Matthews claimed the stage 14 victory in Rodez from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), who has triumphed here previously, and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
The 26-year-old was evenly matched with Van Avermaet on paper, but there was enough space for him to celebrate for so long it made pundits nervous that rivals may make up ground and pip him on the line.
“We said to him yesterday, when Van Avermaet goes he will go on a heavy gear so you also need to be on a good gear and not sprint on too light a gear. He did it perfectly.”
Sunweb sports director Aike Visbeek said.
It was the second victory in as many days for Sunweb, which carried the momentum of Warren Barguil’s Bastille Day triumph into the decisive and lumpy stage that also saw Chris Froome (Sky) regain the yellow jersey.
“Today you could see [Michael] was a bit more focused because he knew this was a 100 per cent chance [for a stage win], and maybe his best chance until Paris,” Visbeek said.
“We were focused on doing things right, the right plan, the right guys with him and looking at the situation we needed to make him win.
"He already had proof he was in really good shape because last Sunday, in a mountain stage, he was also riding really strong. He showed some amazing things and you want to turn that into results.”
Matthews has been backed as a Tour team leader by Sunweb and entered the 104th edition of the race with stage wins and the green jersey in mind. He’s easily been one of the, if not the, strongest versatile sprinter in the race after Peter Sagan's expulsion but has been literally brought to tears in his pursuit of the maillot vert.
Matthews appeared almost inconsolable after stage 10 when there was a miscommunication within the team and he wasn’t in the sprint that Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) won to increase and maybe even seal his lead in the points classification.
“I would say I think it’s good that he has those emotions but you need to have the focus also when it’s difficult, or it gets complicated, when the tension is there,” Visbeek said.
“I think what helps him now is that he has a completely loyal team, he doesn’t have any bad thoughts on that. He knows if he follows the plan and follows the guys he can trust them and that’s good for his state of mind.”
Neither Matthews nor Visbeek have conceded the fight for the points classification is over, but a concerted focus on stage victories, over points, at least today paid dividends. Marcel Kittel (QuickStep) Kittel failed to score any points today, cutting the German's lead to 99 points.
With a medium mountain stage tomorrow ahead of the rest day and then the high Alps, Matthews has a prize opportunity to close the gap ahead of the final sprint on the Champs d'Elysees - if he can continue the momentum from the the last few days.
“I think this is really good and we now have to go for opportunities,” Visbeek said.
“I don’t think we have the green jersey in our own hands. That’s Marcel. He was dropped very early today. I don’t know if that was calculated or if he had difficulties. If he had difficulties then tomorrow will be a very hard day.”