Michael Matthews Takes the Maglia Rosa to ItalySun 11 May 2014
ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Michael Matthews survived a hectic day in the maglia rosa on day three of the Giro d’Italia, finishing on the same time as stage winner Marcel Kittel (Giant Shimano). Sixteenth out of a front bunch of 32 riders, Matthews made the split in the peloton in a highly technical finale. He remains in the race lead by eight seconds over Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) as the Giro heads home to Italy.
“It was a really crazy day,” said Matthews. “I almost expected a few crashes here and there. A few of our guys went down – me included – but luckily we were able to defend the jersey. I wasn’t able to get up there in the sprint, but it was mission accomplished for us today.”
“It couldn’t have gone that much better for us in these first three days,” said Sport Director Matt White. “Obviously we would have liked better stage results on the last two road stages, but the most important thing was to get the jersey and keep it, and we ticked those boxes.”
As the usual order of a sprint stage dictates, a breakaway of five dominated the early action. King of the Mountain Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) jumped into the break in a bid to increase his advantage in the mountains classification. He was joined by Giorgio Cecchinel (Neri Sottoli – Yellow Fluo), Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol), Yonder Godoy (Androni Giocattoli) and Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Colombia).
The Australian outfit assumed its rightful place at the head of peloton, setting a tempo to keep the breakaway in check. All was going according to plan until a crash sent several of the team’s riders onto the pavement. Matthews, Michael Hepburn and Brett Lancaster hit the deck. Nearly an hour later, Cameron Meyer was involved in a pile-up as well.
“The road narrowed with about 80 kilometres, and that’s when the crash happened,” said Matthews. “Unfortunately, I was just behind it, and I ended up over the top of it. I’m fine – just a little banged up.”
Cannondale and Giant-Shimano finished off the work started by ORICA-GreenEDGE, pulling back the breakaway inside the closing kilometres. Matthews lost places in the final kilometre and was not well-positioned to contest the final. Kittel took the stage win from Ben Swift (Team Sky) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale).
“The number one goal was to keep the jersey,” said White. “We got that done. It’s been a very stressful days for most of the teams. I think we’re all pretty happy to leave here in one piece and start back down in Italy in 36 hours.”
“The next stage into Bari is a straightforward circuit course, which is another good stage for Michael,” Matthews added. “The stage after that is probably his best chance for a stage win. It’s an uphill finish with a Cat 4 that we see twice on a little circuit beforehand. After that, it’s a long stage – 240 kilometres – with quite a hard eight kilometre climb to the finish. That’s where we’d look to Pieter Weening or Ivan Santaromita. We plan to keep this pink jersey as long as possible.”
Despite the stress in the final two hours of racing, Matthews made the most of his day in the maglia rosa, soaking up the incredible atmosphere the Irish created.
“The crowds out there were unreal,” said Matthews. “Everybody out there made it even more special to wear the pink jersey. I think the entire peloton has been blown away by the support up here. It’s been a dream start for us. We can’t wait to wear the jersey in Italy.”
“For me, it’s been quite surprising to see the level of support of the people here,” added White. “When the Tour goes anywhere outside of France, you expect that. Northern Ireland doesn’t have a big cycling culture, but boy have the people gotten behind the Giro in the last couple days of racing.”