Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) says he couldn’t have done any better in the finish of the Amstel Gold Race after using up the last of his energy stores trying to hold on up the Cauberg. The Australian held on admirably to BMC's Philippe Gilbert on the final climb of the day, and looked like he was set for victory but was overhauled by Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the final 50 metres.
The slight uphill drag to the finish made it harder for the tiring Matthews and he believes that he could have got more from the race had he not gone too deep earlier.
“It was obviously a difficult day and really difficult final. My goal was to follow Gilbert in the final and I was able to do that fortunately. I really maxed myself to try and do that and unfortunately I had nothing left in the sprint to the finish. I had nothing left in the final and I’ve got to be happy with third place,” said Matthews after taking a big swig of the Amstel beer that had been placed on the table in front of him.
Matthews was Orica-GreenEdge’s best hope for victory at Amstel with Simon Gerrans not back to full form following a broken elbow. The team kept their nose clean for much of the day, allowing the likes of BMC and Movistar to take up most of the pace setting. They began to show at the front in the latter part of the race and finally made a move when Simon Clarke followed an attack from IAM Cycling’s David Tanner on the Eyserbosweg. They were eventually joined by some strong company but Clarke was the last man standing and forged on alone until he was caught with less than 10 kilometres to go.
“It was the plan from the start of the day to have him or Daryl Impey up the road so it would take the pressure off me and Gerrans going into the final,” explained Matthews. “It took a little bit of pressure off us because we didn’t have to chase. With Simon Clarke up front he is really good form and if it came down to it and they stayed away we were really confident that he could get a result. It meant that I could relax a little bit and focus on the climbs.”
Matthews will now go on to ride Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday before he begins his preparation for the Giro d’Italia. The Amstel Gold Race was his big target for the week - using Flèche predominantly as recon for the Tour de France - and despite the disappointment of missing victory he ultimately leaves the race satisfied.
“It’s a really big result for me it’s the first time that I’ve been trying to go for the win in Amstel Gold. I met my fiancé here four years ago. It would have been really nice to win this race but third place is also a really good result and in my first attempt to try and win this race,” Matthews said. “I should have saved a little bit of energy for the finish but that’s racing and I’ll be back next year stronger and trying to get the win again.”