The Bling shined in Salt Lake City earlier today. After spending the day in the break, looking as if he was suffering on the climbs, Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews (Rabobank) not only stayed at the front when the charging field caught him but managed to outsprint everyone to take the victory at stage 3 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. (Read replay of stage 3)
“Today was just to survive and see what I had left for the finish if I was still there.” Matthews said.
He admits that he was playing a “fair bit of mind games” today. “When they were coming back on the last climb I just tried to keep a little gap and stay as far ahead as I could until the top of the climb but they caught me with about a km and a half to go. When they caught me, it was a nice part because it was sort of not uphill, it was a little bit flat so I could just join straight into the front of the peloton and stayed at the front and got over the climb pretty easily.”
Though a relatively short stage, the start was brutal on the first climb out of Ogden many of the riders’ face already looked ragged, suffering with the heat and the altitude. It came back together on the descent where Matthews and USA National champion Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) found themselves off the front at the bottom of the descent. A perfect opportunity to get away while Garmin-Sharp re-organized.
That’s exactly what they did. The pair were joined by three other riders and the five worked well together to push the pace. The gap went up to over four minutes but Garmin-Sharp upped the pace to catch.
“I think I did a pretty good tactical decision today by going into the breakaway with Timmy and three other guys. We rolled through really nicely, I think we saved a lot of energy being at the front rather than back in the peloton where they were surging and stopping and attacking each other.”
Matthews latched on as the 40-rider lead group crested and started the descent to the finish line. The sprint was coming but Matthews could not count on his leadout train who did not make the trip.
“Coming to this race where it’s more of a climber’s race we didn’t bring a train for me because they probably wouldn’t get to the finish of the stage.” he explained.
Though Matthews stated that he didn’t do a good tactical job with his sprint, he found the right wheels to follow.
“I sort of tried to move my way through the bunch by myself, tried to follow (Freddie) Rodriguez (Team Exergy) because I heard he’s a pretty good sprinter.” continued the 21 year old Australian. “Followed him for a bit and then it got a little bit messy, a couple of guys came underneath in the last corner with 800 (meters) to go so I lost a couple of positions there. Rory Sutherland started moving up a little bit with 300 to go so I just followed him and started my sprint with 200 to go, I took the long way but lucky I still had the legs for the finish.”
Matthews came all the way around on the right side to take the victory ahead of BMC teammates Michael Schär and Brent Bookwalter.
Matthews, the 2010 under-23 world champion showed that he had good form on the first stage where he finished second behind Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealhcare). Both stages looked well suited to sprinter/climber types such as Matthews.
“It was a bit hard with 213 km and finishing up that last climb which was really hot, the altitude really hurt me so I think that really hard for me. But for Rory for example that won the stage, he’s more of a climber but yeah he’s here, he’s used to the weather and he’s used to the altitude. He had the advantage there.” Matthews said of first day of racing.
“Today was more of survival, it’s only a short stage and the climbs weren’t that hard considering the first day. I think it was just who could survive the climbs today and sprint the best at the finish.”
And he’s not done yet. Matthews stated that he came to Utah with two stages in mind, today’s and tomorrow’s 134.3 mi. (219.8 km) stage 4 from Lehi to Salt Lake City.