Since joining Orica GreenEdge for the start of the 2013 season, former under 23 world champion Michael Matthews has now finished runner-up five times. The Australian was a definitive second place on Wednesday on the opening stage of the Tour of Utah and as a former stage winner at the event, BMC's eventual victor Greg Van Avermaet, had noted Matthews as a rider to watch on the final circuits.
Orica GreenEdge spearheaded the bid to bring back the day's two-man break of Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) and Michael Torckler (Bissell), who attacked in the opening kilometres and at one point held an advantage of 10 minutes over the peloton before being nullified when the race hit Cedar City for the first time.
According to Matthews, it was a chase that ultimately cost him his first win of the season.
"The finish didn't go exactly to plan," Matthews admitted. "We had to use most of the team to bring back the break today, so we didn't have much a lead-out for the sprint. When Greg slipped away, there wasn't anything we could do without a full lead-out to bring him back. In the end, I could only sprint for second."
Regardless, it was a team effort that the 22-year-old was proud of with trainee Damien Howson included in the squad for the first time.
"I'm happy with the way the team raced," said Matthews. "They put it all on the line for me. I can't ask for more than that from them."
Howson held his own in the chase.
"Baden [Cooke] asked me to start to the ride the front with Tomas [Vaitkus] so that we could pull back the two that were up the road," the 20-year-old explained. "I think we went to the front after about 50 or 60km, and I stayed there until we made the catch 6km from the finish. We did a lot of work to bring back that break. It was a good introduction to what it's like racing for the team."
Post-stage, Van Avermaet noted that he would never have the speed to match Matthews and so attacked the peloton in the final kilometre to secure his victory. Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt Wilson agreed and is hopeful that the parcours will provide another chance for Matthews to repeat his stage win of 2012 where he edged out BMC pair Michael Schär and Brent Bookwalter in Salt Lake City.
"That should give him a lot of confidence going forward," said Wilson. "Of course, I don't know if there will be another sprint day, but we know it's a good opportunity for him if there is. He's got some really good form at the moment, so he may surprise on another stage. Today was not our last chance. I still think our best shot is in Salt Lake City on Friday."
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