Michael Matthews made it two wins in two days for Orica-GreenEdge with stage one victory of Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco in Bilbao for his eight professional win on Spanish soil. Matthews took the win ahead of Michał Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step) for his second win of the year having opened his account at Paris-Nice last month to continue Orica-GreenEdge's winning streak at the WorldTour race.
Matthews forewent the defence of his Vuelta a la Rioja crown on Sunday, won by teammate Caleb Ewan, to focus on the opening stage Pais Vasco with his preparation paying off.
"I was quite confident going into the stage," said Matthews who stage three of the race last year. "We did a recon of the final climb yesterday and I knew what I was in for, it just came down to what legs I had today. It turned out I had really good legs, got myself over the climb and I knew from that reduced bunch I had a pretty good chance of cleaning up the sprint.
"The Yates brothers were following a lot of attacks in the final five kilometres, which was great that I didn't have to worry about any of them."
Matthews explained that the lessons of his third place at Milan-San Remo helped him to time his sprint earlier than he did two weeks ago.
"There wasn't any lead out trains, it was more of a grovel, so I just placed myself within the top five in the final and started my sprint a little earlier, rather than waiting like I did in San Remo, so I couldn't get boxed in," Matthews said.
The team's sport director Neil Stephens added that stage one was the first target of the week for the Australians.
"We knew the stage pretty well, but we weren't exactly sure how hard the last climb was going to be," Stephens said. "We were hopeful we were going to get to the finish with Michael and in the end it was just him with the climbers."
Simon Gerrans, making his return to racing following a broken elbow, Daryl Impey, Michael Albasini and Pieter Weening all finished over three minutes down on Matthews
"We knew Simon Gerrans is still working his way up and Pieter Weening was feeling much the same so we identified that before the stage and they helped place the team going into the final climb," explained Stephens. "It would have been great to have Daryl (Impey) and (Michael) Albasini in the finish and they gave it everything to get over the climb but they weren't able to be there."
One of the team's general classification riders of the race, Adam Yates, was involved in a late crash with unmarked steel poles on the right-hand side of the road that were covered in orange street cones. The 22-year-old just one of several riders to go down with the initial assessment of Yates' injury that he sustained a broken right middle finger, ruling him out of the remainder of the race.
BMC's Peter Stetina was the worst affected by the accident, suffering fractures to his tibia, kneecap and four ribs.
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