Vuelta Stage 3: Michael Matthews flies to victory and into race lead
Orica GreenEdge rider takes stage that rather impobably began on an aircraft carrier
A Vuelta stage that began rather improbably on an aircraft carrier in Cadiz finished with Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge ftaking off on the final ramp to win in Arcos de la Frontera and flying into the overall lead
The peloton was strung out by a sharp right-hand turn onto a narrow bridge with 2.5km left of the 188km stage from Cadiz that began on the aircraft carrier Don Juan Carlos to celebrate the Spanish navy.
Katusha attacked on the final climb of a little over a kilometre, but Garmin-Sharp's Dan Martin launched himself towards the top until Matthews overhauled him just shy of the line.
After his win, Matthews, winner of a Vuelta stage last year and wearer of the leader's pink jersey in the Giro d'Italia in May this year, said: "I couldn’t ask for much more. We started as the favourite team today. It was up to us to ride all day. Unfortunately I had to use all my guys from the very beginning to bring the breakaway back.
"As you can see, the guys have totally spent themselves to bring me where I am now. It would have definitely been impossible to win without them. In the final, Kolobnev attacked, I didn’t think we’d catch him but Chris Froome went over the top to chase him down with Dan Martin on the wheel.
"It was up to me to jump on Dan Martin and hopefully come over him in the finale. I just got him in the finale. For me and for the team, it was a 110% effort, like we planned.
Regarding leading two of the sport's three Grand Tours this year, he said: "I didn’t know from the start of the season that I was going to do the Giro or the Vuelta. My plan was just to do the Tour.
"The back-up plan has probably been better than I could expect. Everything happens for a reason. You get thrown into things [crashing before the Grand Départ of the Tour and being forced to withdraw after attending the teams presentation in Leeds]. You get smashed down sometimes but you just have to work hard in order to come back above the level you were at before.
"This year I’ve shown that it’s not the end of the world if you crash. You can come back and be even stronger than you were before. You have to believe in your training and in yourself. With the team I have around me, not just the riders but the staff, all these guys are really motivated to get you back going after you’ve been pushed down like I was before the Tour de France."
Garmin-Sharp's Dan Martin, another past Vuelta stage winner, who finished second today, reflected: On Friday we came and see the finish of today’s stage. So I knew it was a good one for me. I’m disappointed to come second but Matthews was just quicker than me.
"When Chris Froome went in front of us, I was committed. It went perfect all day. My team was fantastic. Andrew [Talansky] helped me at the bottom of the climb. I didn’t run out of legs but it would have been nicer to win a stage.”