Orica-GreenEdge sprinter Michael Matthews showed he could climb as well, winning on a Cat 2 summit finish in Stage Six of the Giro d’Italia.
Matthews was part of a group of seven riders which escaped from the peloton after a major crash shook up the field in the final ten km of the 257-km stage. The crash didn’t involve the stage leaders, but some of the riders apparently lost focus long enough for the winning attack to make good its escape.
The finishing climb started 8.7 km from the finish; it started off at ten percent but quickly eased off to six, and the final 1.8 km were almost flat.
About 15 riders took off right after the crash; seven were able to hold the pace and make good on their escape.
Matthews was able to hang onto the other attackers—BMC’s Cadel Evans, Daniel Oss, and Steve Morabito, Lotto-Belisol’s Tim Wellens, Neri Sottoli’s Matteo Rabottini, Daniel Oss, and his teammates Ivan Santaromita and Luke Durbridge—until the climb eased, then survived the next selection which saw Durbridge, Oss and Santaromita slip off the back.
Cadel Evans led most of the way up the hill; finally, with only 75 meters left, Matthews used his sprinter’s power to overtake the BMC team leader. Tim Wellens also charged, beating Evans by an inch to the finish line.
“It’s a dream come true,” Matthews told Cyclismatu.com. “At the start the week if someone had told me I would have won this stage, oversprinting my good friend Cadel Evans in a hilltop finish, I would have told them they’re dreaming—but now that dream has come true, I’ve won the climbing stage in the pink jersey; what more can you say?”
Matthews, known as a sprinter, said he was adapting to a new situation, and it was working for him.
“I’ve never done the Giro before so this is all new to me,” he explained. “It’s been an amazing experience. My climbing legs are a bit better than my sprinting legs at the moment, so I’m just trying to focus on what I’m doing best at the moment and that’s obviously climbing.”
Matthews was ahead of the crash, so he didn’t see any of it, but word spread through the peloton via radio.
“Me and Luke Durbridge and Santaromita were at the front of the bunch. Luke Durbridge put me in really good position at the bottom, out of trouble, and I think the crash happened middle of the bunch or something, so—it’s always unfortunate to see a crash like that.
“We definitely didn’t ride once the crash had happened, we tried to neutralize the race, but other teams wanted to still ride so, that’s up to them. We were happy to neutralize it. You never want to see a crash like that and try and take advantage of it.”
Stage Six was the longest of the Giro at 257 km, but the focus of the race was the final 8.7 km, a Cat 2 climb up to the finish line.
The rain which has been a factor in every stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia had perhaps its most extreme effect in Stage Six. Though the rain held off until late in the stage and fell only lightly, the slickness it caused toppled dozens of riders which created some huge time gaps.
Light rain fell intermittently throughout the stage, just enough to lift the oil off the pavement but not enough to wash it away, creating the absolute worst riding conditions.
Four riders— Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli,) Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli,) Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani,) and Rodolofo Andres Torres (Colombia)—escaped from the bunch at kilometer eleven, but no one expected them to survive, and they didn’t—the peloton caught them eleven km from the finish.
Moments later the crash occurred. A few riders slipped on wet pavement and compounded when riders, swerving to avoid their downed compatriots, collided trying to avoid a traffic island just past the wreck.
Katusha rider Giampaolo Caruso fell face-first and laid motionless on the pavement for some time after the impact—a very scary sight. Astana’s Michele Scarponi also hit hard and stayed still for a few minutes. Both were taken away in ambulances, conscious and talking but not able to continue.
Katusha also lost Angel Vicoso; and team leader Joaguim Rodriguez lost 7:43. His Giro is over; there is no way he could trim that deficit enough even to get a podium.
Team Katusha lost Giampaolo Caruso and Angel Vicioso, and team leader Joaquim Rodriguez lost 7:43. He managed to finish the stage but had to go for x-rays afterwards.
The big winner on the day was BMC’s Cadel Evans. The 2011 Tour de France winner trails Michael Matthews by 21 seconds in the General Classification, but Matthews is almost certain to be gone once the real climbing starts.
Evans has 57 seconds on Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s Rigoberto Uran and 1:44 on Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. With Joachim Rodriguez and Michele Scarponi withdrawn, Evans has a good chance for a podium finish or an overall win.
Stage Seven will almost certainly end in a bunch sprint. It is long, at 214 km, with the Cat 3 Gran Premio della Montagna at the very start and the smaller Cat 4 Valico della Somma 40 km from the finish, but neither of these will deter the sprinters from a chance for glory before the mountain stages start.