Australian Michael Matthews powered back to winning ways with a stunning victory in a drag race sprint to the line, on a fast and hectic stage one of the Volta a Catalunya.
The 31-year-old backed up his strong fourth place finish at Milan-San Remo on Saturday by repeating his 2019 victory on the same finish in Sant Feliu de Guíxols after Team BikeExchange-Jayco split the race to pieces in the crosswinds.
There was no easing into the opening stage of this year’s race as the battle to get into the early breakaway resulted in gaps in the peloton in the opening kilometres. Eventually a group of six went away, but behind, Team BikeExchange-Jayco took control of the race as they dragged a group of 19 riders away and across to the escapees in the crosswinds.
The team were fully represented in the newly formed front split of 25, with Matthews and general classification contender Simon Yates both looking to take advantage of the carnage. However, with the larger peloton closing in, the team eased up as the bunch regrouped and attentions turned to the upcoming finale.
A late race break of six were eventually reeled in inside the final 10km, with Matthews sitting in prime position as the pack raced through the streets of Sant Feliu de Guíxols. Matthews bided his time inside the final kilometres as the road dragged up to the line, before launching a powerful sprint to streak away and take his first win of 2022.
Upon crossing the line, second placed finisher Sonny Colbrelli fell unconscious, but was later confirmed to be in a stable condition in hospital after receiving medical assistance.
Michael Matthews (1st):
“Firstly, I just want to say, I hope Sonny Colbrelli is ok. I found out after the finish what happened, it’s never nice to hear something like this after your victory and I’m wishing him a good recovery and I’m hoping he’s ok.
From our side, the team did a great job. We went straight to the front once the breakaway went and took the race under our control and split it in the crosswinds ourselves. Then once we got caught, we still committed to the final to deliver me into the best position for the final sprint and I was able to finish it off.
It’s been a long time without a victory for me now, so to come back to a finish that I knew well from a couple of years ago, to now win again, it means so much. My wife and dog are here to support me today and it’s just so nice to cross the finish line and to be able to give my wife a massive hug.
This course suits me quite well; a hard race and then an uphill sprint to the finish. I think knowing the finish from a couple of years ago also helped me. We have a really great team here, we have me for these sorts of finishes, we have Kaden Groves for the flat sprints, and we also have Simon Yates for the GC and the mountain stages, so we have all stages covered and we’ve started it off on the best note so far.”
2022 Volta a Catalunya Stage 1 – Results:
1. Michael Matthews (Team BikExchange-Jayco) 3:47:11
2. Sonny Colbrelli
3. Quentin Pacher