AUSTRALIAN RIDER Michael Matthews has done it again at the Tour de France. Our man on the spot, JOHN TREVORROW, reports:
MICHAEL MATTHEWS is enjoying the ride of his life at the Tour de France, winning his second stage in three days and putting himself within striking distance of the coveted sprinters’ green jersey. Matthews, the only Australian rider making any impact on the great race since overall second favourite Richie Porte was badly injured in a crash a week ago, edged out Belgian Edvald Boasson-Hagen in a photo-finish at the end of a 165km journey from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isere.
The victory had a controversial aftermath when German sprinter John Degenkolb claimed Matthews changed his line at the finish, getting in his way. Footage showed Degenbkolb appearing to strike Matthews as he rode past after the finish. Matthews claimed he had been grabbed, and that he was waiting to see what officials did about it. “I don’t think it’s very sportsmanlike,” he said.
Matthews also took the intermediate sprint and is now only 29 points behind German superstar Marcel Kittel, who is leading the race for green
This Tour de France just keeps on giving.
Matthews showed his true class again. There may have been only a couple of small climbs (a category three and a category four) in the early part of the stage but the winds were gale-force and that often put the riders down the edge of the road.
Matthews’ Sunweb team realised Kittel was in trouble and they put the hammer down. To give Kittel his due he never gave up, but the big teams decided to make a race of it in the strong cross winds and he was not able to claw his way back.
The biggest loser in the race for the yellow jersey was Irishman Dan Martin who missed the split when he brushed wheels and had to brake about 15 kilometres to go. He lost 51 seconds and is now in 7th place, 2.03 behind the leader.
The two main challengers for the overall win, Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet, only just managed to claw their way back on after the split happened.
There is no doubt now that Matthews can win the green jersey, which looked an impossible task just a few days ago, although he may rue the missed opportunity a couple of days ago where a gentlemanly act of peeing in private cost him at least 20 points.
Both of the mountain stages in the next couple of days have a good climb before the intermediate sprint and that is where Matthews will strike. He will need a slight cushion when they ride into Paris as I reckon Kittel has a mortgage on that stage.
The race for the white jersey for best young rider is also very interesting and Simon Yates from Orica Scott managed to grab some vital seconds in the finale when Louis Meintjes got caught out with Dan Martin and also lost 51 seconds. The mountains in the next two days will decide all that.
And the same goes for the race for the Yellow Jersey. On face value Chris Froome looks comfortable, as we all know his great strength is the race of truth – the time trial, and his two main adversaries are not specialists. But this race will be won by the best mountain climber in the Alps and both Aru and Bardet have said that they are not interested in getting on the podium. They both are desperate for the win.
Bring it on.