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Matthews continues hunt for elusive stage victory at Vuelta a España

VALDEBLORE LA COLMIANE FRANCE MARCH 13 Arrival Michael Matthews of Australia and Team BikeExchange during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 7 a 119km stage from Le Broc to Valdeblore La Colmiane 1501m Stage itinerary redesigned due to COVID19 lockdown imposed in the city of Nice ParisNice on March 13 2021 in Valdeblore La Colmiane France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Michael Matthews is heading to his third Vuelta a España hoping he can finally capture the victory that has so far eluded him since joining Team BikeExchange this season. 

Matthews finished second and third in sprints at the Tour de France and came second in the points competition behind Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) but is looking to win at the Vuelta, which starts in Burgos on Saturday. 

“I’m feeling ready for the Vuelta, I recovered well after a hard Tour de France and now, after many close calls at the Tour, I am motivated to try and get on the top step at the Vuelta,” said Matthews when BikeExchange confirmed their line-up. 

“I’ve won a few stages here before and it’s a Grand Tour that I really enjoy.”

The 30-year-old Australian last lined up at the three week Grand Tour in 2014 and 2013, winning three stages across the two tours and making it onto the podium eight times. In more recent times he has raced a different programme, twice winning the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal and last year the
Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France.

“I think we’ve generally got a strong team and a team that can sprint but that can climb well too," said Matthews. 

"I feel prepared, now I just want to start racing and hope we can have some really good results.”

Matthews will be lining up for the Australian-registered squad alongside the fast finishing and experienced lead out rider Luka Mezgec, who came fourth in the final stage sprint of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées.

Then there is the experienced mountain domestique Mikel Nieve, Damien Howson, Robert Stannard and Andrey Zeits. It will also be a fifth start at the race for the 26-year-old Nick Schultz, while Lucas Hamilton will be making his debut. 

“I was devastated having to withdraw from the Tour de France after crashing, so this makes me even more motivated and excited to start the Vuelta,” Hamilton said. 

“It will be my first time racing the Vuelta, I’ve heard it’s a really great Grand Tour and having looked at the stages, the second half of the race looks really hard with lots of climbing, so hopefully we can have a really good tour, a strong overall showing and get our hands in the air.”

The team has had just one Grand Tour stage victory this year, with Simon Yates at the Giro d’Italia. He also came third overall at the Italian Grand Tour.

Esteban Chaves was the highest finisher for BikeExchange at the Tour de France, in 13th while a crash on stage 13 lead to the abandon of Hamilton and Yates before the Pyrenees. 

The Vuelta was the first, and so far only, Grand Tour the men’s squad has won, with Simon Yates taking the victory in 2018.

“The Vuelta is always an important race for us. Team BikeExchange has had some incredible memories at this race, and we head into this year’s edition with a solid group of riders who have a wealth of experience,” said team general manager, Brent Copeland. 

“We have had a few months of challenging moments by closely missing out on some important results, however we are confident that this Vuelta will be the time to turn things in the right direction.”