• Michael Matthews celebrates his first Tour de France victory (AAP)Source: AAP
Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) finally added a Tour de France stage to his trophy cabinet, finishing off an impressive Orica-Bike Exchange team effort.
By
Cycling Central

13 Jul 2016 - 3:33 AM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2016 - 8:20 AM

Matthews won in a straight up sprint against breakaway companions Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) to claim his first Tour de France stage victory on a day that saw no change in the overall classification.

"It's unbelievable. The emotion at the moment it's just sinking in that I actually just won a stage of the Tour de France after two really bad years of this race," said Matthews.

"I was really close to giving in on this race, I just thought this is maybe not for me and just focus on other races but today my dream's come true."

Matthews was one of a number of riders in a breakaway that formed on the descent from the Porte D'Envilara, which included a line-up of heavy hitters such as Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R).

However, Matthews was the only fast man with teammates in the break - namely Daryl Impey and Luke Durbridge - who expertly worked over Sagan with a string of attacks in the closing kilometres.

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"It was never the plan to go in the breakaway. We were hoping to have a bunch sprint in the finish after that hard climb coming into the final." said Matthews.

"We have such a strong group of guys here," he added. "Whoever's up on that day, we give that rider 110 per cent. You could see that Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey gave everything today," Matthews said. 

How it happened

Sagan was in attacking form right from the stage start, attacking several times on the 22km climb to Porte d'Envilara that kicked off the stage. However, no attacks stuck until Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) launched 5km from the summit, He crested the summit 32 seconds ahead of a small group, claiming the Prix de Henri Desgrange for being the first man over the highest point of the race.

Costa was joined on the descent by a number of heavy hitters who clearly had their eye on the stage, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R), Matthews, Impey, Durbridge, Costa, Sagan, Van Avermaet, Boasson Hagen, Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie).

The breakaway was closer to the elite selection in a one-day Monument rather than a Tour stage, littered as it was with Grand Tour stage winners, two world champions, and a multiple Tour winner. The group worked together to stay away from a peloton uninterested in chasing, except for an early attempt to bring the break back by Katusha.

This remained the status quo until 36km to go, when Direct Energie and Katusha drove the peloton in an attempt to set up sprinters Bryan Coquard and Alexander Kristoff for the finale. However, crosswinds dented their efforts, as did a blistering attack by Sagan on an uncategorised climb with 20 kilometres to go. The world champion's attack also broke the leading group apart leaving just Matthews, Impey, Dumoulin, Sagan, Van Avermaet, Boasson Hagen, and Durbridge in the lead.

Orica-BikeExchange's numerical advantage meant they could engage in some classic one-two attacks to soften up their opponents, and it fell to Sagan to counter each attack. The efforts clearly took a toll, as the much fresher Matthews was able to overpower the rampaging Slovakian in the final metres of the stage.

Sagan did claim the consolation prize of the green jersey, however, as previous holder Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) finished in the bunch.

The bunch rolled in 9min39 behind Matthews, with all the overall contenders safely ensconced in its ranks. Chris Froome (Team Sky) retains the yellow jersey, while Thibault Pinot claimed the polka-dot jersey. Orica-BikeExhange's Adam Yates stays in second overall and leads the best young rider classification.

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