Michael Matthews wins sprint finish on stage 3 – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2023

Stage 3

Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) sped to victory on stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia in Melfi, beating Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) to the line in the uphill sprint.

The Australian jumped with over 200 metres to go at the end of a tricky finale of the 213km stage, holding off the former world champion to complete a day’s worth of work by his team. He has positioned himself on the wheel of Pedersen in the final kilometre as Trek set up their lead-out, jumping from behind and passing the Dane at 200 metres to go.

Pedersen and the Alpecin-Deceuninck duo of Stefano Oldani and Kaden Groves were breathing down his neck in the closing 100 metres, but Matthews simply had too much for his rivals on the closing drag and sealed the third Giro stage win of his career, eight years on from his last.

Pedersen, who had fought back to the reduced peloton after being dropped on the final climb of the day 30km out, came back in the closing metres but couldn’t do enough to overhaul Matthews. Behind them, Oldani seemed to get in Groves’ way, leaving Matthews to finish it off upfront.

“Honestly, I’m just speechless. What I’ve been through these last few months, to now come back with a victory for the team…” Matthews said after the stage. “We rode all day today, and they were fully committed to me for the stage. I don’t have words for the moment. It’s been such a rollercoaster this year, and now already on stage 3 with a stage win, it’s more than I could ever dream of.

“I heard that Pedersen was dropped on the climb, so I was hoping he would be a little bit pinned for the sprint, and I just knew I needed to go a bit early and get the jump on them. Yeah, it worked out.

“At the moment, it’s just been a rollercoaster for me. I just came here to this Giro to have fun, to enjoy riding my bike with my teammates and being with my team. Today it was such a team effort. That was for the boys.”

Aside from the drama of the sprint for the line, there was also some GC action on a stage that didn’t threaten much of it. The second intermediate sprint of the day, just 10km from the finish, saw the massed peloton approaching the finish led by Soudal-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma, setting up a showdown between GC favourites Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič.

At the line, it was the maglia rosa Evenepoel who came out on top, grabbing three bonus seconds as Roglič crossed the line just after to take two seconds.

The result, along with second-placed man Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) dropping a long way from the line, saw Eevnepoel extend his overall lead from 22 to 32 seconds over new second-place João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates). Roglič, meanwhile, moved up from fifth to third overall but dropped from 43 to 44 seconds down on the Belgian.

The third stage of the 2023 Giro d’Italia would be the longest of the opening days of the race, taking the riders on a 213km southbound journey from Vasto in Abruzzo to Melfi in Domenico Pozzovivo’s home region of Basilicata.

Remco Evenepoel extended his lead in the GC on stage 3.

A largely flat 170km would provide little excitement before the hills late in the stage, the third-category Valico dei Laghi di Monticchio (6.3km at 6.4%) and the fourth-category Valico La Croce (3.1km at 6%). From the top of the latter, 30km of descent and bumpy road lay ahead of the finish.

With only one intermediate sprint lying on the long road to the hills, there was little incentive to get out in the breakaway, leaving just two Corratec-Selle Italia riders – Veljko Stojnić and Alexander Konychev – to ride away at the start.

The pair were given a nudge at the front of the peloton by Trek-Segafredo’s Alex Kirsch, prompting the two-man attack. Nobody went with them, prompting Konychev to turn around and shake his head as they faced an afternoon alone at the head of the race.

As the sprint squads like Trek-Segafredo and Jayco-AlUla took charge of the peloton, the duo were left to race away to a seven-minute lead within the opening 30km.

By the time the race hit the midway point – with little happening on the way – the gap to the break had gone down to two minutes as the peloton sought to keep the situation under tight control on the road to the finish.

The intermediate sprint brought the only real drama on the flat roads. Up front, Konychev and Stojnić rolled over the line. Soon afterwards, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) proved himself the quickest man in the peloton, beating Arne Marit (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) to grab six points towards the maglia ciclamino.

As the riders exited Foggia, the jackets came out in the peloton as the rain began to fall, while the gap to the break stuck at two minutes. That advantage had fallen by 30 seconds at the start of the Valico dei Laghi di Monticchio, 40km from the line.

