Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) finished a distant fourth on stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse after Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) launched an exceptionally long sprint that caught Matthews, and several other sprinters off-guard.
The Colombian kicked for home with almost 300m to go before fading in the headwind to finish second behind world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Nathan Haas (Katusha Alpecin) took a creditable third, with Matthews a few meters back in fourth.
The Sunweb team looked well placed coming into the final kilometre but when Gaviria hit out from distance he created a gap that Matthews was unable to close down. Sagan was soon on the Quick-Step rider’s wheel having initially followed Sunweb’s train, and the Paris-Roubaix winner came through to take his 16th stage win in the race.
“For me personally, I was dead from the TTT. I came straight from altitude so I was missing some of that top-end speed but for the first road stage, to get over that sort of course, and still have a sprint, that’s a good start to the week,” Matthews told Cyclingnews after the stage.
“They all started too early, which messed up my sprint to be honest. I was waiting for around the 200-metre mark, and I was in a really good position with my teammate Soren Kragh Andersen keeping the pace high. I knew that I was in a good position, and I personally didn’t think that they would go that early in the sprint. It was headwind and I thought that they’d all wait a little bit. I was about to open things up when Gaviria went by me five kilometres an hour faster. From then, it was just damage control trying to catch them. After missing the jump, the actual sprint was okay.”
Matthews has not raced since the start of May and has spent the last few weeks at altitude as he prepares for a defence of the green jersey at the Tour de France. The Australian has had an up and down season, having had injuries and illness disrupt his spring campaign. However, he took a win in the prologue at the Tour de Romandie in April, and the Tour de Suisse features a number of stages that suit his characteristics. “I’ve been at altitude for three weeks. The training has gone well, and a step better than last year. The goal is always the Tour de France and trying to get as much work done this week in order to set things up before the Tour.”
Sunweb arrived at Suisse with multiple goals. Along with Matthews’ sprint objectives, Wilco Kelderman is targeting the overall classification before focusing on the Tour de France. Matthews will continue to hunt for stages, but has also pledged his allegiance to Kelderman and the Dutchman’s GC bid.
“We have our GC guy here in Wilco Kelderman so we’ll try and do as much as we can to support him. If one of us can get into a break and help him later in the stage that’s one thing but I think we might have another chance for a sprint on stage 3.”