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After perfect work from teammates Impey and Durbridge, Matthews beat Sagan and Boasson Hagen in a six-rider sprint on stage 10 of the Tour de France; Froome finished safely in the peloton and retained the lead

Photo: A.S.O.














12.07.2016 @ 17:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) joined the elite group of stage winners in all three grand tours when he claimed a maiden Tour de France stage win on stage 10 after a beautiful display of teamwork from Orica-BikeExchange. After splendid work from teammates Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey in a royal 15-rider breakaway, he beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) in the 6-rider sprint for the win while Chris Froome (Sky) finished safely to retain the yellow jersey.


Right from the start of his grand tour career, Michael Matthews enjoyed plenty of success. He won stage in his debut at the Vuelta in 2013 and one year later he took wins in both the Giro and the Vuelta. He also won a stage in the 2015 Giro and so took wins in his first four three-week races.


However, his relationship with the Tour de France has been painful. He crashed days before the start in 2014 but refused to give up. He even attended the team presentation but in the end his injuries were too bad and he never made it to the start. Last year he finally made his debut but a crash in stage 3 meant that he suffered through the three weeks with a broken rib.


This year Matthews hoped to buck the trend but again nothing worked out. He came up short in the uphill sprint on stage 2 and his performances in the flat sprints were surprisingly poor.


However, he had set his sights on today’s stage 10 where a lumpy finale made him hopeful that he could win from a reduced bunch sprint. At the end of the day, he emerged as the winner but it did definitely not play out as he has expected.


The stage started with the big climb of Port d’Envalira and as the best climbers kept attacking, Orica-BikeExchange couldn’t control things. Hence, they went on the attack and when an incredibly strong 15-rider break had formed, they had no less than three riders there.


However, the opposition was formidable. Matthews, Daryl Impey and Luke Durbridge were up against Peter Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet, Damiano Caruso (BMC),Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Sky) but they were very attentive. When Sagan split the group, the trio all made it into the seven-rider group that decided the race.


In the end, Durbridge worked hard to help the group stay away and then Impey kept attacking. Sagan had to close all the gaps on his own and so was tired for the sprint. In the end, Impey rode hard to prevent any further attacks and finally Matthews came out on top in the sprint.


After the hectic start and a long chase from IAM and Direct Energie, the peloton had given up and was rolling slowly towards the finish when the front septet hit the final 10km. Impey, Matthews, Durbridge and Sagan were joined by Boasson Hagen, Dumoulin and Van Avermaet in the group that passed the banner with an advantage of two minutes over the chasers and seven minutes over the peloton which was still riding slowly. The game of cat and mouse started until Orica-BikeExchange decided to sacrifice Durbridge.


The Australian went full gas on the front and led the group onto the climb and set the pace until one kilometre remained. When he swung off, Sagan briefly accelerated and then rode on the front until Impey made the first attack. Sagan quickly shut it down and let the South African ride for a few metres before he again hit the front.


Sagan set a controlling pace until Impey tried again. This time he got a small gap but Sagan slowly reeled him in. The world champion again hit the front and then increased the pace to lead Matthews over the top. Only Durbridge was dropped on the climb.


Sagan set a controlled pace in the rolling section after the top and then accelerated just before the descent. He rode fast down the descent but didn’t reach immediately when Boasson Hagen attacked. However, he slowly reeled him in and then led the group down the descent.


With 3km to go, Impey tried again but Sagan shut it down immediately. The Slovakian then returned to the front and easily closed the gap when Impey attacked again.


Orica-BikeExchange changed strategy and so Impey rode on the front to prepare a sprint for Matthews. He led the group under the flamme rouge and through the final turn with Sagan, Matthews, Boasson Hagen, Dumoulin and Van Avermaet.


