Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) could not stop Nacer Bouhanni from taking his third sprint victory during stage 10 at the Giro d'Italia in Salsamaggiore Terme, but yet again the young Australian had the speed to finish a close third and the class to congratulate Bouhanni on a deserved victory.
Matthews was on Bouhanni's wheel in the final 500 metres but had to kick hard to stay there when Frenchman jumped across to follow Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), who started the sprint early. Matthews opened up his sprint in sight of the line but ran out of road as Bouhanni sprinted to victory, low over his handlebars with an aerodynamic Cavendish technique.
Nizzolo hung on for second place, with Matthews taking third.
"I think we've all got the same speed but just at the end there, they got the jump on me a bit and so I had to jump twice," Matthews explained to Cyclingnews as he headed to anti-doping.
"It was a bit unfortunate, but in the end top three is not so bad after the first week I've had. I can't thank the boys enough for putting me in the right position yet again. They've been great."
Matthews did not know about the crash in the finale that took out Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and numerous other riders. The finale of the stage was twisting and technical but Matthews was happy that it lined-out the sprint. He was ahead of the crash and avoided any problems.
"When you have a climb like that coming into the finish, it's pretty safe. It lines it out and kept thing pretty safe if you were at the front," he said.
"I didn't know about the crash. I hope everyone is okay. It was pretty safe where I was. Crashes happen sometimes they're not always due to the route."
Matthews has enjoyed an incredibly successful first part of the Giro d'Italia and does not want it to end.
He may have lost the pink jersey to fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) and crashed hard early on Sunday's stage, but he fought to finish the stage, 23 minutes behind teammate Pieter Weening, and then used the rest day to lick his wounds.
"I've got a really sore back but I really wanted to put it all aside and have another good go in the finish," he said, showing maturity beyond his years.
"The leader of the team has to sprint no matter what, so I put the pain aside and went for it today."
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