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In his first race back after withdrawing from the Giro, Matthews proves himself ready for the Tour de France by beating Koren and Ulissi in the Tour de Slovenie time trial

Photo: Sirotti

DIEGO ULISSI

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KRISTJAN KOREN

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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TOUR DE SLOVENIE

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19.06.2014 @ 20:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) continued his impressive run of success when he returned to competition in today’s Tour de Slovenie time trial. The Australian beat Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to prove himself ready for his Tour de France debut and take the first leader’s jersey in the four-day race.

 

One month ago, Michael Matthews enjoyed the most beautiful moment of his sporting career when he won a mountaintop finish in the Giro d’Italia while wearing the prestigious maglia rosa. Unfortunately, his race came to an abrupt halt a few days later when a crash brought his race to a premature end.

 

Since then he has recovered and prepared for his Tour de France debut later this summer and today he proved that he is fully ready for the upcoming challenge when he returned to competition in the Tour de Slovenie. Matthews again proved that he is much more than a sprinter when he won the opening 8.8km time trial in the capital of Ljubljana.

 

Being an early starter, Matthews around the flat 8.8km course in a time of 10.05 to beat the best time set by Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli) by an impressive 16 seconds. From there he faced a long wait in the hot seat but no one was able to get even close to his time.

 

One of his biggest rivals finished just moment later but Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) could only slot into seconds, losing 10 seconds to Matthews on the short course. Only Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) who was one of the final starters got to within 10 seconds of the Australian, posting a time of 10.11 with Ulissi holding onto third.

 

Not even his teammate, pre-race favourite Brett Lancaster could beat him and when the Australian had crossed the line in fourth, it was clear that Matthews was going to win the stage, taking his first ever time trial as a professional.

 

Matthews takes his lead into tomorrow’s second stage which should be well-suited to his characteristics. The stage includes a big category 1 climb 38km from the finish before a descent and flat run to the finish brings the stage to an end. Being a good climber and a great sprinter, Matthews could make it two in a row in the Slovenian race.

 

A flat opener

Like last year the Tour de Slovenie kicked off with a short 8.8km time trial in the streets of Ljubljana. Like most other city prologues, it was slightly technical and completely flat, making it well-suited to the real disciplines in these short time trials.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Gianluca Leonardi (Aero Zero) but the first good time was posted by Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura) whose time of 10.26 put him in the hot seat for a few minutes. Soon after, however, he was beaten into second by Rabottini who went 5 seconds faster.

 

Best time for Matthews

The Italian climber held off specialists Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) and Alexander Serov (Rusvelo) who slotted into third but came under pressure when Matthews hit the course as the first Orica-GreenEDGE rider. The Australian shaved an impressive 16 seconds off the best time and positioned himself firmly in the hot seat.

 

Moments later Ulissi moved into second but after that no one got even close for a long time. Not even specialists Jens Mouris (Orica) or Maxim Belkov (Katusha) could challenge the Australian.

 

Good time by Brutt

Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) had hoped to be in the mix but never got close to the best time. A few minutes later Pavel Brutt (Katusha) blasted across the line to move into third while Chris Horner (Lampre) could not make a mark in his return to competition.

 

Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) did really well to slot into fifth with a time of 10.25 but was pushed out of the top 5 by Artem Ovechkin (Rusevlo) who set the fourth fastest time. Moments later Tiago Machado (NetApp) blasted across the line with the third best time.

 

Matthews now just had to wait for the final wave of riders where Lancaster and Koren were expected to be his closest challengers. Koren did best by taking second while Lancaster could only manage fourth. A little later defending champion Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil) was the final rider to cross the line, allowing Matthews to celebrate his fourth victory of the season.

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