Michael Matthews came off the wheel of team mate Simon Gerrans to take the victory in the third stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Everyone did their part today. The team rode on the front, stayed around me all day and Simon Gerrans did a perfect lead-out. It was a huge team effort. Everyone committed to one goal and one plan. All I needed to do was ride the last 200 metres. I had the easy job today.
The Orica-GreenEedge rider edged Kevin Reza (Europcar) and Michal Kwiatowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in a bunch sprint to the line to claim the 194.5km stage from Urdazbi to Vitoria-Gasteiz in just over five hours.
“It was a pretty hectic final,” said Matthews. “Not many teams had a lead-out train. It was easy to have just me and Gerro (Simon Gerrans) in the last three kilometres. He moved me up at the perfect time and then he gave me the perfect lead-out.”
There was no change in the general classification as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) maintained his 14 second lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with Kwiatowski 20 seconds further back in third.
And early six-rider break which included Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) Natnael Berhane (Europcar) and Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) was closed down by the peloton before it allowed Rubén Fernández (Caja Rural-RGA) to a solo shot at a long range victory.
Fernández survived until the penultimate climb of the stage where the peloton took over, setting the itself up for sprint finish.
In what was a messy finale, Gerrans hit the front with Matthews on his wheel leaving the eventual stage winner with an easy ride to the finish line.
“I had to trust Gerro’s positioning and timing,” said Matthews. “He’s done this finish a lot of times. He hit out around the last round-about, which came at 500 metres. He dropped me off at 180 metres, and all I had to was put out as much power as I could until I hit the finish line.”
“It was obviously always our plan to go for this stage. Having won it two times already, we committed two or three guys to ride from kilometre zero. Having the team totally back you up and fully commit like that makes my job a lot easier. It’s a relief to finish off their work.”
Thursday's fourth stage could prove decisive as the race heads into the mountains with two category one climbs during the 151km ride from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Arrate.
(Michael Matthews enjoys the spoils of victory - AAP)
Stage 3: 194.5km, Urdazubi to Gasteiz
1 Michael Matthews (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE 5hr 02min 09sec
2 Kévin Reza (FRA) Europcar
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma0QuickStep
4 Ben Swift (GBR) Sky
5 Paul Martens (GER) Belkin
6 Yukiya Arashiro (JPN) Europcar
7 Daniele Ratto (ITA) Cannondale
8 Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) Astana
9 Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) Astana
10 Tosh Van Der Sande (BEL) Lotto-Belisol
1 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 12hr 54min 03sec
2 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 0:00:14
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:00:34
4 Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre-Merida 0:00:36
5 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC
6 Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) AG2R
7 Iurii Trofimov (RUS) Katusha
8 Mikel Nieve (ESP) Sky
9 Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:54
10 Mikel Landa (ESP) Astana