The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team earned its first win of the 2022 season at Istrian Spring Trophy after Matthew Riccitello held off his closest competitors on the fourth and final day of racing. Since the race’s inception in 1961, no U.S. rider has ever finished first in the general classification.
“I’m really happy to start the season off in a good way for the team,” said Matthew. “This was a team effort and hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling for the rest of the season.”
The very short prologue (1.5 km) to start the 2022 race proved too short to separate many of the riders on time. Even though he finished only seven seconds behind stage winner Matevz Govekar (Tirol KTM Cycling Team), Matthew placed a distant 57th. But on the first stage, Matthew made up nearly all of the ground on his way to the podium. He finished in 2nd place on the stage and was only 16 seconds behind the yellow jersey worn by Sean Flynn (Swiss Racing Academy).
Due to a delay in calculating the GC placements after the 2nd stage, it wasn’t determined that Matthew would start the final stage in the yellow leader’s jersey until hours later. At the start of the 3rd and final stage, it was simply a matter of working as a team to defend the jersey.
“Great to start the season like this,” said an excited Koos Moerenhout, Hagens Berman Axeon sport director. “The team is working well together and Matthew moved himself into an ideal position to get a good GC. After yesterday’s stage he took yellow and the guys did a great job today defending his position. It was a very fast stage today.”
Today’s result is Matthew’s biggest win since Tour de I'Abitibi as a junior and the team’s most notable victory since Sean Quinn’s win at the 2021 Classica da Arrabida.
“We all knew that Matthew always had a lot of talent, but more than that I think the fact that the team was able to help him defend today competing against very strong teams,” said owner and director Axel Merckx. “Swiss Racing Academy and Jumbo were really strong teams. It’s a huge win for us and very important in Matthew’s development. It’s a great start to the season of course and hopefully many more to come.”
The team continues the racing season on March 20 at G.P. Rhodes and March 24 at Rhodes Tour.