Michael Matthews won stage 5 of the Vuelta a España in Lago de Sanabria, Spain, on Wednesday. Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was fastest in a hectic bunch sprint to close the 174-kilometer leg from Sober.
Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) was second and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was third.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) defended the overall leader’s jersey and holds a three-second advantage over American Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) after five days of racing.
“This is what I have been aiming for all year is to get to this level and the team has been awesome throughout to help me get here,” said Matthews, who arrived in Spain in fine form having won two stages at the Tour of Utah earlier this month.
Matthews missed out on the win on Tuesday, finishing third to Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack), and he was relieved to have rewarded his teammates’ efforts with the victory.
“They put all their effort into today and I am just glad to finish it off,” he said. “It didn’t quite work out as I had hoped yesterday, but I knew today we had more of a chance so we put all our eggs in the basket.”
With the first flat finish of the race favoring the sprinters in the peloton, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) was again amongst the early pace setters as he and Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto-Belisol), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ.fr), and Winner Anacona (Lampre) built up a 10-minute advantage before the first climb of the day up the Alto do Covelo.
That breakaway group continued to lead for the majority of the day, with Van De Walle and Courtielle attacking on their own inside the final 10km. They were eventually caught by the peloton with just over a kilometer to go and as the sprinters positioned themselves for the line it was Matthews who powered into the lead with 500 meters remaining. The former U23 world champion freewheeled across the line to take his first grand tour stage victory.
While Horner sits second overall, Nibali is eight seconds ahead of third-place Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).
“It was a good day, because GreenEdge and Garmin did all the work to chase the break and set up the sprint,” said Nibali. “It was nervous in Galicia, with the wind and the hills, so today was a little calmer. We are trying to spend as little energy as possible, because the Vuelta is very long. I hope to be at my best in the decisive stages coming in the second half.”
The 68th Vuelta continues Thursday with the 175km sixth stage, from Guijuelo to Cáceres.
Agence France Presse contributed to this report.