It was a day of wins and losses for Team BikeExchange on the second stage of Volta a Catalunya. Kaden Groves claimed his first WorldTour victory with the help of stage 1 winner Michael Matthews, but the rest of BikeExchange-Jayco had to fight to keep Simon Yates close to the front of the race after a late-stage crash. The day itself was defined by crashes and crosswinds, with a few riders hitting the ground and getting caught out. Yates was probably the most notable to lose time, given his recent performance at Paris-Nice.
For Groves, however, it was a big day.
“I’ve waited a long time for this and I feel pretty amazing,” the 23-year-old Australian said after the finish. “Pretty tough with echelons splitting the bunch, but it was Michael and I were in the front with a lot of other strong teams like Movistar and [Jumbo-Visma]. We had Simon out the back and they were using that to their advantage to maybe put some time into him so it was pretty full gas.”
When Yates crashed with 16.5 km to go, the rest of his team except Matthews and Groves went back to help their GC contender limit his time losses. Yates won the final stage of Paris-Nice and finished second overall behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). He started Volta a Catalunya as a favorite for the overall win.
Matthews and Groves did just fine without the additional lead-out. Matthews, in the overall leaders jersey, guided his young teammate into a good position with 750 meters to go, just behind the men from Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.
“It was a pretty stressful day, actually,” Matthews said. “After yesterday everyone knew we had quite a strong team here, especially for the crosswind section. We were riding the front, but everyone was coming up and fighting the whole day. It was a more difficult day than we expected.
“We’ve been fighting for this for a long time and to be a part of Kaden’s first victory is something special. We were close on the last stage of Tirreno[-Adriatico] but just fell short, and today we were able to pull it off… what more can we ask for?”
Although stage 1 winner Matthews finished seventh, Jonas Hvideberg (DSM) took over the race lead after picking up a handful of bonus seconds from the day’s breakaway. Yates, meanwhile, finished 33 seconds behind the winner and a handful of his rivals for the overall, including Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea Samsic), both of which were strong at Paris-Nice. Trek-Segafredo’s GC hopeful Giulio Ciccone, Sam Oomen of Jumbo-Visma, the Ineos Grenadiers’ Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves of EF Education-Easy Post, and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde all finished in the front group. Wout Poels was also up there for Bahrain Victorious, and with Jack Haig out of the race due to illness, Poels will likely take over team leader duties.
“Hopefully Simon’s feeling better,” Matthews said. “He was a little under the weather after Paris-Nice but he looks like he’s in really good shape so hopefully, we can try to deliver him as best as possible.”