2016 Paris-Nice green jersey champion Michael Matthews has won the 56th Vuelta Ciclista a la Rioja today, taking the sprint by a whisker after ORICA-GreenEDGE brought back the breakaway in the final ten kilometres of the race.
The third victory in three years for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Spanish race and the second for Matthews (after his win in 2014) was made all the more sweeter by the manner in which the team controlled the race.
Taking responsibility at the front of the peloton for most of the day, Matthews praised the tireless work of his teammates.
?The team were amazing throughout the race today,? said Matthews. ?They did a perfect job controlling things and I?m happy I was able to finish it off.?
?I started my sprint from around 200metres. It was difficult because I got pushed into the barriers and had to go around, luckily I had enough speed to hold on.
?We were the only team on the front from start to finish. The boys were really strong and in the end the sprint was very close, I didn?t know if I had won when we crossed the line. After the crash in San-Remo its really good to come here and win, to move on.?
Sport director Dave McPartland was happy the team bounced back so well after a frustrating day at the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday.
?Super happy with the win, the whole team were fantastic today,? said McPartland. ?Michael (Matthews) did really well to finish it off in the sprint after Cheung (King-Lok) and Mathew (Hayman) did a lot of good work bringing back the breakaway.?
?We had a race plan that we wanted to stick to and a big part of that was dependent on limiting the advantage of the breakaway. We spoke about the importance of our positioning after missing out in the finale of yesterday?s race, it was great to see the boys put that behind them today.?
How it happened:
The race began uneventfully, one or two tentative attempts to form the breakaway were quickly subdued until a group of five riders finally began to gain time on the peloton stretching their advantage to just over three minutes after 25kilometres.
With none of the favourites represented among the leaders, the racing continued steadily for the next 50kilometres. ORICA-GreenEDGE, positioned attentively at the front of the main bunch, started to reduce the lead of the front group.
For the next 60kilometres the advantage of the leaders continued to fall thanks to the continued efforts of ORICA-GreenEDGE on the front of the peloton, with Christian Meier, King Lok and Hayman all taking long turns, keeping the pressure firmly on the breakaway.
Approaching the finishing circuit in Logrono with ten kilometres to go, the leaders were finally caught. The race was shaping up for the sprint with the other teams beginning to get involved and jostle for position at the front of peloton. ORICA-GreenEDGE, Movistar and Caja-Rural were the three prominent contenders going into the final kilometre.
Michael Albasini was the last man in the line for Matthews and he dropped him off perfectly for the sprint. Taking off with 200metres to go into a block head wind Matthews still had work to do, skilfully managing to stay upright after a brush with the barriers and crossing the line half a wheel ahead of Sergey-Shilov (Russia).
The next race for ORICA-GreenEDGE is the Vuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco starting on Monday 4th of April.
Vuelta Ciclista a la Rioja results:
1. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 3:47:20
2. Sergey Shilov (Russia) ST
3. Carlos Barbero (Caja-Rural) ST