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Having latched onto Felline’s wheel, Matthews passed the Italian to win the third stage of the Giro d’Italia when a reduced peloton sprinted for the victory; the Australian extended his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti










11.05.2015 @ 17:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Matthews continued the dream start for Orica-GreenEDGE in the Giro d’Italia when he won the hilly third stage of the race with the maglia rosa on his shoulders. Having been led out by Simon Gerrans, he emerged as the fastest when a reduced peloton sprinted for the win, holding off Fabio Felline (Trek) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) to win the stage and extend his overall lead.


One year ago Orica-GreenEDGE had a dream start to the Giro d’Italia as the Australian team won the opening team time trial, held the maglia rosa for a week and saw Michael Matthews win a stage with the pink jersey on his shoulders. This year all is set for a repeat performance for the Australians after they again won the opening team event and let Matthews take the maglia rosa after stage 2.


Yesterday they made it clear that today’s hilly third stage which was expected to come down to a sprint from a reduced peloton, was a bit goal for them and they planned to again have Matthews cross the line first with the famous jersey on his shoulders. Despite an aggressive race that put the Australian team under pressure, they played their tactical cards perfectly before delivering their fast sprinter to his second stage win in the Italian grand tour.


However, it was no easy task to set up the sprint that they were aiming for. After a very fast and aggressive start to the race, a big 25-rider group got clear. Knowing that it would be impossible to control the race, the team did well to put Simon Clarke and Esteban Chaves into the move, meaning that they could take a back seat in the peloton.


Most of the teams had a rider in the break and so they would have had a big chance of staying away if Tinkoff-Saxo had not decided to chase hard all day. The Russian team rode on the front during the entire stage and never allowed the gap to grow to more than 2 minutes.


At the top of the final climb with 43.5km to go, Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) had escaped from the break and had a small lead over Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida). Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Chaves were next while Maciej Paterski, Branislau Samoilau (CCC), Clarke, Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast), Philippe Gilbert and  Davide Villella (Cannondale) formed the first bigger group.


Sergio Paulinho and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) were setting the pace in the peloton which was only 33 seconds behind the lone Russian. However, they took it easy on the descent and so the gap started to grow while the chase groups merged and were joined by Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) on the descent to form a 10-rider group.


On the technical upper part of the descent, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) went down in a very bad crash. The Italian didn’t move for a while and was transported away from the race in an ambulance but luckily his condition is now stable


The chasers were working well together but they didn’t really get much closer to Kochetkov as the gap stayed around 20 seconds for a long time. Meanwhile, the gap to the peloton went out to 1.20 while a few riders rejoined the group, including fast riders Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani) and Luca Paolini (Katusha).


As they hit the flatter roads, Orica-GreenEDGE decided to change strategy after Chaves and Clarke had been working in the chase group. They put Pieter Weening on the front of the peloton and he started to chase hard with Paulinho while Boaro drifted to the back end of the group.


The hard work paid off and with 15km to go, Kochetkov was only 45 seconds ahead. 2km later the chasers were almost caught and this prompted Hansen to attack. The Australian was joined by Clarke and Paterski and those three riders made it back to Kochetkov with 10km to go.


Clarke was just following wheels but his three companions worked well together. Nonetheless, they were losing the battle against Weening and Paulinho and with 7km to go, they only had an advantage of 9 seconds.


Inside the final 5km, the junction was almost made. Kochetkov tried to attack again and was closely marked by Clarke. As he did not get any help from the Australian, it was all back together with less than 4km to go.


Ivan Basso now hit the front for Tinkoff-Saxo while Andrey Zeits led the Astana train next to him. Sky tried to throw a spanner in the works by launching an attack from Kanstantsin Siutsou but Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) was quickly to shut it down.


Clarke took a huger turn on the front before Cannondale took over, launching Tom-Jelte Slagter off in an attack. The Dutchman passed the flamme rouge with a small advantage but as Astana tried to lead Paolo Tiralongo out, they quickly brought him back.


Simon Gerrans now did the lead-out for Matthews who had slotted into fourth behind Sergey Lagutin and Fabio Felline. The latter tried to do a long sprint but the Australian perfectly came off his wheel to win the stage, with the Italian taking second and Gilbert third.


