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Michael Matthews Move into the Maglia Rosa
"It's an incredible feeling," said Matthews. "It's really hard to describe how amazing it was to be up on the stage getting the pink jersey. It's an honour to be given the jersey from Svein and a real privilege to be able to wear it in my first Giro."
The rainy day did not deter the Northern Irish from turning out en masse to cheer on the peloton for the first Giro d'Italia road stage. The early attacks began from the gun. Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) was the first rider to take a sizeable advantage. Jeffry Romero (Colombia) Sander Armee (Lotto Belisol) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) bridged across to the lone leader, making the day's break a four rider move.
With Tuft in pink, the Australian outfit dutifully assumed its spot at the front of the peloton. The breakaway opened up a 6'30 advantage within the first hour of racing at which point ORICA-GreenEDGE lifted the tempo ever-so-slightly, pegging the four back by about a minute. For the next 100 kilometres, the break's advantage would hold steady between five and six minutes.
"Today's stage had the potential to be very tricky," said Sport Director Matt White. "We rode in the beautiful countryside, but as we saw, the weather is very erratic. The wind was down, so it was a lot calmer than we expected. The boys were in the safest position in the bunch most of the day - on the front. They rode well to control the peloton all day."
When it was time to chase, Giant-Shimano lent troops to the efforts. Twenty kilometres from the finish, the escape group's advantage had shrunk to one minute. Tjallingii made one last attempt to evade the peloton, attacking his breakmates eight kilometres from the finish. The peloton swallowed him up just before the three kilometre mark. By that point, the sprint trains had begun to take shape.
"It was a long and wet stage, so we really needed to stay focused all day," said Matthews. "The guys did a great job keeping it all together and getting me into the right position for the finish."
Matthews remained well-positioned into the critical left-hand bend 300 metres from the line at which point he found himself slightly swamped. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) was the first to open his sprint, but Marcel Kittel (Giant Shimano) was able to respond. Kittel snagged his first Giro d'Italia win ahead of Bouhanni in second and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) in third. Matthews managed eighth in the sprint.
"Michael is our sprinter here, and obviously the goal today was to control the peloton and put Michael into as good as position as possible until what we knew would be a very technical last corner," said White. "It worked very well, and with the split in the bunch, we actually put some time into our rivals."
"The next couple of days, the goal is to keep the jersey on Michael's back," White added. "When we get some uphill, who knows? We might have the opportunity to change the jersey again to Pieter Weening or Ivan Santaromita."
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