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VIGGIANO, Italy (VN) — Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) is keeping the “Bling” alive. The 23-year-old Aussie survived a grueling stage 5 on Wednesday, closed the gap to the leading group on the road and maintaining his grip on the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey.
“The ‘Bling’ name sort of faded off, but now that I’ve started winning again, it’s bouncing back up,” Matthews told VeloNews. “I hope that I can keep that going because it’s pretty fun.”
“Bling” Matthews bolted ahead at the end of the 2010 under-23 world championships and charmed everyone with his funky dance in his first days as a professional at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Following that debut year with Rabobank, the ‘Bling’ appeared to wear off. After a two-year contract ended, Matthews switched to his home team Orica. Last year, his first in the team’s blue and white colors, he started to dance back to stardom with two stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
He kept the momentum going this year. He won two races in April — a stage in the Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja and one at the UCI WorldTour-level Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) — and placed second to Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) in Brabantse Pijl.
Matthews said that he hoped to win today on the 6-kilometer uphill run to Viggiano in the south of Italy. Had Nairo Quintana (Movistar) not let a group gain space in the final kilometer, he may have had his chance. He kept trying. He rode to the front, closed the gap, and placed sixth.
“This pink jersey is definitely helping my confidence,” Matthews said. “I was a little down on confidence going into this race. In cycling you need to have a lot of confidence in yourself and how you’re going.”
Matthews will return to the team’s hotel Wednesday evening and look down at the green results sheet and the pink sheet with the overall standings, which he leads by 14 seconds over teammate Pieter Weening and 15 seconds over Cadel Evans (BMC). He explained that after he examines them, he would determine how far he is able to go in pink.
From the start of the Giro, Matthews said stages 5 and 6 would suit him. He wants to try to win, and Thursday’s stage 6 will provide that opportunity. If not, he could lose the jersey and try later when the Giro heads north.
It would not be a bitter goodbye to the leader’s jersey. Though Matthews inherited it easily in the wake of Orica’s opening-day team time trial win (he earned it in stage 2), through the stages to Dublin and back to Italy, he proved Wednesday that he is a worthy wearer.
Matthew looked at his pink jersey. The color represents La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian newspaper that began the race in 1909 and whose articles are printed on pink paper. It also gives “Bling” a boost.
“The main boost is going to be the confidence I take from it. I’ve learned and gained confidence, that I can position myself going into the finals,” he said. “After this race, the pink jersey should boost all of those. Hopefully the ball keeps rolling with wins.”
If a stage win does not come in Italy, it could come in France. Orica is planning to take Matthews to the Tour de France in July.