Team Sunweb’s Michael Matthews ignites the finale of stage two of Itzulia Basque Country, with attacks on the final climb.
The second day out at Itzulia Basque Country was contested over a 168 kilometre stage along the Basque coast. A fast and furious start to the race saw attack after attack, but no rider was given any freedom. Splits to the peloton came as a result of the attacks, and two distinct groups formed with Team Sunweb well represented inside the first group on the road. It wasn’t until 60 kilometres had been covered that an 11-rider group were able to go clear, with the two groups later coming together behind to form one peloton. Attacks from the break in the final 20 kilometres ultimately saw their day out front come to an end, and the race came back together for the final climb of the day.
Michael Matthews sparked the explosive final, launching an attack with nine kilometres to go. After opening up a gap, riders behind started to chase and as they closed the gap, Michael went again. The gap was once again closed and Michael after a solid effort, dropped back into the group, which continued to decrease in numbers as gradients reached up to 19 percent. Whilst a select group went forward to contest the victory, Team Sunweb rolled across the line safely.
“The legs were a bit better today,” said Michael after the finish. “We could already see improvements through the whole team with good team work and positioning going into the climbs. This really motivates me and I was happy to test the legs in the final after the guys put me in a good position. It was good to see that I could still do this after a hard day of racing; it gives me confidence for the upcoming stages.”
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek added: “Today our focus was on Bling for the stage. The early parts of the day were difficult with the bunch splitting on one of the wet descents, and from then the race was full gas. We had Johannes, Chad and Bling in the first group. Bling was protected well by the team all day and the positioning going into the climbs was good. Ultimately the bunch came together and we focused on the final; Bling made a move early on in the last climb and you need a bit of luck and very good legs for that. This was a hard day once again and it was a good to see Bling could race with the best guys here for a while. We will continue to take this race day by day.”