Matthews rounds out Road Worlds with bronze in men's road race
25 September 2017
CYCLING: Michael Matthews (ACT/Tuggeranong Vikings CC) sprinted to bronze claiming his second medal in three years in the elite men's road race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway.
Matthews' bronze was the fourth medal for Australia at the 2017 Championships following silver and bronze to Katrin Garfoot (Queensland/Gold Coast CC) in the road race and time trial respectively and bronze by Madeleine Fasnacht (Tasmania/Hobart Wheelers CC) in the under 19 time trial.
The 2010 under 23 world champion was well positioned coming in to the final sprint having been protected by the strong Australian team throughout the 267.5 kilometre race. As the race came back together inside the final 500 metres Matthews unleashed his sprint to collect bronze behind Peter Sagan (Slovakia) and Alexander Kristoff (Norway).
Soon after the peloton left Rong just after 10AM local time, a 10-rider group formed containing Conor Dunne and Sean McKenna (Ireland), Alexey Vermeulen (United States), Willem Smit (South Africa), Salaheddine Mraouni (Morocco), Andrey Amador (Costa Rica), Kim Magnusson (Sweden), Elchin Asadov (Azerbaijan), Matti Manninen (Finland) and Eugert Zhupa (Albania).
The advantage of the break never extended beyond 10 minutes with the gap eight and a half minutes as they started the 11 laps of the 19.1 kilometre circuit including the crucial Salmon Hill climb. The Australian Team suffered an early loss as Mathew Hayman (ACT/Canberra CC) was forced to withdraw following a crash.
As the laps ticked down the gap steadily fell as the break was reduced to seven riders as Asadov, Manninen and Zhupa lost contact. Maxim Belkov (Russia) set off in pursuit with six laps remaining initially eating in to the advantage before being caught in no mans land. Starting the final 100 kilometres the seven rider break held one and a half minutes on Belkov with the peloton containing the Australian team at three minutes.
Smit was the final rider from the early break caught with 80 kilometres left to ride as the race really heated up with Jack Haig (Victoria/Bendigo & District CC) joining Tim Wellens (Belgium), Alessandro De Marchi (Italy), David De la Cruz (Spain), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Lars Boom (Netherlands), Odd Christian Eiking (Norway) and Marco Haller (Austria) in a move soon after.
Working well together the group with Haig built a lead of 40 seconds forcing others to chase as the Australian Team remained well positioned towards the front of the peloton. Haig along with Wellens, De la Cruz and Eiking were the last to survive before being caught with 25 kilometres to go as the peloton charged towards the final lap.
The expected attacks came early on the final ascent of Salmon Hill with Julian Alaphilippe (France) going solo over the top before being joined by Gianni Moscon (Italy) with the pair holding a narrow 10-second advantage on the select chase group with 10 kilometres to the finish.
With the Frenchman caught in the final two kilometres Magnus Cort (Denmark) made a late move only to be swept up with 500 metres remaining as the sprinters readied themselves. Third wheel as the sprint started Matthews pushed all the way to the line for bronze.
Matthews admitted his thump of the handlebars after crossing the line was born of frustration rather than celebration, but was supportive of the team and said they had been quick to adjust the plan after Hayman crashed.
"What I would change? I wouldn’t attack so many times on the final climb – I didn’t know it would come down to such a big bunch sprint, but I think I wasted a lot of energy when I was trying to go with the moves and attacking myself on the climb.
"If I could take something back, I’d probably sit back with these guys [Kristoff and Sagan] and cruise up the climb. I that’s what’s zapped me for the sprint today.
“I jumped a lot with guys attacking but they were never really going anywhere. The bunch was still too big and I wasted energy from doing that. Sagan was still sitting back in the bunch and gambling on it coming back together. Maybe that’s what I should have done too. There’s nothing I can do now, I guess.”
“It was a pretty hectic and there were a lot of attacks going inside the final five kilometres. I just tried to play it cool and save my legs for the sprint. I was in a good position with around 500m to go but I got a little bit swamped by Sagan and one of the Czech riders. I tried to fight my way back between the last two corners but I wasted that energy when I needed it for the sprint.”
Elite Men's Road Race
1 Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
2 Alexander Kristoff (Norway) +0
3 Michael Matthews +0
61 Simon Clarke +2:32
63 Mitchell Docker +2:32
94 Heinrich Haussler +5:49
95 Jack Haig +5:49
DNF Luke Durbridge
DNF Rory Sutherland
DNF Jay McCarthy
DNF Mathew Hayman