This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) claimed his maiden grand tour stage victory on stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana from Sober to Lago de Sanabria. The Australian beat Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to the line while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained his overall lead in the general classification.
Matthews capitalised on the hard work of his team, who allied with a number of sprint teams as the peloton successfully chased down a five man break in the closing stages.
In the dash for the line Matthews hit the front at the perfect moment with less than 200 meters to go, with Richeze and Meersman rubbing shoulders behind him, and was able to hold on to win by over a bike length.
After the opening team time trial and three uphill finishes, stage 5 finally provided the sprinters present at the Vuelta with their first true opportunity of success. While the likes of Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel chose to stay at home, the race still had a number of fast finishers.
Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto Belisol), Arnaud Corteille (FDJ) and Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) clearly ignored the script and broke clear after only 8 kilometres. The quintet built up a substantial lead of over ten minutes by the time the bunch finally awoke from a relative slumber and it was Garmin-Sharp who started the chase in earnest.
Their sprinter Tyler Farrar has struggled for form and results in Europe for the last few seasons but the Vuelta has been a successful hunting ground for him in the past. His team set tempo over the two category 3 climbs on the race profile.
They were joined by Orica, who were clearly confident after Matthews’ third place on stage 4. With 50 kilometres remaining the peloton had reduced the break's advantage to five minutes. Cue Omega Pharma QuickStep. Meersman was one place behind Matthews on stage 4 and his team ratcheted up the pace as the peloton tackled the Alto de Padornelo.
The leaders co-operation had not waned but on the undulating terrain and with the peloton in full flight, their window of opportunity began to close. Five minutes quickly became four, four soon became three and by the descent off the climb their advantage wobbled at 2:30.
Corteille was the first to buckle, launching an attack on an uncategorised climb inside the final 10 kilometres. The Frenchman was joined soon after by a tiring Van De Walle and although the duo worked together their efforts were futile as behind them Tony Martin (Omega Pharma QuickStep) set to work.
Omega Pharma carried with their pace setting even after the leaders were finally caught with 2.4km remaining, but a brief lull in the allowed for Pablo Urtasun Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to chance his arm.
He was given no quarter, and when Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) unleashed a tame attack on the drag towards the climb the sprint finish was confirmed.
Argos Shimano, the team that flexed its leadout muscles so successfully at the Tour, once again swarmed to the front but with no Kittel in their ranks they were left with Niklas Arndt to lead them. The German could only manage fourth as Matthews' speed was enough to seal the stage.