Michael Matthews added a second Grand Tour stage win to his palmarès in Madrid. With strong support from his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates, the 22-year-old sprinted to victory on the last stage of the Vuelta a España, outkicking Tyler Farrar (Garmin Sharp) and Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) to the line. In his first Grand Tour, Matthews won two stages, spent two days in the green points jersey and earned the combativity award on the final day of racing.
“The Vuelta could not have finished off any better for the team,” said Matthews. “We lost a fair few guys over the last few weeks, but everyone who was left did their job perfectly today. They put me in the right position to launch myself for the sprint.”
“It’s been an amazing tour,” Matthews added. “I can’t imagine a better ending than this. Two stage wins and time in the green jersey at my first Grand Tour is very special for me. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The wins aren’t just for me. They’re for the whole team. When the boys do what they do for me, it’s an unbelievable feeling to finish off their work.”
As is customary, the 21st stage of the Vuelta enjoyed a parade like atmosphere from the stage start in Leganés. The 144 riders remaining in the race after a difficult three weeks of racing celebrated their accomplishments as they shared champagne, photo ops and congratulations as they made their way toward Madrid for eight laps of the 5.7km circuit course
Overall winner Chris Horner and his RadioShack Leopard Trek teammates came to fore as the peloton entered the finish circuit. Euskaltel-Euskadi, the only team to finish with nine riders, led the field across the finish line at the end of the first lap. The action picked up inside the final 40km when Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) launched the first attack on lap two.
Meier worked with riders from Garmin, Cannondale, Lampre Merida, BMC and Argos-Shimano to control the gap to Aramendia and Vanotti. Shortly after the start of the bell lap, the peloton overtook the breakaway. The field readied for the sprint finish.
“Because of the technical nature of the circuit and hectic nature of the sprint, we had to use Leigh and Clarkey a bit earlier than we had planned,” noted Wilson. “In the last kilometre, only Mitch remained with Bling. Mitch had the presence of mind to jump on the Argos-Shimano train. It was the perfect move for us.”
“The boys were brilliant,” Matthews added. “The last lap might not have gone exactly to plan but it worked out perfectly. Simon put Leigh, Mitch and me in position with about 4km left to race. Leigh took over after that. He did a huge turn before leaving me with Mitch. When the Argos train came underneath us, Mitch latched onto that. I got to the 200m mark in second wheel. Then, I opened my sprint.”
Matthews was full of praise for the work that his teammates did to deliver him to victory. Naming them each by name and pointing to their specific contributions, it was clear that he considered his win a true team effort.
It was an inarguably successful Vuelta for ORICA-GreenEDGE who came into the final Grand Tour of the season chasing stage wins and preparing for the Road World Championships. In his race preview, Wilson said he would leave Madrid satisfied if the team had secured a stage win. His squad gave him two.