Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) had come close to throwing in the towel at this year's Tour de France following two crashes in the first week. However, after a sit down with his wife during the rest day in Andorra, Matthews decided to push on and hope for the best, a decision that couldn't have turned out better.
The Australian rode the perfect race on stage 10 into Revel, resulting in his first Tour de France stage win. It's fair to say that Matthews hasn't had the best of relationship with the Tour de France. He didn't even make the start line after being selected for his debut in 2014. Last year, he was involved in a serious crash on stage 3, which left him struggling on with broken ribs.
"These last few days I was almost going to give up on this race. With breaking four ribs last year, and the year before crashing and taking all the skin off my body, leading into the race and, this year, already crashing two times in the race," Matthews said after stepping up onto the podium to collect his trophy as the stage winner.
"It just hasn't worked out for me. I was almost going to pull the pin on the race, but I spent the rest day yesterday with my wife, and we just sat down and said, 'we've got to keep pushing and eventually it will come true,' and today it did."
Matthews joins an illustrious list of riders who have victories in all three Grand Tours, the only member of the five-man move to have done so. Matthews was one of several riders to have got away as the riders passed over the opening climb of the Port d'Envalira. His teammates Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey then came across in another wave of attacks, putting Orica-BikeExchange a formidable position.
"My teammates did a really special job today. In the break on the climb with [Peter] Sagan and [Vincenzo] Nibali, I was unsure what would happen in the race, then I heard over the radio that Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey were coming across, and then on I knew it was game on," he explained. "They believed in me and gave me everything they had. Durbridge lined it out in the crosswinds, rode a perfect race for me, split the race into pieces and took out some guys who'd have been strong in the final. Then Impey took over and attacked I don't know how many times, and he even came over and did the lead-out too. I couldn't have asked for more from my teammates."
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As the stage neared its conclusion, the strongest riders in the breakaway became clear, and a group of seven moved clear. In it was Matthews and his two teammates but so was the world champion Peter Sagan. The pair has contested sprints together three times this season and three times Sagan has come up trumps.
"We go up against each other quite often. In Suisse, he got better of me twice. I knew in the final he was the man to beat, he was for sure the strongest in the break, pulling all day and never sitting on," Matthews said. "He gave everything for the break to stay away, so I knew he had good legs and was up for it. I knew he was the guy to follow and was hoping I had the legs; in Suisse, I didn't. It's really nice to get one over on him. He's got a few over me – especially with the world champion's jersey – and it's nice to get one back."
Matthews' victory is the first of this year's Tour de France for Orica-BikeExchange and Matthews hopes that it won't be the last. "This was my biggest goal of the season, a stage of the Tour de France, and I've succeeded in that now. It's not the end of the Tour; we have a lot more goals, to go for more stages, and we have really strong team for it."
Tour de France stage 10 video highlights
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