GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Australian Michael Matthews has returned to the winners list, sprinting to a narrow victory in Stage 2 of the 2015 Tour of Alberta on Thursday.
The Canadian stage race marks a return to racing for Matthews, who completed his Tour de France debut in July with broken ribs.
"It's really nice to be back on the bike and feel like a professional rider again after the Tour de France and not really being able to animate the race," said Matthews.
The 24-year-old benefited from the heavy effort of his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates in the closing stages of the 171-kilometre race to shut down a late breakaway attempt and a final lead out.
After yesterday's narrow defeat in the team time trial, bonus seconds from Thursday's victory moves Matthews into the overall lead by 10 seconds over Marco Coledan of Trek Factory Racing.
"We didn't quite nail the team time trial yesterday so we didn't have ambitions to help Trek during the stage," said Matthews.
Giant Alpecin's Nikias Arndt was a narrow second place while Alexey Tsatevoch (Team Katusha) rounded out the podium.
In cold and wet conditions, the first breakaway of the Tour of Alberta formed 20 km into the second stage.
Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18), Phil O'Donnell (Axeon), Ben Perry (Silber) and Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus) rode off the front of the peloton but were never dangerous as the bunch kept them at just three minutes advantage.
Trek Factory Racing had a duel interest at the head of the peloton, working to protect their overall lead and set up their sprinter. Additional teams joined them and with eight kilometres remaining the full break had been swallowed up by a raging bunch.
A secondary move of five riders also tried their luck as a late attack, but ORICA-GreenEDGE sent some of its horsepower to the front — including Canadian Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C. — to shut it down.
From there, the Australian outfit could be seen at the head of the race, leading into the final corner and launching Matthews to the line.
The Tour of Alberta continues Friday with a lumpy Stage 3 to Jasper National Park west of Edmonton.
The six-day, 900-kilometre event includes 120 riders from 15 teams.
The Canadian Press