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Basking in Basque Victory

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Apr 6, 2015 – Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge won a sprint finish on Monday to claim the first stage of the Tour of the Basque Country in Bilbao. The 24-year-old Australian, already a stage winner last year, crossed ahead of Poland’s world champion Michal Kwiatkowski of the Etixx-Quick Step team and Russian Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

On a lumpy 162.7km course around Bilbao, Matthews came home at the front of a reduced group of around 50 riders. “I was quite confident going into the stage,” Matthews said.

“We did a recon (reconnaissance) of the final climb yesterday and I knew what I was in for, it just came down to what legs I had today. “It turned out I had really good legs, got myself over the climb and I knew from that reduced bunch I had a pretty good chance of cleaning up the sprint.”

The favorites, including Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana – who has already won Tirreno-Adriatico this year – finished safely in the lead bunch.

This result continued Matthews’ fine start to the season having won a stage of Paris-Nice, where he also held the leader’s yellow jersey, and finished third at Milan-San Remo.

Quintana is expected to face competition for the overall victory from Kwiatkowski, who finished second behind Alberto Contador last year. Tuesday’s second stage takes the peloton over 175.4km from Bilbao to Vitoria with another hilly trail, including a climb just 9km from the finish.

Final 10 Kilometers

Results Stage 1

1. Michael Matthews (AUS/OGE) 3hr 57min 07sec
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/EQS) same time
3. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) s.t.
4. Kevin Reza (FRA/FDJ) s.t.
5. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LTS) s.t.
6. Julien Simon (FRA/COF) s.t.
7. Fabio Felline (ITA/TFR) s.t.
8. Valerio Agnoli (ITA/AST) s.t.
9. Petr Vakoc (CZE/EQS) s.t.
10. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) s.t.