Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) won the sprint for second place on the hilltop above Landerdeau, on stage 1 at the Tour de France, proving he is on form and in the fight for the green points jersey. Like everyone else in the select group, however, there was nothing he could do to match stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
“I’m definitely happy with how the race went, the goal was the stage win. There was just one guy stronger than me today,” Matthews told Cyclingnews and Sophie Smith of The Age beyond the finish line.
“We did a good race, we also got top three in the intermediate sprint and then finishing it off with second at the finish is a good start to the Tour de France for sure.”
Matthews was the first of the terrestrials, finishing eight seconds behind unstoppable Alaphilippe after the world champion attacked alone with 2.3km to climb and rode alone to the finish.
He beat Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), with his sprint rivals such as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) down in 20th and 24th place respectively, distanced by a few seconds.
More importantly Matthews scored 43 points and now leads his green jersey rivals by a good haul. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) scored 17 points and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 15.
Alaphilippe leads the points competition but will wear the yellow jersey on stage 2, meaning Mathews will race in the jersey he hopes to win in Paris.
“An attack like that means Alaphilippe is flying,” Matthews said of the Frenchman.
“He always does this and it’s the best way for him to win the race, so his attack wasn’t unexpected, that’s for sure.”
Matthews was well protected by his BikeExchange teammates during the stage. He was involved in the first crash but avoided the second pile-up and then fought for position on the 3.5km to the line.
“I would have liked the bottom of the climb a bit further up in the peloton but they didn’t go full gas from the bottom and that allowed me to make some wheels up,” he explained.
“I’m really happy with the team, there’s such a good group here, it’s going to be an amazing three weeks. They’re so supportive through highs and lows and we stick together as a team. We’ll win together and lose together and then fight the next day.”
“I was in the big crash and I landed on a lot of people, which helped me have a soft landing. I thought my bike was broken with 25km to go to check it was OK. The mechanic said it was OK so I pressed on.”
Matthews wasn’t initially aware that the first crash was caused by a roadside spectator holding a sign towards television cameras. When told he appealed to the fans to give the riders more space on the road.
“The crash shows the fans need to be more careful,” he said.
“It’s great they’re out here for sure. But things like this can happen and you can destroy someone’s Tour de France with a stupid mistake like this.
“Hopefully everyone gives us a bit more space. It’s great the Tour de France has allowed spectators because they could close the roads, but everyone needs to be a little bit more careful.”
While dozens of riders were left battered and bruised after the two massive crashes, Matthews was looking forward to Sunday’s second stage and the second hilltop finish on the Mur de Bretagne.
“Tomorrow is another day,” he said.
“It’s a little bit different, it’s a little bit more punchy and there’s a false flat to the finish. I think the climb is harder but for a rider like me it’s easier.”
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