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Matthews, Hindley lead Aussie challenge on Euro roads

Michael Matthews, Australia's top-ranked road racer, and his Giro d'Italia-winning compatriot Jai Hindley have both made promising starts to the first major tests of their European cycling campaigns.

Matthews, No.9 in the UCI rankings, is well-placed in sixth after the first two stages of France's celebrated Paris-Nice "race to the sun" while Hindley pronounced himself happy with his opening time trial in the week's other major week-long WorldTour contest, the Tirreno-Adriatico, in Italy.

In a chaotic sprint finale to Paris-Nice's second stage in Fontainebleau on Monday, Matthews avoided a crash with about a kilometre to go of the 163.7km slog from Bazainville and was well in the mix for the victory, after earlier having picked up bonus seconds for finishing runner-up in an intermediate sprint.

Eventually, Matthews, leading the challenge of Aussie team Jayco AlUla, was edged out in sixth place as former world champion Mads Pedersen took both the win and and the leader's yellow jersey, becoming the first Dane to lead the overall standings at Paris-Nice since 1970.

Two-time Tour de France wnner Tadej Pogacar was ominously placed in second, just two seconds behind, having gained bonus seconds over his big rival, reigning Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard, with his intermediate sprint win.

Matthews is just 10 seconds down on Pedersen, with a big shake-up of the general classification on the cards in Tuesday's team time trial.

Meanwhile, in wretched wet conditions for Tirreno-Adriatico's opening stage at Lido di Camaiore, Hindley was happy with a performance that left him well placed to mix it with the other general classification contenders over the week ahead.

"Yeah, I'm pretty with that - happy with the way it went and happy about the way the body was feeling out there," smiled the man from Perth after finishing 16th, some 51 seconds behind Italian specialist Filippo Ganna, who went 2kph quicker than anyone else in the field.

"I didn't really expect I'd do as well as that," added Hindley. "It wasn't a course that suited me - a flat one which was better for the bigger guys - so I'll take that, happy with it."

BORA-Hansgrohe's Hindley was one second faster than his fellow west Australian ace Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroen) with the two best Australian hopes having given away just two and three seconds, respectively, to race favourite, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who's back in business after injury.

But Australian ride of the day came from Jayco AlUla's Michael Hepburn, who just missed out on a podium place in the time trial by two seconds, finishing fourth, 33 seconds behind Ganna.