Michael Matthews outsprinted Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) to the finish line in Lago de Sanabria, to win stage five of the Vuelta a España. Photo: Graham Watson
Australian Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) won the fifth stage of the Tour of Spain on Wednesday, edging out Maximiliano Ariel Recheze (Lampre) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in a sprint finish.
It was the Canberran 22-year-old's first stage win in a major Tour. Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained his lead in the overall classification from American veteran Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Irishman Nicolas Roche (Saxo) as all the contenders registered the same time in the 174-km ride from Sober to Lago de Sanabria.
‘‘This is what I have been aiming for all year is to get to this level and the team has been awesome throughout to help me get here,’’ said Matthews who arrived in Spain in fine form having won two stages at the Tour of Utah earlier this month.
Matthews was also on the podium on Tuesday as he was just pipped to the stage victory by Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) and he was relieved to have rewarded his teammates efforts with the victory.
‘‘They put all their effort into today and I am just glad to finish it off.‘‘It didn’t quite work out as I had hoped yesterday, but I knew today we had more of a chance so we put all our eggs in the basket.’’
It was a fairly uneventful day for the leaders in the general classification as Nibali maintained his three second advantage and the leader’s red jersey.
With the first flat finish of the race favouring the sprinters in the peloton, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) was again amongst the early pace setters as he and Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto Belisol), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) and Winner Anacona (Lampre) built up a ten minute advantage before the first climb of the day up the Alto do Covelo.
That breakaway group continued to lead for the majority of the day with Van De Walle and Courtielle attacking on their own inside the final 10km.
They were eventually caught by the peloton with just over a kilometre to go and as the sprinters positioned themselves for the line it was Matthews who always looked the strongest and he powered into the lead with 500 metres remaining and freewheeled across the line to take his first grand tour stage victory.