Vuelta stage 5: ‘Bling’ does his thing

Stage 5: Sober to Lago de Sanabria, 168.4km

Finally a stage for the sprinters, and after his team laid the groundwork Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) launched his sprint with 200 metres to go and held off Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the slight uphill ramp to the finish. Yesterday the 22-year-old was on the podium, today he was astride it claiming his first grand tour victory in some style.

Vuelta 2013 Stage 5 profile

The early five-man break of Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto-Belisol), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) and Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) enjoyed an advantage of over ten minutes before the Garmin-Sharpies set the tempo to chase them down. Orica-GreenEDGE, confident of Matthews’ form, lent a hand and the gap quickly tumbled.

Sensing the game would soon be up, Courteille went solo, only to be joined by Van de Walle around 10km from the finish. But with the bit firmly between their teeth the bunch, now motoring behind world time trial champion Tony Martin (OPQS), weren’t to be denied and soon everyone was back in the strung-out bunch as the juggernaut sped towards the day’s conclusion. There were a couple of counter-attacks, including one from world road race champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), but the sprint teams weren’t going to be denied on a relatively straightforward finish. The Argonauts led into the final corner but Matthews led out of it and held it together to finish a bike length ahead.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished with the pack to retain his overall lead, there was no change in the overall top ten and none of the other jerseys changed hands.

VeloVoices rider of the day

If at first you don't succeed, don't give up (image: La Vuelta)

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up (image: La Vuelta)

Unsurprisingly it’s today’s stage winner Michael Matthews who, rather than be disheartened by yesterday’s third-place finish, bounced back with his first victory in his maiden grand tour.

After the race, ‘Bling’ explained to Spanish television:

[The Vuelta] was one of my goals for the year. I arrived in good shape and felt good during the first few days. Yesterday I was third and today I was able to win, the biggest win of my career.

One of the favourites for today’s stage as he’d already shown form by winning two stages and the points classification in the recent Tour of Utah on lumpy profiles similar to today’s. He’s only 22 but already he’s amassed an impressive palmares after taking the under-23 World Championships road race on home turf in Melbourne in 2010, before turning professional with Rabobank and then moving at the start of this season to his ‘home’ team, Orica-GreenEDGE. Is this the start of a Degenkolb-like run of Vuelta victories?

Analysis & opinion

Faced with a long transfer after today’s stage as the race route heads to the warmer south of Spain, the peloton was content to roll along at an average speed of under 40kph. The leader’s jersey was there for the taking but on one of the rare relatively sprint-friendly stages, it was always going to be the sprint teams who did the majority of the work to close down the break and – at last! – ensuring a bunch gallop. The overall contenders – and pretty much everyone else – were content to enjoy a relatively easy day after a tough opening four stages.

Stage 5 result

1. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) 4:28:22

2. Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) same time

3. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

4. Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) s/t

5. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) s/t

General classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 18:43:52

2. Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) +0:03

3. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:08

4. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack Leopard) +0:16

5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:21

6.Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack Leopard) +0:26

7. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +0:28

8. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:31

9. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:38

10. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:42

Points classification: Daniel Moreno (Katusha).

Mountains classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Combination classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Team classification: RadioShack Leopard.

Link: Official website

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