• Michael Matthews inches closer to the Tour de France Green Jersey. (Getty)Source: Getty
Michael Matthews has shortened his deficit to Marcel Kittel in the hunt for the green jersey but is up against opportunity to secure it before the Tour de France finishes in Paris on Sunday.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
19 Jul 2017 - 5:04 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2017 - 10:33 AM

Matthews now trails the German sprinter by 29 points after he marked his second stage victory of the race from a reduced bunch kick and took out a maximum bonus on the intermediate today.

Sunweb beat Quick-Step Floors at its own game during the 165km stage from Le Puy-en-Velay, mastering unnerving crosswinds that saw the race split and Kittel lose contact early.

Bling shines bright with Green now in sight
With the help of his Sunweb team-mates, Michael Matthews won the Stage 16 finale in Romans-sur-Isère to draw within 29 points of Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) in the Tour de France Green Jersey battle.

“On the bus this morning we spoke about 100 different scenarios that could happen today,” Sunweb sports director Luke Roberts said. “I had people say drop Kittel on the first climb and ride a team time trial to the finish. I laughed and said we could try that ...and we did it!”

Matthews has been the strongest versatile sprinter at this 104th edition of the race but Kittel has been close to unbeatable in mass gallops, accruing five stage victories, and is a favourite for line honours on the Champs Elysees.

The Australian double stage winner so impressed local police that he was given an escorted ride back to the team hotel, and the expectation is that his team will provide similar service from Stage 17 to Paris.

Heading into the Alps, the 26-year-old Matthews will need to be in contention for every intermediate prime and hope his rival is not. Roberts said Friday’s 19th stage from Embrun, which has three category three climbs, could go either way.

“In the days to come there can be moments where we can pick up points where it’s going to be more difficult for Marcel to pick up points,” Roberts said.

“Friday is again a stage where there is a question mark as to whether it’s a breakaway or sprint stage so that could be a spanner in the works. But with the pure straight-up sprint on the Champs Elysees, Marcel is going to be a favourite there so we’d need to have a pretty good lead to make sure we could hang onto it should we come into Paris in green.

“It’s going to be difficult although we’re looking much closer at the moment. It’s still maybe we could slip into green by Paris, but that sprint in Paris could change everything again. There’s a small possibility there but it’s going to be a hard fight.”

Quick-Step has lost two riders in Matteo Trentin, who missed the time cut on stage nine, and Philippe Gilbert, who abandoned today due to illness. The squad also has a general classification interest in Dan Martin, who dropped from fifth to seventh and lost more than a minute to yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky) in Romans-sur-Isere, with the team rallying more around Kittel.

“Do they invest more energy with Marcel for the green, or do they need to protect Dan Martin for his place on the GC? They have some question marks they need to deal with as well,” Roberts said.

“We just ride our race, aim for our stage victories and if Michael is picking up green jersey points on the way then it also keeps the pressure on them.”

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