Ireland’s Martin had looked set to snatch the stage himself, but Australian Matthews battled past in the closing metres to take the 197.8-kilometre ride from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera in a time of five hours, 12 minutes and 14 seconds. That also saw Matthews, boosted by a 10-second time bonus, inherit the leader’s red jersey from Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
Matthews, 23, who signed a new two-year deal with Orica-GreenEdge last week, is now four seconds ahead of race favourite Nairo Quintana, who in turn is seven seconds clear of Valverde.
Former Tour de France winners Alberto Contador of Spain (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky) are 23 and 31 seconds behind Matthews in 12th and 17th places respectively. Contador, a two-time winner of the Vuelta, and Froome were both in the chasing pack behind Matthews yesterday and clocked the same time as the winner.
After a neutralised start which saw the competitors ride off the aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, a five-man breakaway formed that included Jacques Janse van Rensburg.
Alongside the MTN-Qhubeka rider were Danilo Wyss, Lluis Mas Bonet, Jerome Cousin and Jonathan Fumeaux, and between them they built a lead of over eight minutes by the 50km mark.
The peloton would not let them escape much further though, and soon started eating into their lead.
They were eventually all swallowed up with around 17km to go before Adam Hansen tried a solo break, which proved short-lived.
That set things up for a thrilling finish involving most of the big guns, although the technical bridge crossing just before the end — where the riders had to squeeze around a tight right-hand bend — proved a hindrance for some.
In the end it was Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso who made his move first and opened up a small gap, but as the Italian faded he was overtaken by Martin.
Martin could not hold onto his lead either though, and he was passed on the finishing straight by Matthews.
It was Matthews’ third stage victory on the Vuelta, having won two last year.
Joaquin Rodriguez was third on the day, ahead of Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens.