'More than I could ever dream of' - Michael Matthews on Giro d'Italia stage win in 'rollercoaster' season
Australian wins stage three ahead of Mads Pedersen
Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) won stage three in a reduced bunch sprint ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
Matthews finished off the job after his Jayco-AlUla took it upon themselves to shape the race. They’re fierce pace set on two climbs in the final 40km saw many sprinters jettisoned out of the peloton, including yesterday’s winner Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan).
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) finished safely in the bunch, and slightly extended his lead at the top of the general classification by outsprinting Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) for three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint 10km from the finish.
For Matthews, it was a first victory in what has been a difficult season for him so far.He was forced to miss Milan-Sanremo after a Covid positive, and crashed out of the Tour of Flanders.
“Honestly, I’m just speechless. What I’ve been through these last few months, to now come back with a victory for the team. We rode all day today, and they were fully committed for me to win the stage. I don’t have words at the moment. It’s been such a rollercoaster this year, and now we’re on stage three already with a stage win. It’s more than I could ever dream of."
Jayco-AlUla clearly had a plan to drop as many sprinters as possible by setting a fierce pace on the last two climbs, and they succeeded in doing so.
Even Mads Pedersen, one of the few sprinters who can claim to be as good a climber as Matthews, was distanced a little on the last climb, and had to dig deep to rejoin the peloton on the descent.
That might have been why he was unable to go past Matthews in the finishing sprint, despite seeming to time his move well after Matthews started his sprint early.
“I heard that Pedersen was dropped on the climb, so I was hoping he would be a bit pinned for the sprint,” explained the Australian, “I just knew to go a bit early, get the jump on them, and it worked out.
“I just came here to his Giro to have fun, to enjoy riding my bike and being with my teammates, being with my team. Today it was such a team effort, and that win, that was for the boys.”
It wasn’t just sprinters who dropped from the peloton on those final climbs, but also Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), who had been ninth overall after an impressive opening stage time trial. He finished the stage 4-40 behind the peloton, meaning he falls seemingly out of contention for the pink jersey.
There was also a scare for his UAE Team Emirates teammate João Almeida after he crashed on a descent 15km from the finish, but the Portuguese rider appeared unhurt and quickly made it back into the peloton.
All this late action occurred after what had been a very uneventful first 150 kilometres.
Team Corratec - Selle Italia teammates Alexander Konychev, Veljko Stojnić got up the road to form the day’s break, and the peloton were in no hurry to bring them back.
The race briefly sparked into life for an intermediate sprint, where Pedersen took the spoils ahead of Arne Marit (Intermarché - Circus - Wanty) and Matthews.
Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) also took some points, and, despite not featuring in the finale, retains the Maglia Ciclamino.
There will however be a new wearer of the blue King of the Mountains jersey, after Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) sprinted from the peloton to take maximum points at both summits.
The Giro continues tomorrow with stage four, where a late category two climb could see some GC action, and a potential new pink jersey should a breakaway be allowed to succeed.
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco-AlUla, in 5-01.41
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3. Kaden Groves (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck
4. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) EOLO-Kometa
5. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Deceuninck
6. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Intermarché - Circus - Wanty
7. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
8. Simone Velasco (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan
9. Toms Skujiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
10. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team, all at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE:
- Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal-Quick Step in 10-18.29
- João Almeida (Por) UAE-Team Emirates, at 32s
- Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 44s
- Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 46s
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 58s
- Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-hansgrohe, at same time
- Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-02
- Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco-AlUla, at same time
- Jay Vine (Aus) UAE-Team Emirates, at 1-08
- Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-18
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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