Aussie Focus

Matthews jumps closer to Cavendish in green jersey fight

Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) was active on Stage 16 in the battle to win the sprint classification in Paris, hauling back 33 points on Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who wears the green jersey as the classification leader.

A hard start to the stage saw a number of attempts to form the early move come to nothing as the peloton kept a high pace throughout. When the race crossed the first categorised climb, the Col de Port after 54 kilometres, there was a three man-move of Michal Kwiatkowski (INEOS Grenadiers), Mattia Cattaneo and Kasper Asgreen (both Deceuninck-QuickStep) up the road with a 40-second advantage over the summit of the climb.

Chris Juul-Jensen (Team BikeExchange) went to the front of the peloton and pushed hard on the wet descent and brought back the escaped trio. It was assumed in commentary at that point that the Dane was riding in support of his Australian teammate, Matthews, for the upcoming intermediate sprint at 84 kilometres into the stage, but Juul Jensen attacked a few times, eventually getting away with Fabian Doubey (TotalEnergies) and Jan Bakelants (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux).


Matthews made it into the attack from the peloton that formed behind Juul-Jensen, alongside green jersey rival Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), with leader in the standings Cavendish minutes behind the peloton at that point. 

Juul-Jensen and his companions rode through the intermediate sprint, meaning that there were less on offer for Matthews and Colbrelli, with the Australian claiming fourth over the line for 13 points, Colbrelli was fifth for 11.

Stage-winner Patrick Konrad made his move on the next climb and ended up soloing in for victory, while behind the fight continued between Cobrelli and Matthews for the valuable points at the stage finish. With 30 points for the winner, 25 for second and 20 for third, the pair did much of the pace-setting in the finale and still had enough in the final jump to the line to hunt down late attacker Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis). 

Colbrelli crossed the line first to claim second on the stage, banging his handlebars in frustration at the missed chance of claiming a stage win, with Matthews third on the day. The pair claimed a comparable points haul on the day, Colbrelli's 36 to Matthews' 33 and with Cavendish not scoring points, it was a good swing for the pair to the current leader, as Matthews moved to 39 points behind, with Colbrelli 69 points down.

The next two stages see the race head to the high mountains, with the intermediate sprint points located before the major climbs, but on climbing sections of the course, which may preclude Cavendish from claiming many points over the next two days. 

With the two intermediates at 20 points apiece there exists at least the potential for Matthews to claim the green jersey at the conclusion of Stage 18 if he wins both intermediates and Cavendish scores no points. There are also reduced points available at the finish of each stage, 20 for the winner, but both are mountain-top finishes, and versatile as Matthews is, it's unlikely that he'll still have enough energy left to contest it with the climbers on hors categorie ascents.  

From there, Stage 19 is an expected bunch sprint finish, where Cavendish and his Deceuninck-QuickStep leadout have looked near unbeatable, with 50 points the maximum for the winner, 30 for second, 20 for third. However, the intermediate sprint is located atop a small, uncategorised climb early in the stage and could be the springboard for the Australian to claim some additional points over Cavendish.

Stage 20 is the time trial, again there are points, up to 20, available but it's unlikely to be a battleground for the green jersey contenders. 

Stage 21 on the other hand, will be a point where the green jersey again comes into focus, the Champs-Élysées the scene of potentially the final showdown for the classification. 

The other way that Matthews or Colbrelli could end up fighting it out for the sprint jersey win is if Cavendish is eliminated from the race. Of course, there is the normal attrition of crashes which noone is wishing on the Manxmann, but the time cut on the summit finishes may be hard for the noted non-climber to negotiate. 

Bar that scenario, or some misfortune that sees Cavendish miss out on scoring points on stages 19 and 2, it's going to be hard for Matthews to overhaul his rival, but he is in the prime position if the British rider falters.

Stage 17 of the Tour de France looms as another huge test for the riders with two category 1 climbs before a brutal summit finish atop the Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet. Coverage starts from 7:45pm AEST on the SKODA Tour Tracker and 8:30pm AEST on SBS and SBS On Demand. 

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5 min read
Published 14 July 2021 at 3:15am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS