Leigh Howard took his second win of the week for ORICA-GreenEDGE on the final day of Challenge Ciclista a Mallorca. Having targeted the final day of racing the team again put their plan into action and came away with the win. Part of an early break, Michael Matthews adding to the team's accomplishments, taking home the King of the Mountains jersey.
The first 20 kilometres of racing were very fast. Sport Director Neil Stephens reported frequent attacks and strong winds that put riders in the gutter. Eventually a break of seven riders formed; later the move became ten. ORICA-GreenEDGE had Michael Matthews in the group.
”We really wanted a rider in the early break,” Stephens noted. “This took the pressure off us and also gave us an extra rider up the road ahead of the finish.”
The break obtained a maximum advantage of 4:35. With the middle part of the stage containing some undulation, Michael Matthews took the opportunity to pick up King of the Mountain points. Matthews was first over two of the four climbs. This was enough to win him the King of the Mountains Jersey. With Wesley Sulzberger claiming the mountains prize yesterday, it's two days in a row for ORICA-GreenEDGE with the KOM jersey.
A long downhill run in to the finish followed the day's final climb. Matthews had been fallen off the pace on the climb as some of climbers in the break pushed on. Stephens said: “this allowed Matthews to give the team an extra rider towards the finish as we had planned.” In the final 50 kilometres the advantage of the remaining break was steadily falling and the team had 6 riders. “Movistar were on the front and we wanted to chase as well,” explained Stephens.
The break was caught in the final five kilometres, and the field prepared for a sprint finish. Lead out by Sebastian Langeveld, Howard sprinted to the win ahead of Maarten Wynants (Blanco) and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida). It's the team's second sprint win in four days of racing.
Leigh Howard expressed gratitude towards the team for the opportunity to claim his second Majorca victory.
“A massive thanks to all the boys for supporting me the entire race, without them its not possible," Howard said. "Thanks to Stevo for having faith in me again.”
Stephens was particularly happy with the team's performance this week.
“It is always great to win but we managed to win the King of the Mountains jerseys here as well," he said. “We are not normally thought of as a team of climbers so that makes it even better.”
His praise extended beyond his riders to include mechanics and other behind the scenes staff as well.
“Many people might not realise but the team only gets a couple of weeks off at the end of the season," he said. “Riders have been in the gym, mechanics and soigneurs have been organising bikes and cars. It's the collective work that makes these wins possible."