Second Classics podium for Matthews at Amstel Gold Race

Sun 19 Apr 2015

2015 Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews has sprinted to his second Classics podium this season, finishing third at the Amstel Gold Race today.

Matthews successfully followed the threatening wheel of three-time winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) up the final ascent of the Cauberg but a chase group caught the pair ahead of the line.

The 24-year-old sprinted with everything he had left for third place, equal to his Milano-Sanremo result, and was visibly exhausted after the finish.

“For my first time attempting the final at Amstel, I have to be happy with the result,” Matthews said. “I’m happy with the way I rode, I left everything out there. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t for the victory.”

“I went quite deep to follow Gilbert on the climb and I used a lot of energy trying to stay with him. I thought going over the climb we were clear of everyone else but the bunch had a few too many guys and were able to come back to us.

“I was hoping it was going to be just Gilbert and I in the sprint because I was quite confident in that situation but in the final sprint I just had nothing left and it was just a grovel.”

World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step) sprinted to victory from the select group ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Matthews.

Sport director Matt White said the team rode tactically to perfection.

“We went in with a plan of how we wanted to attack the race and the guys did it to perfection,” White said.

“Gilbert is renown for going on the Cauberg. The years he has gone clear he has stayed away to win so that was our plan, to give Michael as much protection as possible during the day so he was able to go with Gilbert on the last climb.

“He had the advantage of a well-drilled team including Simon Gerrans, who has podiumed here in the last two years, and that sort of firepower is invaluable.

“Michael was able to react to the Gilbert move on the climb and he gave himself every chance for the win.”

The earlier action was shaped with a breakaway of six riders that established in the first 30km of racing.

The group of Laurens De Vreese (Astana Pro Team), Linus Gerdemann (Cult Energy Pro Cycling), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Timo Roosen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo), Mike Terpstra (Team Roompot Oranje Peloton) and Johann Van Zyl (MTN – Qhubeka) worked out to a maximum lead of eleven minutes ahead of the 100km mark before the peloton reacted to reduce the advantage.

As the race approached the final 80km and the gap sat around five minutes, ORICA-GreenEDGE committed its first rider to the chase, Canadian Christian Meier.

Ten kilometres later, the peloton was just three and a half minutes behind and by the 50km to go mark the gap sat around one minute for De Vreese, Polanc and Gerdemann who remained as the final three escapees.

As the race all but drew together 35km from the finish, Simon Clarke attacked with David Tanner (IAM Cycling), dropping two surviving early breakaway riders who briefly tacked on to their move.

Three additional riders joined them after an unfortunate crash broke up the original chase group of seven.

Down to four riders on the penultimate ascent of Cauberg, the break wasn’t 100% committed and outfits began to arrange themselves at the front of the peloton.

Recognising the lack of cooperation, Clarke went alone in a last effort of support for the team, finally caught with eight kilometres to race.

“It’s a pretty predictable race with this new parcours and there is only a couple of areas where you need to be in certain moves,” White said.

“Like the last two years with Pieter Weening, you are always better to be on the front foot.  When you have someone in the breakaway, especially of the caliber of anyone from our team, it takes the pressure off behind.

“We needed someone in that counter move, Clarkey did a good job and it allowed us to sit back and concentrate on the final.”

After a brief but unsuccessful attack of a BMC Racing teammate, Gilbert made his famous move on the last ascent, followed closely by Matthews. The pair was caught over the top of the climb by a group of 15 who joined them to contest the select sprint finish.