Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews has made a perfect start to 2016, taking out the Paris-Nice prologue in his first race of the season.
Matthews stopped the clock on the predominately flat 6.1km city centre prologue in a time of seven minutes 39seconds to take the victory and yellow jersey on day one of the WorldTour stage race.
“It’s my first race of the season so to beat a guy like Dumoulin who is one of the best time trial specialists in the world, it’s definitely very special,” said Matthews.
“It wasn’t really on the top of my goals list for Paris-Nice. I was hoping for a top five today to be around the guys and then try and take the yellow in one of the next stages. It obviously all came together and I am happy I was able to take the win.
“We will take it day by day and now that I have the jersey we will just try and look after it for as long as possible.”
As Matthew’s first race for 2016 sport director Laurenzo Lapage wasnt suprised with the world championship silver medalist’s form, praising the 25-year old’s professionalism in the off-season.
“Michael was really relaxed and confident before the race,” said Lapage. “Last year we did the same thing, he started here for his first race of the year.”
“With Michael we always know he is coming into races prepared and we expected him to possibly be in the top three, but it takes a special talent to win a prologue especially in the first race of the season.
“With Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant Alpecin) coming here as one of the specialists and Michael beating him, that says enough about his form.”
After taking the victory against tough competition, Lapage expressed how the win creates a positive start to Paris-Nice for the team and the rest of the season.
“Today could not be better,” he continued. “All the team had a good prologue, Daryl Impey had a strong ride, also Sam Bewley and Simon Yates, so we are very happy with the team performance today and it’s a positive going into the next stages that’s for sure.”
“There is a big chance of a bunch sprint tomorrow, we hope so and of course are going to control the race. I think the second part of the race we are going to have help from some of the sprinter’s teams anyway.”
How it happened:
After a downpour of snow from the previous day had cleared, the riders set off to the start line relieved but still facing bitterly cold temperatures. Things soon heated up as 175 riders one by one rolled down the start ramp to take on the short, sharp 6.1km course.
J?r?me Coppel (IAM Cycling) set the fastest time early on with a time of seven minutes 48seconds. Over 80 riders finished but it no one could match his time and it was only until the final 45 riders took to the start that his time was eventually beaten.
As the final few riders completed the distance, the gap between each rider was significantly close. Matthews’ time put him one second ahead of Dumoulin in the closing stages to give him the victory and head into stage one as the race leader.
Tomorrow the race proceeds with a 198km stage from Cond?-Sure-Vesgre to Vend?me, the flat route has the potential to be a bunch sprint finish.
Paris-Nice Prologue Results:
1. Micheal Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 7:39
2. Thomas Dumoulin (Team Giant Alpecin) +0:01
3. Patrick Bevan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) +0:02