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Matthews upbeat after second place in Giro d'Italia sprint

MATERA ITALY OCTOBER 08 Michael Matthews of Australia and Team Sunweb during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 6 a 188km stage from Castrovillari to Matera 401m girodiitalia Giro on October 08 2020 in Matera Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb during stage 6 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) struck a positive note on Wednesday after taking second in the bunch sprint that decided stage 6 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia.

Twice a stage winner and a race leader in the Giro in previous participations, Matthews' options on the maglia rosa - like all the sprinters and allrounders - evaporated after Filippo Ganna's (Ineos Grenadiers) devastating time trial ride in Palermo last Saturday.

But having placed fourth in Agrigento's uphill finish on Sunday, then eighth in the tumultuous dash for the line in Villafranca Tirrena on Tuesday, the Australian noted his second place in Matera on Thursday, his best result to date, was an encouraging result, which showed his team were providing exactly the kind of backup he needed.

Defeating Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) looked to be no easy task, particularly after the Frenchman's devastating superiority on stage 6, but Matthews remained resolutely convinced that a stage win is a possibility.

"It was a good day, the start was easier than expected. We took our position in the peloton with the team as we've been doing in the whole Giro so far, and kept Wilco [Kelderman] out of trouble for the majority of the stage," Matthews said in declarations released by the team after the finish. Kelderman sits third on GC, 48 seconds behind the leading pace of João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep).

Although Kelderman punctured twice, and that "kept us on our toes," as Matthews put it, the team maintained positions close to the front in the last 25 kilometres.

They were also present in numbers in a crucial right-hand bend when the road narrowed and simultaneously steepened onto a short, punchy climb, with around four kilometres to go.

"There were some pretty hectic uphill sections, and it was a pretty crazy final," Matthews said, "but I had some good support from Sammy [Oomen] in the final there.

"I got put into a good position to sprint to second place, so, all in all, I'm happy with the day and the feelings, they're much better than yesterday [stage 5] so we'll keep fighting for that stage victory."

In the remaining days of the first week, Matthews has two more opportunities to go for a win. The first is on the flat run-in to Brindisi on Friday, the second the more complicated, hilly finale, to Vieste on Saturday - the latter arguably favouring him more. The race returns to the mountains on Sunday.