24 August, 2014
Matthews retains lead at Vuelta a Espana
Orica-Greenedge's Michael Matthews retained the red jersey of race leader at the end of stage five after finishing in the front group after a day that saw side winds causing chaos in the pack.
Stage 5: Priego de Cordoba - Ronda 180km
The win went to John Degenkolb of Giant-Shimano in a hard fought uphill finish with a frustrated Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) in second, and Moreno Hofland (Blekin) in third. It is back to back wins for the German.
24 year old Matthews, who took over the lead on stage 3, was 11th and said: “It was a difficult day all round. I didn’t expect the cross winds to come like that so the team did a really good job to get me onto the bunch at the bottom of that climb but from then on I was totally pinned. just did my best to be up there in the final but I didn’t have the kick in the finish that I would have liked to have had.”
Sport director Neil Stephens was proud of his team's effort after two days in defence of the jersey, “The boys have done a lot of work over the last couple of days and we have a lot of the Tour of Spain to come. Most of the teams haven’t contributed anything and today was an ideal sprint stage for a lot of other guys so we let them control the race.
“If we lost the jersey we would have had to have taken it on the chin. Fortunately for us that wasn’t the case, but the split in the peloton did mean we used the team to support our general classification rider Esteban Chaves which left Michael to fend for himself in a tricky finish.”
With temperatures on the road hitting 40 degrees celcius only two riders Tony Martin (OPQ) and Pim Ligthart (LTB) were keen to make a day of it. Their threat was negligible and with 40km to go the wind had taken over as the biggest challenge.
Tinkoff Saxobank ramped up the pace in a move reminiscent of their tactics in Northern France during the 2013 Tour de France causing the bunch to split. It wasn;t enough to shake loose either the main general classification contenders nor the sprinters so the a bunch sprint, albeit reduced in size, was the outlook.
Matthews is resigned to losing the red jersey by the end of stage six, Benalmádena - Cumbres Verdes (La Zubia) 167.7km, which sees the first mountain top finish, including a final 5km stretch at 10%.
"Tomorrow will be a bit more of a rest day for me. I’ve had a hard five days so far and the stage three victory really hurt me so I am trying to recover each day,” Matthews said.
“Unfortunately I will loose the red jersey but you just have to enjoy the lead while you can and appreciate the jersey because as a sprinter eventually in grand tours like this, the time will come when you have to hand it over on the mountain stages.“