Crash rules Matthews out of lead-out
After a frustrating first sprint stage, Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEdge) was able to make up for some of the disappointment by claiming third behind Marcel Kittel (Argos – Shimano) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) in the stage to Cérilly at Paris - Nice.
"The team did a fantastic job for me today as they did yesterday and I tried to make amends... third place isn't a bad result (certainly better than eighth) and I've got to concede that Marcel Kittel was a notch above," said Howard on his website.
"He got held up a little in the finale and whilst I may have hit out a little early because I had yesterday on my mind – I tried to hold back as long as possible - he came flying past on the barriers with Elia Viviani taking the high-speed German express ride to second place."
The Orica GreenEdge train was a man down after Michael Matthews crashed with 75km left to race but with Michael Albasini at the helm of the train, Howard was able to capitalise on the work of his teammates.
"We had planned for him [Matthews] to be in the sprint and why he was often seen at the back of the bunch," explained sports director Lorenzo Lapage. "All is okay with him; he's only missing some skin."
Lapage noted the contrast of the last two days.
"Although we may have looked like we were less organised, I must say the team did a good job again," he said. "We definitely missed Michael there at the end, and Simon's puncture came at a bad moment.
"Leigh was happy with the team's work. He said that in a sprint like this, the legs do the talking. We have to accept that today there are two riders that were better."
Howard had aired his frustrations after Stage 1 via his twitter feed, taking full responsibility for not finish off the work of his lead-out.
"No excuses today," he said. "Team done [sic] textbook leadout and I fumbled! #sorryguys"
The 23-year-old sprinter was uncertain as to how Wednesday's stage would pan out, explaining that the 733m Côte de Mauvagnat (2.7 km at 6.7%) had the potential to rule him out of contention for a possible sprint finish.
"It's nice to know that it may eliminate some of the other sprinters but I know for sure it's going to be hard to get over that berg in the front group," Howard said. "If it is really selective, we have Michael Matthews who can handle the climbing and a small group kick at the end."
2013 has so far been a good year for Howard, with two victories to his name - at Trofeo Migjorn and Trofeo Platja de Muro - along with another podium at the Tour de San Luis.
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