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Michael Matthews climbs and conquers

16 May 2014

CYCLING - ROAD: ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Michael Matthews survived a crash-marred finale to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia. The maglia rosa was part of an eight rider group that formed in the wake of a yet another pile-up in the opening week of the Italian Grand Tour.

It is the fourth Grand Tour stage victory for Matthews, who won two Vuelta a España stages in his Grand Tour debut last year and the opening stage team time trial at the Giro d’Italia last Friday.

“Today was completely unreal,” said Matthews.

“I owe so much to the team for bringing me in the position to win a hilltop finish in the pink jersey. They all worked hard. I specifically need to mention Luke Durbridge and Ivan Santaromita. I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for him. He rode his heart out for me at the moment the race was decided.”

A massive crash proved the most decisive moment of the day as nearly the entire peloton hit the ground or was caught behind the mayhem in the run in to the final climb. Svein Tuft and Brett Lancaster were amongst the heavy fallers. Lancaster’s crash is race ending. He broke his hand and will require surgery in the coming days. Tuft suffered significant abrasions and will continued to be assessed throughout the evening before it is determined if he will start stage seven tomorrow.

“It’s a really unfortunate incident for all those involved,” said Sport Director Matt White.

“We never like it when accidents like this happen. We were in the right position to avoid the crash with most of our guys, but we obviously know that there’s also a degree of luck involved. We had a couple of our guys involved as well. No one likes to see races impacted this way by crashes.”

Matthews, Santaromita and Durbridge were three of the eight riders to emerge from the chaos to contest the stage in Montecassino. The ORICA-GreenEDGE trio were joined by BMC teammates Cadel Evans, Steve Morabito and Daniel Oss, Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli – Yellow Fluo).

Not fully aware of the carnage in their week, ORICA-GreenEDGE and BMC drove the pace into the final climb.It had been a fairly uneventful day up until the race-defining incident. Four riders broke away from the bunch, amassing a 14 minute maximum advantage. With the gap approaching dangerous proportions, ORICA-GreenEDGE, Team Sky, Trek Factory Racing and Katusha shared tempo-setting duties to steadily reel in the leaders.

“We had a very hard day yesterday,” said White.

“It’s been a massive week for the team. We knew needed to do work today, but we also looked to other teams for some help. We weren’t in a position where we wanted to control it alone. Our guys did what they needed to do and remained well-positioned throughout the entire stage.”

The catch was timed the to perfection. Twelve kilometres from the line, it was gruppo compatto. Two crashes in quick succession immediately followed the catch. Matthews and company quickly gained 30” on those caught out. The maglia rosa had the stage win in mind. Evans was concerned with his general classification ambitions.

A spirited chase eventually formed behind the leading eight, but their efforts were not enough to bridge the gap.Matthews was sitting pretty on the run in the to the finish. Perfectly positioned on Evans’ wheel, Matthews handily overcame his compatriot in the dash to the line. Wellens outsprinted Evans for second.

“I felt really good coming into the climb,” said Matthews.

“When BMC hit the front, it was all about being in the right position. I knew I had the chance to win when we came into the last kilometre and still felt pretty good.”

“It means so much to me to be able to pay the guys back with the win,” Matthews added.

“It makes all the hard work they’ve done really worth the effort.”

With bonus seconds for the win, Matthews extends his hold on the maglia rosa by 21” over Evans. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), caught out by the crash, sits in third overall at 1’21.

Unrelated to the crash, Cameron Meyer may also be amongst the non-starters on Friday. Meyer fell ill Thursday night and soldiered through stage six. Should his condition not improve by the morning, he will not start stage seven.  

Cycling Australia