Michael Matthews waved good-bye and said "ciao" to the Giro d'Italia's race lead today but with it, gained useful experience. The 23-year-old Aussie lost the pink jersey when he finished 34 minutes and 19 seconds behind stage winner Diego Ulissi today.
"I'm sad to see the jersey go," he said, "but in the end, it's been an amazing week."
Matthews helped Orica-GreenEdge win the team time trial in Belfast. He took the jersey from team-mate Svein Tuft the next day when he finished eighth. He defended it well, too.
On the stage to Viggiano, under the rain, he held with some of cycling's strongest riders and placed sixth. The next day, up the 8.65-kilometre climb to Montecassino, he won the small sprint ahead of Cadel Evans.
"We always knew that he was an incredible talent, and he is, but there's so many areas that where he needs to mature and to learn. Having the pink jersey will help him do so even quicker," Orica general manager, Shayne Bannan said.
"He'll take self-belief out of this and confidence. He's 23 and he's never led a Grand Tour before. He's going to go away from this Giro d'Italia with some really valuable experience to take forward."
Matthews smiled and waved good-bye when the group began to climb Cippo di Carpegna today. Mid-way up the climb, he already trailed by three minutes to the main group. It closed seven days in the leader's pink jersey.
He will race ahead over the next days and likely aim to win one of the upcoming stages like the one to Savona. The team is rumoured to be planning for him to pull out before the big Alpine mountains so that he can prepare for the Tour de France.
Bannan would not confirm if he will pull out early or if he would race the Tour, but said that he is on the long-list to do so. What is clear, Matthews will have learnt much more carrying the pink jersey than he would have without it.
"Have the jersey helped my confidence. Coming into this race, I was a little down on confidence," Matthews explained.
"In cycling you need to have a lot of confidence in yourself and how you're going. That's the main boost for me, confidence, and being able to position myself going into the finals. Hopefully, the ball keeps rolling with wins after the Giro."
Mass crash affects stage six of the Giro d'Italia as Cadel Evans grabs a more time over his rivals
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