With the win, Matthews extended his overall lead to 6 seconds over Clarke who picked up 4 bonus seconds in the break. He takes that gap into tomorrow’s very hilly fourth stage. On a day full of ups and downs, the riders will tackle three category 3 climbs, with the final ascent being a very tough 3km challenge that summits just 9.9km from the finish. From there, it is a descent and a short flat stretch to the finish.


A hilly stage

After a day for the sprinters, it was time to head into hillier terrain on stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia which brought the riders over just 136km from Rapallo to Sestri Levante. The first two thirds of the stage was a series of constant ups and downs with two categorized climbs, including a category 2 ascent that summited 43.5km from the finish. From there, it was a long, gradual descent that led to a flat finish along the coast.


There was one non-starter when the riders gathered in Rapallo under a beautiful sunny sky. Anton Vorboyev (Katusha) had been struck by gastroenteritis and had to end his maiden grand tour earlier than planned.


A big group goes clear

Right from the start Gianfranco Zilioli (Andoni) and Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin) took off as the race got off to an incredibly fast opening phase. First 12 riders bridged the gap and later another 13 riders made it across to form a very big 25-rider group that had a 30-second advantage after 5km of racing. Axel Domont (Ag2r), Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni), Davide Malacarne (Astana), Luca Chirico, Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani), Silvan Dillier, Philippe Gilbert, Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Maciej Paterski, Branislau Samoilau (CCC), Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Manuele Mori, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Ruben Fernandez, Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Clarke, Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast), Davide Villella (Cannondale), Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) formed the group that would animate the entire stage.


Branislau Samoilau (CCC) tried to get clear from the group but he was brought back while the gap grew surprisingly quickly. At the 9km mark, it was already 1.10 and now Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) tried to bridge across. The Dutchman got to within 45 seconds of the leaders but as he started to lose ground, he dropped back to the peloton.


Zardini takes off

In the main group, Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana had taken control and they kept the gap stable between 1.00 and 1.30. Meanwhile, the escapees hit the bottom of the first climb and here Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) attacked out of the front group.


The Italian reached the summit as the lone leader followed by Ulissi, Herrada and Hansen. On the descent, the latter three joined forces with Gavazzi, Zililoli and Clarke to form a chase sextet that was quickly brought back.


No cooperation

At the 34km mark, Zardini had an advantage of 40 seconds over the chasers and 2.02 over the peloton that was being led by Christopher Juul, Matteo Tosatto and Ivan Rovny for Tinkoff-Saxo. The Italian decided to wait for his former companions.


However, there was no great cooperation and so Ulissi decided to attack. He was joined by Villella and later also Dillier, Boaro, Zardini, Samoilau and Fernandez but at the 90km mark, the group was back together.


Tinkoff-Saxo in control

Tinkoff-Saxo kept the gap just below the 1-minute mark while the attacking continued in the front group. Fernandez and Dillier were next to escape and they were joined by Zardini and Paterski to form a quartet that stayed clear for some time.


Malacarne decided to wait for the peloton while Boonen, Haga and Domont got dropped. Later Pineau was also distanced.


Chirico sacrifices himself for Zardini

With 77km to go, the front quartet was caught by the chasers before Gilbert beat Clarke and Dillier in the first intermediate sprint. From there, Chirico sacrificed himself completely and single-handedly kept the gap between 30 and 60 seconds


Several riders were getting dropped from the peloton, including most of the sprinters before Chirico swung off from the front group with 62km to go. Now Mori took over, setting a hard pace for Ulissi until Dillier led Gilbert out for the final intermediate sprint. The Belgian again beat Clarke and his teammate to score 3 bonus seconds.


Pirazzi attacks

As they hit the hardest climb of the day, the peloton exploded to pieces and it was now Rovny and Pauliho setting the pace. At the same time Mori, Zilioli, Puccio, Zardini, Fernandez and Burghardt were distanced from the break.


Samoilau was setting the pace all the way up the climb, working for his teammate Paterski before Pirazzi attacked from the peloton. He briefly latched onto the wheel of Zardini before he bridged the gap to the front group. Unfortunately, he suffered a mechanical just as he made the junction and so he was soon back in the peloton.


With 46km to go, the gap was down to only 15 seconds and this was the signal for Kochetkov to attack. While Boaro and Dillier were dropped, he got a small gap and crested the summit as the lone leader. Ulissi was next and just 33 seconds later the peloton followed before the exciting finale started.



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