Podium in De Brabantse PijlWed 16 Apr 2014
ORICA-GreenEDGE's Michael Matthews backed up his recent wins at Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja and a Vuelta al Pais Vasco with a podium at De Brabantse Pijl – La Flèche Brabançonne. The fast finisher was second to Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in the uphill dash for the line, with the Belgian narrowly claiming the win. Gilbert and Matthews had a full bike length on Tony Gallopin (Lotto Beliosl), who rounded out the podium.
“We all did our bit today just like we said in the team meeting,” said Matthews. “The main goal of the day was to have somebody on the podium – preferably the top step. We’ve done everything right today. We couldn’t ask for anything more out of anyone, and we came away with second place. We have to be happy with that.”
The sleepy start to the day saw a six rider break slip clear in the opening kilometres. Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar). Matthias Brändle (IAM), Christopher Williams (Novo Nordisk), Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), and Nerio Sottoli teammtes Mattia Pozzo and Giorgio Cecchinel pocketed 6’50 over the peloton by the mid-point of the race. Lotto Belisol and Garmin-Sharp were the first two teams to take up the chase. Their efforts methodically saw the break’s advantage shrink. With two circuit laps remaining, the leader’s advantage had fallen below the minute mark.
“We were planning to race aggressively,” said Gerrans. “This race is generally won from a break that forms on the finish circuit. When I attacked with just under 50 kilometres, I wasn’t planning on winning the race from that move. I was hoping to take the pressure off the other guys – Daryl [Impey] and Michael in particular. I also wanted to give myself a good, hard race in preparation for Amstel Gold on Sunday.”
When Gerrans attacked, several other teams had already begun to jump from the bunch in an attempt to bridge across to the disintegrating front group, but it was Gerrans’ acceleration that inspired the biggest response. A handful of riders attempted to follow the Australian National Road Champion as the peloton began to split.
Thirty four kilometres from the finish, 11 riders had made the front group. Reijnen, Quémeneur, Brandle and Pozzo had survived from the early break. The quartet was joined by Gerrans, Pieter Seery (Omega Pharma – QuickStep), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Björn Leukemans (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Belisol).
“Gerro decided to a follow the attacks,” said Matthews. “He ended up in a really strong move that looked as if it might stay away. He was probably the clear favourite out of the breakaway group, so the situation was a good one for us. Impey and I could relax in the bunch, and we knew that if things didn’t come back together, Gerro could take out the win from the group. We were happy to let it go.”
“When we got to the final lap, we still had a bit of advantage on the peloton,” added Gerrans. “That’s when I thought that maybe I had jumped into the winning move. Shortly after that, the break really stopped cooperating. We were swept up by the bunch inside the last ten kilometres.”
A fresh onslaught of attacks began as soon as the peloton overtook Gerrans and company. Not yet fully spent from his effort out front, Gerrans was quick to cover the fast and furious attacks thrown one after another after another.
“My chance to win the race was basically gone once the break was caught, but we still had Michael and Daryl,” said Gerrans. “I wanted to do my bit to help those two out in the finish, so I neutralised any break attempts and made sure they were both well-placed in the final few kilometres for the run in towards the finish.”
“When the break came back, I just stayed around Impey,” Matthews added. “He kept me at the front and out of trouble. Gerro and Impey took me into the last climb as first wheel. From there, it was survival to the finish and see what sort of sprint I had left.”
Matthews had a powerful jump left in the legs. Initially, it looked as if he would open up his sprint from the front of the reduced bunch. Then, Gilbert jumped on the left side of the road. With Gilbert blocking Matthews from coming around on the left, Matthews made his move on the right.
“When you’re in front and you see someone coming around you out of the corner of your eye, it’s natural that you veer slightly to the side,” said Matthews. “It was a clean sprint. Gilbert was quicker than I was today.”
“We showed today that our Amstel guys are in good shape,” Matthews continued. “In any number of circumstances, a number of us could have contended for the win. It’s nice to go into Amstel with a fair few options and a strong motivated team.”
“As a team, I think we can say we rode really well together,” Gerrans added. “Half of our team here is very experienced, and the other half is still learning in these sort of races. Everyone rode well together, and everyone did the job they were asked to do. At the end of the day, to finish second with Michael is a pretty good result.”