Jayco-AlUla, Trek-Segafredo, and Ineos Grenadiers continued to boss the peloton on the way up, with Trek’s Eritrean duo of Natnael Tesfatsion and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier taking prominent roles in the pacemaking as the break’s advantage swiftly melted well under a minute.

As sprinter after sprinter dropped out the rear of the peloton due to the high pace up front, neither breakaway man made it to the top of the hill, Stojnić the last of the two caught at 36km to go.

Italian champion Filippo Zana showed his jersey on the front, putting in work for Matthews and keeping the pace up as the likes of stage 2 winner Jonathan Milan and other sprinters like Mark Cavendish went backwards.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) made his opening flourish in the final Giro of his career at the top of the climb, jumping from the peloton in the closing metres to grab nine mountain classification points and the competition lead. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) followed closely behind the Frenchman, picking up four points ahead of the short descent.

Only around 60 riders remained as the group raced into the final 30km, with Valico La Croce lying ahead. The same handful of teams controlling the front, including Ineos Grenadiers, who lined up at the top as Pedersen surprisingly dropped out the rear.

Michael Matthews and Mads Pedersen lunge towards the line.

Pinot once again snuck to the front in the dying metres of the climb to take another three points, while off the back, a Trek train worked to get Pedersen back into the group. The Dane made it back at 20km to go, with the easier run-in to Melfi not posing a tougher task than the two climbs.

A spill 15km from the line saw João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) face an unexpected chase back on late in the day, the Portuguese champion making it back 4km later. Up front, Soudal-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma led the way to the intermediate sprint at Rapolla, with Remco Evenepoel grabbing three bonus seconds to Primož Roglič’s two at the line.

Shortly afterwards, Trek-Segafredo and Jayco-AlUla came to the fore once again, setting up a sprint finish featuring Pedersen, Matthews, and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck). The final 5km saw the Australian squad take it over with Trek-Segafredo lined up behind them, only for the US team to wrest control at 1.5km to go.

Behind them, there was a fight for Pedersen’s wheel, one that Matthews won in the final kilometre as the Trek men dropped away. Toms Skujins was the last man on the front for Pedersen, but by the time he dropped off, Matthews had already launched, pushing past and on to his first victory of the season.

The fourth stage of the Giro could create differences between the GC contenders. The finish is situated in ski resort Lago Laceno, 3 kilometres after the 9.6 kilometres long Colle Molella, while two huge intermediate climbs pep up the 175 kilometre long route.

The draining of the legs begins from the start on a series of non-classified climbs. A compelling fight for the breakaway is on the cards. It could easily last for an hour or more.

The base of the first KOM climb appears after roughly 50 kilometres. The Passo delle Crocelle is a 13.5 kilometres long ascent with an average gradient of 4.3%. The riders then fly downhill for more then 20 kilometres to reach the foot of the Muro Lucano, one of many non-classified climbs. This one adds 5.1 kilometres at 5.5% to the mix.

As said, no KOM points at the top, and not even a downhill, as the route continues to climb a little later on the Valico Monte Carruozzo. This is the second official intermediate climb of the day – 8.8 kilometres long and averaging 4.9%.

The descent leads onto a false flat of tens of kilometres, after which a triptych – short drop, even shorter hill (1 kilometre at 5.2%), and another short drop – should get the riders started for the Colle Molella.

The climb adds up to 9.6 kilometres and it slopes at 6.2%, but if you realise that the first 5.5 kilometres go up at around 4%, you know there is a catch. The subsequent 2.7 kilometres rise at 9.4% before the last section levels off to almost 6%.

With the Colle Molella out of the way there are 3 kilometres remaining. The first 750 metres are on descent, the rest is flat.

Stage 3 result:

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco-AlUla, in 5:01:41

2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo

3. Kaden Groves (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck

4. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) EOLO-Kometa

5. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Deceuninck

6. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Intermarché – Circus – Wanty

7. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma

8. Simone Velasco (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan

9. Toms Skujiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo

10. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team, all at same time

General Classification:

1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal-Quick Step in 10:18:29
2. João Almeida (Por) UAE-Team Emirates, at 32s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 44s
4. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 46s
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 58s
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-hansgrohe, at same time
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1:02
8. Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco-AlUla, at same time
9. Jay Vine (Aus) UAE-Team Emirates, at 1:08
10. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 1:18

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