“BLING” Matthews puts in one of his best ever, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
DANE Magnus Corte (EF Education Nippo) won stage 6 of the Vuelta in one of the most exciting stages seen in any grand tour.
He was the last man standing from the eight-man breakaway and just managed to survive a last-minute lunge from race favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) who took back the red leader’s jersey.
Early on there was no team interested in putting up a chase and the breakaway, which was working together as one, built up a lead of seven minutes before Team BikeExchange took up the challenge. This stage offered Michael Matthews his best chance of snaring a stage win although there was a big question mark on whether the final 2 km climb may have been too tough.Embed from Getty Images
Once the race moved into the open plains and the threat of side winds on the radar, the big teams hit the front and put the race in the gutter. The race split apart and some of the contenders were caught out. But in the final 10kms the race turned into a direct head wind and the chasing groups came back together. The frenetic pace meant that the gap to the breakaway was now down to less than a minute and it looked like their inspiring effort was going to come to nought in the final kilometre.
But Corte had different ideas and proceeded to deliver one of the most amazingly gutsy rides I have ever seen. Known more as a sprinter, he finished a close third in stage 4, Corte distanced his breakaway companions on the brutal final climb but when the gap was reduced to only 10 seconds with one kilometre to travel, it seemed his valiant effort was to be in vain. However, a surprising lull in the chase saw the gap open and then it was Matthews who took up the chase. As there were no other sprinters within cooee of the very small lead group, it was a tough decision for the Australian. If he didn’t react, he would probably finish second behind Corte, but Matthews was desperate for a win and threw the dice. His brilliant ride saw him burst clear of the big hitters only to be caught near the end. It was perhaps the best ride the man known as Bling has ever produced. He deserved more than his final sixth place.
Kenny Elissonde (Trek Segafredo) had taken the red jersey after race leader Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) crashed on the previous stage, but the climb was just too tough for the diminutive Frenchman.
Roglic is back in his favorite Spanish colour – red, and looks the man to beat as the race moves into the bigger mountains. The Slovenian was very strong on stage 6 and all challengers showed small signs of weakness. His main rival is Giro winner Egan Bernal and the Ineos team threw down the gauntlet at the start of the final assent yesterday but the Ineos Grenadiers squad could not go on with the job and all lost time.