Team Sunweb rider Michael Matthews had an impressive showing at Flèche-Wallonne Wednesday, scoring a top-5 finish in the hilly 198km spring classic in Belgium.
Well protected by his teammates, the 27-year-old Australian fought hard to stay at the front of the field over 11 climbs including the Côte de la Redoute and three ascents of the famous Mur de Huy. Riding his TCR Advanced SL team bike and wearing the Giant Pursuit helmet, Matthews flew up the final climb, the third and last asent of the Mur, to finish fifth.
Matthews wore a prototype Giant shoe featuring Giant's Motion Efficiency System, and he was also riding with a next-generation WheelSystem from Giant that's being developed with Team Sunweb riders.
“Ouch,” Matthews said after catching his breath following the finish atop the Mur, which has steep pitches with grades topping 25%. “With Wilco [Kelderman] missing, we knew it would be hard to replace him. We had some other good climbers with Sam [Oomen] and Simon [Geschke] going with the early moves and that made it easier for me. Then in the last lap, Laurens [ten Dam] and Sam protected me well.”
It was a strong effort for Matthews, offering some redemption after he suffered bad luck last weekend with an untimely tire puncture that ruined his shot at a good result in the Amstel Gold Race.
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek said the race went according to plan and he was happy to see Matthews riding with such strong form. “As a team we did a good job,” he said. “I’m happy to see the shape of Bling going up every race now. We can be happy with fifth place. For the guy who won the green jersey at last year’s Tour de France, this is a great result.”