Tour Down Under

Michael Matthews Wins Stage 3 of 2011 Tour Down Under

Michael Matthews won the third stage of the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under earlier today, while fellow Aussie Matthew Goss recovered from a late tire puncture to reclaim the overall leader's jersey.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong rode strongly in temperatures that reached 98 degrees, controlling the tempo of the peleton before finishing in the main field for the third straight day. He was 3 minutes, 11 seconds behind the stage winner.

Matthews, the under-23 world champion for Netherlands-based Rabobank, outsprinted Goss and defending champion Andre Greipel in an uphill finish to the 80-mile stage from suburban Unley in Adelaide to Stirling in the hills that fringe the city.

Overnight tour leader Robbie McEwen also punctured late in the stage and watched the overall lead change hands for the third time in as many stages. British sprint ace Mark Cavendish came in almost 12½ minutes behind the winner, suffering from serious cuts and abrasions he sustained in a crash near the end of Wednesday's second stage.

Matthews underscored his considerable potential with his first win on a WorldTour stage, coming off Goss' wheel with about 200 yards remaining to win comfortably. Greipel was second while Goss and fellow Australians Simon Gerrants and Luke Roberts filled the next three spots.

Goss, with an accumulated time after three stages of 9 hours, 56 minutes, 25 seconds, has a two-second lead over Greipel in the overall race. McEwen is four seconds behind the lead, with Matthews fourth on the same time.

"My team did really well for me today and got me all the way to the finish," Matthews said of his stage win. "I was about fifth wheel and I felt really good. I was a bit worried about Gossy because he's the fastest guy here. I managed to get on his wheel, which was a good wheel to be on, and I managed to pull out and hit the front with about 200 meters to go."

Greipel was disappointed that he became boxed in near the finish and was unable to challenge more strongly for his ninth stage win in the Tour Down Under.

Goss punctured about six miles from the finish but was able to quickly catch the peleton and work his way into a position to challenge for the stage win.

"No one was going to beat Matthews today, he was just too quick," Goss said. "I wasn't too panicked when I punctured. There were still 10 or 12 kilometers to go, so there was plenty of time and it wasn't too hard to get back in.

"Hopefully the bad luck's over now and the good luck's to come," he added. "There are a couple of hard days to come, so I could use the good luck then."

"It was a pretty tough day," Goss told after the stage. "It was 36 degrees and that takes its toll on everyone.  ThenI had a puncture with about 12km to go and had to chase back on. I was nearly gone when we got back on and I could barely hold on but I give the credit to my teammates.

"Bernie [Eisel] and Mark [Renshaw] waited when I punctured," he added. "Mark wanted to give me his wheel but we had trouble getting the wheel in the bike and so I ended up on my spare bike. By that stage the ambulances had gone past so we had a long chase ahead. Bernie chased me all the way back on. Just as we made it back to the peloton we were at the bottom of the climb with about 5km to go. There's no respite on that hill. It's pretty nasty. Hayden [Roulston] brought me up through the bunch so I could contest the sprint."

"It just shows how strong the guys are so I think we have good chances to try to defend the jersey for the rest of the week."

The stage Thursday took riders from Adelaide's inner southern suburbs, along the city's southern expressway and into the Adelaide Hills, through a chain of small settlements separated by woods and rolling pastureland.

After a stiff climb up Mount Barker to the township of Bridgewater, the 131 riders remaining in the race after Wednesday's trio of crashes made two laps of a steeply undulating, 13-mile circuit centered on the finish line at Stirling.

Two riders were unable to start today's stage due to injuries from the second stage pileups. Australian Bernie Sulzberger broke his collarbone and compatriot Chris Sutton, riding for Britain's Team Sky, needed stitches to close a deep cut to his left knee.

Alexandr Kuschynski, Thomas De Gendt, Luis Pasamontes and Luke Durerbridge were involved in an early breakaway and led by as much as five minutes before being gradually reeled in by the peleton. Lance Armstrong played a vital role in the chase, riding near the front to control its tempo.

The breakaway group was finally caught about 16 miles from the finish, as was a late attack that included Australian Richie Porte.

Goss fought his way through an increasingly strung-out field to reach the front of the bunch before being run down by Matthews.

Friday's fourth stage of the 2011 Tour Down Under will take riders from Norwood in Adelaide's inner eastern suburbs to Strathalbyn in the hills.

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