The team had a lot of confidence in me. They played all of their cards for me today, and they put me in the perfect position. I was really stoked to finish it up for them. —Michael Matthews
TORREY — Five second-place finishes were enough for Michael Matthews.
After a frustrating season with a new team, the Australian rider finally proved his sprinting ability with a win in the second stage of the Tour of Utah.
“It’s definitely been a long process this year,” he said after earning both the stage win and the overall leader’s yellow jersey completing the 130.7-mile stage that started in Panguitch and finished in the town of Torrey. “I haven’t had a win yet. To take the yellow jersey and the sprint jersey on the same day is pretty special.”
Matthews gave most of the credit for his success to the work of his new teammates at ORICA-GreenEDGE, a squad he signed with at the beginning of 2013.
“Today, I felt a lot better than yesterday,” he said, noting he spent two weeks in Brian Head before the race began Tuesday. “The team had a lot of confidence in me. They played all of their cards for me today, and they put me in the perfect position. I was really stoked to finish it up for them.”
Matthews said there are a number of good sprinters on the team, and he was thrilled to finally capitalize on the opportunity given to him this week. The work his teammates did likely made his job easier than some of the other sprinters in that final pack.
“They did a perfect job,” he said of his teammates' efforts. “Made me not have to touch the wheel, not have to do any more effort that I had to do. The guys behind me were having to do more to stay with my team. I wouldn’t have won the stage without them.”
Matthews, 22, won stage 3 of the Tour of Utah in 2012 with Rabobank, and he’d been hopeful the Tour of Utah would allow him a shot at the top of the podium again.
“I had lots of seconds, but pulling off the win on the second stage of the Tour of Utah, yeah, it was really a goal for me this year to come into this tour with good form, and hopefully keep building up through it,” he said.
Matthews said Thursday’s Stage 3 would be a rest day, but as he said it, he made air quotes and added, “If you can call it that.”
The team’s plan on the 119.3-mile stretch that starts in Richfield and ends in Payson would be to take it easy and prepare for the brutal final three days of the tour.
“We’ll back it off a bit tomorrow, and then ramp it back up for the crit (circuit) on Friday,” he said, adding that the profile of Tuesday’s stage might have been more intimidating on paper than on the bike. “I think the profile looked a bit harder than it actually was. Everyone went into it a little bit scared. We just went into it with an open mind, and the goal was to try and see how far we could get.”
Matthews won the tour in five hours and 17 minutes, followed seconds later by stage one winner Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing, while Bontrager’s Jasper Stuyven grabbed third place.
Hincapie Sportswear’s Tyler Magner held onto the Best Young Rider’s jersey, just as Michael Torckler, Bissell, also held onto the King of the Mountain jersey for the second straight day.
“It’s great,” Magner said of earning the jersey for the second day. “To finally be racing with the big boys, it’s a lot of fun for us.”
Martin Wesemann, who is riding for Team Qhubeka in their first race in the United States, won the day’s most aggressive rider’s jersey. He was part of the first group to break away from the Peleton.
“This is our first time racing in America,” he said. “We just wanted to get our name out there and make people know we’re actually here.”
He’s thrilled that thanks to extensive television coverage (50 countries), his friends and family in South Africa will be able to see his accomplishment.
“It makes me really proud,” he said of being the first on his team to win a jersey in a U.S. race.