Matthews pipped at the line for second Giro stage win
Michael Matthews has been pipped for more glory at the Giro d'Italia, just edged out by two electric-finishing rivals after a dramatic long sprint for home on the 17th stage.
The Australian star, known to all in the peloton as 'Bling', looked set for his second shiny prize of the 106th Giro on Wednesday as he was delivered perfectly by his Jayco AlUla teammate Michael Hepburn for a long push for home in the flat run-in to the line at Caorle near Venice.
It looked as if Matthews had kicked off his run just too early against the pure sprinters, yet the versatile 32-year-old Canberran showed he's still able to cut it with the quickest riders as he looked momentarily as if he would hold off the later-charging Jonathan Milan and Alberto Dainese for his 11th Grand Tour win.
But right on the line, the pair, on either side, caught him with local man Dainese celebrating the narrowest of victories over points classification leader Milan.
Matthews had to settle for a second podium finish after his win on the third stage. It was also his fifth top-10 finish of a successful Giro after an injury and illness-hit Spring.
"I was just happy to get out in some open wind in the final and be able to do my sprint, but when you are there versus guys that are pure sprinters, it's always going to be difficult for me," shrugged Matthews.
"But we put ourselves in the best position and we gave it a shot. I don't think my legs were too amazing, but I just think the team did an amazing job to position me in the perfect place and then it was up to me to do my thing. It just wasn't quite enough."
It was an emotional win after the 197km stage from Pergine Valsugana for DSM's Dainese, who'd been struggling with a debilitating stomach complaint for days.
"It's more special winning at home," said Dainese, who hails from the Veneto region where the race finished. "I knew every bump and hole in the road.
"The last five days, I was quite sick with stomach issues and also my breathing was not good and today was the first day I was feeling good. I'm super happy."
There was no change to the general classification, with former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas still leading by 18 seconds from Portugal's Joao Almeida as the race enters the first day of its fascinating conclusion in the high mountains on Thursday.
Stage 18 from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo features two first-category climbs and two punishing second-category climbs in the finale, capped by an uphill finish, as Thomas hopes to celebrate his 37th birthday in style.
Mark Cavendish, who announced on Monday that he will end his 17-year career at the end of the season, was unable to get into position to challenge for a win in what was his penultimate chance to win a 17th Giro stage.
The leading Australian in the race remains Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), who's 18th overall, 10 minutes 58 seconds down.