AUSTRALIAN CYCLIST Michael Matthews’ sense of sportsmanship accompanied him on to the Tour France podium to accept the coveted green jersey, a dream come true for the 26-year-old star. “Never nice to take a jersey like this hope @marcelkittel is OK,” he tweeted.
Kittel, a German superstar who rides for Quickstep Floors and winner of a remarkable five stages, was injured in a crash early on stage 17 and abandoned the race. That left Matthews in possession of the points title -- second in importance only to the overall victory – with four stages left to race.
Only a similar disaster befalling himself can stop him becoming only the third Australian to win the category, behind Robbie McEwen in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and Baden Cooke, who narrowly pipped McEwen in 2003. Having trailed Kittel by a demoralising 133 points after stage 11, Matthews refused to concede defeat and chipped away at the deficit, reducing it to single figures when he won the intermediate sprint after the crash that took out his rival. He now leads another German, Andre Greipel by an insurmountable 160 points.
Matthews is also now in the box seat to win the blue-ribbon final stage on the Champs-Elysees, in front of the huge crowd of Parisians who always turn out for the occasion.
Michael Matthews showed his true class in winning the tough stage from Le Puy en Velay to Romans sur Isere. There may have only been a couple of small climbs (a cat 3 and a cat 4) 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 saw that Green jersey leader Marcel 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 Sky put it in the gutter about 15 kilometres to go. Actually the two main challengers for the overall win, Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet only just managed to claw their way back on.
Stage 14: Michael Matthews
Michael Matthews showed his true class by winning stage 14 at the Tour de France after a series of near-misses earlier in the three-week marathon, and also giving Australian fans something to cheer – loudly and long – after Richie Porte’s disastrous exit last week.
Triumphing comfortably from Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet from Belgium, the boy they call “Bling” because of his penchant for jewellery, put himself back into contention for more silverware when the race finishes in Paris next Sunday.
Matthews, who rides for the German Sunweb team, collected the maximum 30 points per race for the second most coveted jersey, the points classification, cutting German superstar Marcel Kittel’s lead to 99, with a couple more stages to come that will suit him. He will have to do everything right from now on, but the confidence boost the win brings will be helpful.
Stage 12: Italy's Fabio Aru
Italy's Fabio Aru is far from the best-known name in the Tour de France peloton but that is changing fast now that he is wearing the Maillot Jaune as race leader. Aru had already been in the spotlight when he was accused of poor sportsmanship after attacking triple champion Chris Froome in controversial circumstances during stage nine. Not without irony, Aru was the major beneficiary of Froome’s failure to cope with a brutal finish to stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes.
By his own admission, Froome “just didn’t have the legs” on the last of four climbs at the end of the 214.5 km slog that took nearly six hours to complete and which has thrown the general classification wide open with a week still to go. His rivals are now smelling blood, especially with two other big names _ Spain’s Alberto Contador and Colombian Nairo Quintana out of contention.
In a day of carnage Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France shattering his shoulder and Pelvis along with the hopes of a nation.
As the riders approached the summit of the final climb to Mont du Chat, there was no time for small talk and it was becoming apparent that Porte was the only rider with the firepower to match leader Chris Froome.
But then all hell broke loose. The descent was super dangerous and Porte’s back wheel washed out on a corner and as he tried to correct it he lost control and dived into the gravel on the left which sent him crashing down and sliding across the road into the path of Irishman Dan Martin who had one of the most spectacular falls I’ve ever seen. Porte was out for the count but Martin managed to remount, crash again and still finish only 1m 15 sec behind the leaders.
I have just arrived in the press centre and it is 4.30 pm and 40km to go in the 216km stage 6 from Vesoul to Troyes. The lead out teams are on the front now and the breakaway, as usual, is on its way back into the swarm. Sure enough 4km to go and the break is caught. Now the pace is ramping up and the frantic pace lifts another notch. As we approach the final kilometre the lead out men are doing their most to get their man to the front and then the frenetic final 200 metres sees German sprint star Marcel Kittel power over the top of Arnaud Demure and Andre Geipel with Aussie Michael Matthews just back in seventh spot. It definitely looks like these three will battle it out for the green jersey all the way to Paris
As I open my laptop to write my piece on the controversial expulsion of Peter Sagan up pops a tweet from the man himself saying thank you to about 20,000 fans who have wished him well and, from what I can gather from the few I read, were angry at his disqualification with all saying that he was not in the wrong.
Stage 4 - The Saga of Sagan
World Champion Peter Sagan’s eviction from the Tour de France has certainly sent the media contingent into a frenzy. And the social media world-wide has gone into meltdown.
I believe that Sagan caused the crash that has forced Mark Cavendish out of the Tour with a broken shoulder. But I don’t reckon he should have been kicked out of the tour. The original decision to relegate Sagan to last in the group was the correct one in my view.
This tour is far from over! That was the statement sent out by two Australians after stage three of the Tour de France.
Riche Porte’s gallant attack 700m from the finish in Longwy and Michael Matthews’ brilliant second place show they’re both very much in contention for the two main jerseys of this great race.
Most of you will know if Matthews managed to grab the 12 seconds required to take the Yellow Jersey from Welshman Geraint Thomas on stage four but it was always going to be a really tough ask.
All talk of defending champion Chris Froome and his Sky team not being as strong this year were blown out the window after the first stage of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf.
The Sky squad were super impressive with Geraint Thomas taking the stage and four riders in the top eight. But it was Froome who was the big winner on the day taking big chunks of time out of his main rivals for the overall title.
There was definitely a huge shift in momentum after one of the most dangerous opening stages in the history of the Tour. And the biggest loser was Tasmanian Richie Porte. I expected Richie to take time out Froome after his commanding performance at the Criterium du Duphine but he rode too conservatively and lost 35 seconds to Froome.
Richie Porte can win the Tour de France. Actually we have known that for a while but can win and will win are very different statements. So let me rephrase that – I believe Richie Porte will win the Tour this year.
He would have been on the podium last time around if not for the untimely puncture on stage 2 last year and the infamous crash into a media motorbike on Mt Ventoux .
The bookies have him second favourite, only a couple of points behind defending champion Chris Froome who is gunning for his fourth victory. And most tour experts are divided between the two as to who is the real favourite but if you ask them who currently has the best form, then it’s unanimous – Richie Porte.