Matthew Holmes conquers Willunga Hill


Matthew Holmes conquers Willunga Hill

Three days earlier he was wondering if cycling at the highest level really suited him, but on the final day of the Santos Tour Down Under Lotto Soudal’s Matthew Holmes won the queen stage on Willunga Hill, ahead of Overall winner Richie Porte. For Lotto Soudal it was the end of a more than successful week with three stage wins as well as the win of Caleb Ewan in the Schwalbe Classic. For Holmes it was the perfect weekend. One day earlier, his girlfriend Josie Knight has won the elite individual as well as team pursuit title at the British National Track Championships.
Matthew Holmes was part of a 26-strong breakaway group but he was the only breakaway rider Richie Porte couldn't drop on the second and final climb up Willunga Hill. Porte was overtaken by Holmes in the final stretch who took his first-ever professional win in what was his first WorldTour race.
I was always waiting, waiting, waiting for the sprint but slowly I realised they were all on the limit”, said Matthew Holmes. “Then Richie came but I did not panic. All I thought was It’s great, he’s not gonna slow down and he’s just gonna take me to the finish, as he was obviously riding his own race for the GC. All I had to do was beat him and that was quite simple. As a team we had no real plan for this stage. Team Director Herman Frison gave us all a free role. So, I went in the breakaway. Also Jonathan Dibben was in the break and he did a perfect team job. I sat on, and he didn’t miss one turn all day.”
Three days earlier, in the stage finishing uphill in Paracombe, Holmes was disappointed after having finished  just 31st.
I’ve been trying my hardest to ride well in the GC but I couldn’t handle the speed and a sort of danger in the bunch. So, I really didn’t do well the first days. Even last night I was saying to my parents, who are here these days, that this job is maybe even not for me. Today is a bit of a turnaround.”
After racing before in continental British teams, Holmes will be known from now on.
Teams need to really look at the National Series in Britain. They are not UCI races, but they should count. They are no easy races to win. Kevin De Weert was my first contact with Lotto Soudal. Lots of people recommended me and put in a good word. It’s really good to repay them.  I’ve always thought that World Tour races would suit me better. It’s just pedaling hard. There is less tactics involved. In Britain, it’s not always the strongest rider that wins. I did not often win there as I was not good at the tactics.
For sure Holmes looks more a climber than a classics rider.
I don’t know. I've never really raced up a climb. I've been stuck in Britain for the last six years, which is not a bad thing. This is my second hilltop finish this week, and it seems to suit me. This will give the team a lot of confidence in me. Up to now I felt they didn’t know me very well. I am the new person in the team and they gave me the first easy job in the stages. From now on, maybe I can ask sometimes to ride for me in some stages.”
Matthew Holmes’ program is not definitely decided but…
Short stage races were on my original plan and maybe a Grand Tour. Either the Giro or the Vuelta. I have to do something much better than today to go to the Tour de France…”, Holmes ended with a smile.