Australian Michael Matthews sprinted to victory on stage ten of the Tour de France today capping off some outstanding work by ORICA-BikeExchange teammates Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey.
The ORICA-BikeExchange trio rode a perfect race, infiltrating the breakaway early in the stage before excellent work by Durbridge and Impey in the closing 30km set Matthews up in an ideal position for the win.
The 2016 Paris-Nice stage winner executed a fast and precise sprint carrying the desire for his first Tour de France stage victory all the way to the line and first place.
Matthews was full of praise for his teammates after their selfless work helped the Australian rider banish some painful memories of the Tour.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Matthews. “The emotion at the moment is just sinking in. I’ve just won a stage of the Tour de France after two really bad years in this race.”
“I was really close to giving up on this race, I just thought this race is not for me and I’d focus on other races, but today my dreams came true.
“It was never the plan to get into the breakaway, we thought it was going to come down to a bunch sprint. We have such a strong group of guys here and the way we work as a team is that everyone gives everything for their teammates.
“As you could see Daryl (Impey) and Luke (Durbridge) gave their all for me today and were both amazing all the way to the end.”
Durbridge himself proudly added, “When you close out like that you could call it a technical masterpiece. We are pretty happy with that.”
“It took full commitment from everyone from kilometre zero to the finish. It doesn’t always come together like that but when it does it’s pretty special.”
To complete the perfect day 2015 Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian winner Adam Yates finished the stage in the bunch, safely amongst the race favourites, to retain his best young rider white jersey and second on the general classification ahead of stage 11.
Sport director Matt White was pleased with the win and the concentrated performance from the team.
“The boys rode incredibly well today,” said White. “It was a very elite group of riders in that breakaway including world champions and a Grand Tour winner and it was hard for us because we had three guys in there and everyone was looking to us to control it.”
“Our level of concentration was very high and Luke, Daryl and Michael all played their roles to perfection.
“Luke set a really hard tempo going onto the two short climbs before the end which was very important before Daryl forced the hands of the other riders the final few kilometres.
“Michael finished it off very well and proved that he was the fastest the guy in the sprint and we are all very happy with the stage win.”
How it happened:
Stage ten began with a 24km climb ascending straight out of the neutral zone.
Two large breakaway groups attempted to go clear after repeated attacks in the first few kilometres, but the Team Sky led peloton were not allowing any room and the field was still together after half an hour of racing.
Once over the climb the breakaway emerged and it was large group of 15 riders that included Impey, Durbridge and Matthews for ORICA-BikeExchange. Six minutes separated the leaders from the peloton after 80km of racing.
It was an elite group at the front of the race with world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), former Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) also up there alongside the three representatives of ORICA-BikeExchange.
The rain started to fall heavily with 75km to go and the 15 leaders continuing to work well together maintaining a six-minute advantage over the peloton.
Durbridge and Impey were rotating off the front of the breakaway group with Matthews sensibly and comfortably tucked in a few wheels behind.
Going into the final 30km their lead had slipped to four minutes.
Sagan upped the pace on short rise with 20km to go and split the group of leaders in half, the trio of ORICA-BikeExchange all made it on the right side with Durbridge immediately taking over at the front.
Into the last ten kilometres and Durbridge was controlling the lead group of seven riders with the peloton some seven minutes behind.
Before the finale came two short yet sharp climbs and with his work well done for the day Durbridge pulled off on the first incline as Impey took up the charge and upped the pace.
Matthews and Impey were positioned well as the mind games began with Sagan and Edvald Boassen Hagen (Dimension-Data) both attacking then pulling off in quick succession.
The final couple of kilometres were tense as Impey jumped onto the front with Sagan second wheel and Matthews third.
Van Avermaet initiated the sprint with both Impey and Matthews taking off in pursuit, Sagan was also there but it was Matthews who came around and brilliantly took the stage victory.
Tomorrow’s stage 11 starts in medieval Carcassone and covers 162.5km to the finish in Montpellier. A mainly flat stage with some undulations in the first half before a flat finale that will probably lead to a bunch sprint.
Tour de France stage ten results:
1. Michael Matthews (ORICA-BikeExchange) 04:22:38
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) ST
3. Edvald Boassen Hagen (Dimension-Data) ST
General classification after stage ten:
1. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 49:08:20
2. Adam Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) +0:16
3. Daniel Martin (Etixx_Quickstep) +0:19