Matthews Sprints to Stage 5 Win
After the peloton reeled in an earlier break, Arnaud Courteille (Francaise des Jeux), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto-Belisol), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) sallied off of the front at eight km. One km later, Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) joined the escapees, and the break of the day had formed. Astana did not chase, and the quintet led the field by five and a half minutes at 40 km. When they reached the base of the Category 3 Alto do Covelo with a 10:27 advantage, Garmin-Sharp took over at the front. When the fugitives reached the summit (79.5 km), their lead was down to 8:22.
Orica-GreenEdge joined the American squad at the front. The break’s lead did not fall quickly. At 100 km, the five leaders had an 8:20 advantage, and 10 km later, the escapees led by about seven minutes. There was a chance that the break would stay away.
On the day’s last climb, the pursuit made serious headway. At the base of the Category 3 Alto de Padornelo, the break led the bunch by 5:03, but the peloton had cut the advantage to 3:08 when the fugitives reached the summit. Thirty-one km remained.
The break resisted, but the bunch was relentless. The gap narrowed to 2:01 with 20 km to go, 1:08 with 15 km remaining, and 0:54 with 12.5 km left.
With 10 km left, Courteille attacked his companions. Vacansoleil-DCM joined Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEdge at the front. With seven km to go, the Frenchman led the field by 0:33. One km later, Van De Walle caught Courteille. The bunch swept up the remnants of the break. Twenty seconds separated the leading pair from the peloton, which Omega Pharma-Quick Step led.
With five km to go, the peloton was 0:05 behind Courteille and Van De Walle. One and a half km later, the break was history.
Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked, and Argos-Shimano chased him down. Just before the field reached the one-km banner, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) made his move. The Dutch squad was having none of it. Argos-Shimano led into the final turn, but Matthews jumped into the lead with 200 m left and held on for the win.
Matthews’s victory overwhelmed him. “I crossed the finish line, and I was happy right away,” said Matthews. “After a few moments, it sank in what I had really done. A few tears came out after that. This is the biggest win of my career. The team was super impressive today. They did their job perfectly so I could do mine.”
Each member of Orica-GreenEdge was assigned a task, and the flawless performance of those tasks brought victory to Matthews and the team. “We used Gerro [Simon Gerrans], Cookie [Baden Cooke], Clarkey [Simon Clarke], and [Sam] Bewley in the chase,” said Matthews. “Leigh [Howard] and Mitch [Docker] saved themselves for the leadout. The rest of the team was on the front going full gas to bring back the break and keep me safe.
“These are guys that I’ve grown up looking up to during my whole career,” Matthews added. “To see them riding on the front for me puts a tear in the eye.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:03 and Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) by 0:08. Stage 6 will not change this stage of affairs. The rolling, 175-km ride from Guijuelo to Caceres will feature no categorized climbs. It should end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Matthews? Meersman? Tyler Farrer (Garmin-Sharp)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!