Tour de France: Michael Matthews claims stage ten victory
Chris Froome retains his yellow jersey while Dan Martin remains in third place overall
Australian rider Michael Matthews of the Orica BikeExchange team celebrates after winning the 10th stage of the Tour de France between Escaldes-Engordany and Revel. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA
Cycling is correctly described as an individual sport practiced by teams and while the value of strength in depth is almost always seen in bunch sprints and mountain stages that is less often the case when an escape fights out a stage finish.
Here, however, the Australian team Orica-BikeExchange placed three men in the successful 14-rider lead group, an exceptionally high ratio.
With temperatures redolent of spring in contrast to last week’s heatwave, the finale was worthy of a Classic, with the one-day specialists Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen crossing the line in Matthews’s wake after the 14 had been whittled down to half a dozen.
With the green jersey in his sights, Sagan had worked hardest to ensure the escape succeeded but he was outnumbered at the finish, although he did relieve Mark Cavendish at the top of the points standings.
It was Sagan who made the initial push that split the escape group 25 kilometres out but the world champion was unable to dislodge any of the Orica riders, which left him with a virtually impossible task.
Danger menVincenzo Nibali
Towards the top of the final climb above the finish, Impey attacked time after time, leaving Sagan with only one option: to respond.
It was a classic tactic to soften up the best sprinter and Sagan was trapped in textbook style. If he let Impey escape the victory would be gone for sure, whereas if he held the group together there was at least the remote chance one of the other riders would get in Matthews’s way as the finish beckoned.
What happened in the final rush for the line was almost inevitable, however: Van Avermaet broke first, followed by Boasson Hagen, with Matthews biding his time before making his effort.
For the 25-year-old from Canberra, there was some measure of revenge over Sagan, who took the world title ahead of him last September in Richmond, Virginia.
The 2010 under-23 world champion said this day had been three years in the making; he was first tipped as a Tour stage winner when he took a hilly stage in the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
Chris Froome retained his yellow jersey after finishing nine minutes and 39 seconds behind Matthews in the main peloton.
His British compatriot Adam Yates remains 16 seconds off the defending champion in second place.
Ireland’s Dan Martin remains in third place after finishing 29th at the end of the 197 kilometre stage.
He trails Froome by 19 seconds in the general classification.