Tour of Utah: Michael Matthews grabs Stage 2, yellow jersey
Torrey • It's hard to overshadow a scenic byway with the kind of jaw-dropping views and exhausting climbs State Road 12 in central Utah offers, but Michael Matthews did it Wednesday afternoon.
Matthews saw several cyclists in front of him digging for the finish line once the peloton broke with less than two miles remaining in the 131-mile Stage 2 of the Tour of Utah.
As the sprinters approached the finish line on a cloudy day under the banner of several overhanging trees on Torrey's Main Street, it was Matthews of Orica GreenEDGE whose tank was emptied at the most opportune time.
It certainly could be written off as a photo finish, but the 22-year-old Australian and current U23 World Road Race Champion edged everyone else hungry for a shot at stage victory and the yellow jersey.
A stage win, his first win for Orica GreenEDGE, was a sign of how far the young rider has come in his first season with his new team.
"I haven't had a win yet," he said. "I've had lots of seconds. It was really a goal for me this year to come into this Tour with good form and hopefully keep building through it."
It also was a tiny taste of revenge for Tuesday's Stage 1 finish in Cedar City, where Matthews couldn't overcome a sprint by Stage 1 winner Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing Team, who finished second Wednesday.
Jasper Stuyven of Bontrager Cycling Team, Van Avermaet's fellow Belgian, finished third.
This was Matthews' first race in seven weeks and after spending two weeks staying at altitude at Brian Head Resort, the disappointment of the first day of the Tour of Utah evaporated on Highway 12, past the Hogsback and Hell's Backbone, atop and over Boulder Mountain and on the picturesque Main Street of Torrey.
"I think I needed that day just to get rolling again, and today it was perfect," Matthews said. "I felt 100 percent all day. None of the climbs were all that difficult, and I had perfect legs for the sprint."
He withstood sudden breaks by cycling stars Jens Voigt and David Zabriskie and eventually Van Avermaet to capture the yellow jersey and sprint jersey heading into Thursday's Stage 3 from Richfield to Payson.
South Africa's Martin Wesemann walked away with the Most Aggressive Rider jersey after leading Stage 2 for more than 100 miles.
The pro rider for MTN Qhubeka eventually was overtaken by the peloton after cruising over Boulder Mountain.
In his team's first-ever race in the U.S., Wesemann said he was able to catch some of the sights Highway 12 had to offer despite grinding to stay in front of the pack for so long.
"It's impossible not to notice the mountains and the scenery," he said. "It's really amazing."
The same could be said for Matthews' performances in the first two stages of the Tour of Utah.
Following the disappointment of Tuesday's final sprint, in which he took the blame for letting down his teammates, he repaid the guys in Orice GreenEDGE on Wednesday who protected him from the wind for five-plus hours and kept his legs fresh for that crucial sprint under the Main Street trees in Torrey.
He now holds a 1-second lead in the general classification over Van Avermaet and a 6-second cushion over Ty Magner of Hincapie Sportswear Development.
"They played all their cards on me today," Matthews said, "and put me in the perfect position."
O Stage 2 • Panguitch to Torrey, 131 miles
Yellow jersey (leader) • Michael Matthews, Orica GreenEDGE
Purple jersey (sprinter's classification) • Michael Matthews, Orica GreenEDGE
Blue jersey (king of the mountain) • Michael Torckler, BISSELL Pro Cycling
Light blue jersey (best young rider) • Tyler Magner, Hincapie Devo
Gray jersey (most aggressive rider) • Martin Wesemann, MTN Qhubeka
INSIDE • Stage 2 results. > C3
Tour of Utah Stage 2 results
O Top 10 finishers
1. Michael Matthews, Orica GreenEDGE
2. Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team
3. Jasper Stuyven, Bontrager Pro Cycling
4. Michel Koch, Cannnondale Pro Cycling
5. Kiel Reijnen, UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling
6. Tyler Magner, Hincapie Devo
7. Alessandro Bazzana, UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling
8. Chad Beyer, Champion System Pro Cycling
9. Serghei Tvetcov, Jelly Belly
10. Janier Acevedo Calle, Jamis-Hagens Berman Stage 3 preview
Richfield to Payson