With a slight rise inside the closing kilometre in Albi, Stage 10 marked an ideal opportunity for race debutant Caleb Ewan to notch his first Tour de France stage win. However, according to the diminutive Soudal Lotto sprinter a poor strategic choice once again kept him off the top step as he was reduced to yet another third-place podium result.
"I chose the team that had the most guys, and Sunweb definitely had the numbers the in the final," Ewan told SBS after crossing the line behind Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"I thought Matthews was going to be the wheel to choose, but I think his lead-out man [Cees Bol] stuffed him up big time because he should have gone when the road kicked up, but he hesitated and we lost all our speed and then the guys just came straight past.
"In the end, it wasn't the wheel to be on."
It was the third third-place finish for the former Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España stage winner, who also nabbed a runner-up result on Stage 7. The 25-year-old New South Wales native finished just ahead of Matthews, who remains second on points classification to current jersey holder Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in fifth.
“It was a hectic stage today with the crosswinds,” explained Matthews, who had a different opinion on the performance of his lead-out train.
“The guys were switched on and six of us made the front split. Coming into the finale they did a good lead out – it’s disappointing to come fourth after the work the team did, but there are more opportunities to come in the race and we’ll keep trying.”
However, Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek seemed to side more with Ewan's assessment of the Sunweb approach to the final.
“We had six guys in the front group which showed we were very sharp and focused today," explained Visbeek. "Everything went perfectly but a moment of hesitation cost us a victory in the end.
"It’s a shame, but we showed that we were in the race today. We have to look back on the stage, analyse it and learn from it; and do it better next time.”
With four close calls inside the first 10 stages and 11 more to go as the 106th edition of the Tour rolls into the mountains, Ewan admits he's looking forward to the race's first of two rest days on Tuesday.
"I've never looked forward to a rest day so much in my life," he said.