Top Ten for Michael Matthews in Trofeo Palma

Sun 9 Feb 2014

Michael Matthews sprinted into seventh place in Palma on the opening day of racing at the Challenge Mallorca. Sacha Modolo (Lampre Merida) won Trofeo Palma ahead of Jens Debusschere (Lotto Belisol) and Dylan Groenewegen (Cyclingteam De Rijke). Six of the seven starters for ORICA-GreenEDGE finished on bunch time in the mass sprint, while Michael Albasini dropped back after leading out Matthews.

“Michael Matthews hasn’t had a chance to do any sprints this year,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “He’s done a lot of work for teammates in the National Championships and the Tour Down Under. It would be unfair of us to expect that he would come in with great sprinting form right from the first day.”

“The boys got around Michael to make sure he was well-positioned,” Stephens added. “Michael Albasini was the only one there for Bling in the end. He did his best to put Bling in the top ten, which he managed. Bling wasn’t at the top level, but he didn’t put himself in danger. He sprinted. He felt good throughout the sprint. I tend to think we ticked the box for the day.”

“It was difficult without a proper lead-out,” Matthews noted. “No teams had a full train. I salvaged what I could.”

Twenty kilometres into the circuit race, Ian Boswell (Team Sky), Alex Howes (Garmin Sharp), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and Ronan Van Zandbeek (Cyclingteam de Rijke) slipped up the road. The quintet worked well together along the coastal roads that comprised the 12 kilometre circuit in Mallorca’s capital city. Their advantage never exceeded a minute, presenting no trouble to the peloton.

“The break included riders from several different teams,” said Stephens. “There were enough teams that weren’t present in the break that I knew it would come back together.  I’ve been to this race at least ten times. Every time the circuit has been the same. The race was always going to be that way. Basically, we chose not to get involved in the race, and we consider it a satisfactory day to start our European campaign.”

Lampre-Merida calmly controlled the chase as they slowly but steadily reeled the five back to the bunch. Inside the final lap, the break had been neutralised and teams began to ready for the inevitable field sprint.

“It was messy in the sprint,” said Matthews. “No one took control. Things got dangerous there in the end.”

Trofeo Palma was Esteban Chaves first race since a major crash at Trofeo Laigueglia last February. Repeated complications forced Chaves to undergo two surgeries and sit out the majority of last season.

“It was a fantastic day for Chaves,” said “I try to put myself in Esteban’s shoes. Even though he doesn’t remember the crash, it’s still pretty scary. I wanted to give him some sort of objective, so he wasn’t just floating around without any objective during the race.”

“I said: ‘Look, just try to ride in a moderately good position around mid-pack.’,” Stephens added. “Every time I could see Esteban at two different points on the circuit, he was exactly halfway in the bunch. He went well. He was there. He finished the day.”

“Looking at the next couple days, the objectives remain similar,” said Stephens. “It might sound crazy but he might not finish every day, and that’s ok. We all realize that he’s had a big injury and that he’s worked hard to get where he is. We understand that we can’t count on him at this stage to help out the team. We know when he’s good, he will. This is all part of his progress back into the peloton, and at this stage, it’s going well.”