to race. Evans responded to the acceleration. Ulissi surprised them all, overtaking those in front of him as he powered to the line.

“The goal for the day was the stage win, but to keep the jersey is also a huge thing,” Matthews said. “If you watched the race today, you saw the boys riding on the front for the entire race. Any of them could be in the jersey right now. I’m just the lucky one that has it on my back. I would have liked to win the stage to pay them back for all the work they’ve been doing for me these last couple days.”