• Michael Matthews's shredded jersey after Stage 3 of the Tour de France (EPA)Source: EPA
Orica-GreenEDGE’s fourth tilt at the Tour de France was arguably its toughest yet, but the Australian team ended it on a high note in Paris, with Michael Matthews sprinting to the team’s seventh top 10 finish for the race.
Cycling Central

27 Jul 2015 - 9:02 AM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2015 - 10:07 AM

Matthews, one of the unlucky victims of an awful Stage 3 crash, powered to the finish line behind stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), happy to have got through almost the entire race with broken and seriously sore ribs.

The team had grand plans to steal stage wins at the beginning of the Tour, but it was plagued with bad luck almost from the very outset of the race's 102nd edition.

The crash of Stage 3 took key riders Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey out of the race with broken bones, and two stages later, another critical element of the Orica-GreenEDGE make-up, Michael Albasini, was also gone with more fractures after another crash during a slippery Stage 5 outing.

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The upsetting aftermath of Stage 3 continued with more bad news as Orica-GreenEDGE confirmed race-ending fractures for Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey.

With Matthews seriously hurt and struggling to breathe comfortably, illness then also struck the team, affecting Adam and Simon Yates and Svein Tuft. Maintaining a positive became as challenging as completing the stages for the riders, but they somehow soldiered on without complaint.

“The crash on Stage 3 was one of the biggest I’ve ever had in the biggest race in the world. It’s such an amazing race and it’s my second time to have a go and to pull out again just wasn’t an option," Matthews told SBS after finishing in Paris.

“I just wanted to prove to myself I could get through something like this.

“Just to make it here after what I’ve been through the past three weeks I’ve had, probably the worst three weeks of my life. It's amazing, really. I’ve kept a smile on my face the team has been behind me 110 per cent to get me through this race.

Despite not winning the stages he’d hoped for, Matthews continued to think positively about the hardships that are now behind him, suggesting missing out on stage wins might have been good for the team after all.

“We bonded really well (as a team) after everything that happened. I think that’s something you can’t really find when you’re winning everything,” he said.

“It was truly something special, not actually winning the races but the bond we got inside our team.”

Stage 21 in Paris represented the last chance for Orica-GreenEDGE to grab an elusive stage victory, and it tried to force the final stage break and set up Matthews for an assault at the finish line.

Stage 21 report
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“The guys tried to get in the breakaway,” sport director Matt White said. “That didn’t work so we put everything in for Michael.

“They did all they could with the limited resources we had and a top 10 is a nice way for him to finish off considering where he has been in this Tour.”

By the close of the 2015 Tour de France, Orica-GreenEDGE finished with only six riders, but a commendable seven top 10 stage results, including five shared between the promising Yates brothers.

Like Matthews, White said he could take plenty of positives out of this Tour.

“It was certainly not what we planned,” he admitted. “If you take three key guys out of any roster that early in the Tour, it’s nothing short of a disaster, so for the guys to soldier on and keep trying and giving everything they could, it’s been pleasing.

“There was one stage there in the Tour that I (thought) we were going to have Simon Yates, Michael Matthews and Svein Tuft all going home.

“But for the guys (to) have pushed through, especially the younger guys, it’s something they can look back on in the future. Things don’t always go right in your sporting career and to get through the difficult times, especially at the highest level of race in the world, is a powerful lesson.

“To come out the other side like they have, we have seen some great rides by Simon Yates over the past couple of days and Michael to finish off with a top 10, that is a positive sign.

“And everyone who finished here is going to get a big benefit out of the work they have done in July, and we can certainly capitalise on that in August and September.”

Orica GreenEDGE top 10 finishes

Stage 3: Simon Yates, 8th
Stage 8: Adam Yates, 7th
Stage 10: Adam Yates, 7th
Stage 14: Simon Yates, 10th
Stage 15: Michael Matthews, 8th
Stage 17: Adam Yates, 10th
Stage 21: Michael Matthews.  9th