It was Van Avermaet who launched a long sprint and Boasson Hagen reacted immediately. Matthews grabbed the Norwegian’s wheel and as the Norwegian started to pass the fading Belgian, the Australian launched his sprint. He immediately got a gap and while Sagan finished fast to narrowly pass Boasson Hagen, the Australian sat up to celebrate his win.


Durbridge rolled across the line to take seventh Caruso attacked out of the chase group to take eighth. Izagirre won a close sprint for 9th while Cummings had sat up and ended as 15th.


The peloton rode slowly up the climb and then Luke Rowe (Sky) took control on the descent. Back on flat roads, the big teams lined their troops out on the front, with Tony Martin, Edward Theuns, Imanol Erviti and Rowe setting the pace. As they reached the finish, Theuns and Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) made a fun sprint for 16th but it was a relaxed peloton that rolled across the line


Chris Froome finished safely and so retained his 16-second advantage over Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). He faces a nervous day on tomorrow’s stage 11 where the riders will tackle one of the flattest courses of the race. There are only two early category 4 climbs on the menu but the Mistral win is forecasted to be strong in the area which has often been the scene of some dramatic racing. However, the sprinters are hoping to grab one of their final opportunities in the race.


A tough start

After a big mountain stage and a well-deserved rest day, the riders were back in the saddle for the first transitional stage between the Pyrenees and the Alps. The 197km course brought them from Escaldes-Engordany in Andorra to Revel in France and could be split in two parts. Right from the start, the riders tackled the category 1 climb of Port d’Envalira – the highest climb of the Tour – but from the terrain changed. A long descent led to the flatlands and from there it was a flat run almost all the way to the finish. In the finale, the riders tackled the short category 3 climb of Cote de Siant-Ferreol (1.8km, 6.65) whose top came just 7km from the flat finish.


The 193 riders who reached Arcalis last Sunday, were all there when the peloton left Andorra under a dry and cloudy sky. The start was postponed as there unusually many mechanical problems in the neutral zone. When the stage was finally given, the field exploded already in the first meters of the Port d'Envalira climb. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale) were among the first to lose contact a very aggressive Stef Clement (IAM) tried to get clear.


Sagan rides aggressively

A six-rider group with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was established before 11 riders, including Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), made contact. At the same time the elimination continued from behind where Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida), Markel Irizar (Trek), Bernard Eisel, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Sam Bennett, Shane Archbold (Bora-Argon 18), Marcel Kittel (Team Quick Step), André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) were among the many to get dropped.


Sky led the chase 15 seconds behind the front group, and after 6km it was all back together. 31 riders then briefly got clear before Sagan tried a solo move. At the same time good climbers like Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) were dropped.


Sagan attacks relentlessly

Three riders made contact with Sagan before Pinot closed also the gap. More riders made it across until 20 riders, including Sagan, Pinot, Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) Julian Alaphilippe (Team Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), had gathered in the front 25 seconds ahead of the field. Again Sky closed the gap, and the hard pace became too much for Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who also found himself behind.


Sagan tried again and found himself in an 8-rider group that also included Alaphilippe. From here two riders got clear but it all came back together.


Valverde on the offensive

The next group included 26 riders, including Sagan, Pinot, Majka, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). This meant that Sky had to chase hard and therefore Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Luke Rowe (Sky), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tony Martin (Team Quick Step), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana ) were among the riders to get dropped.


Costa tried an attack and was briefly joined by four riders before he went alone. He built up a lead of 20 seconds over a 24-riders chase group and 40 seconds over the peloton which quickly caught the chasers. Movistar gave chase behind Costa, and their pace had consequences for Tony Gallopin, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and Mathias Frank (IAM) who were among the next to be dropped.


Sagan and Nibali bridge across

An impressive Sagan chased Costa, who now had a lead of 50 seconds. The group grew to 5, then 7 and finally to 16 just one kilometer from the top. Costa was the first rider to cross the line while Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Nibali and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) followed 32 seconds later. A further six seconds back, there was a group led by Cummings, Ion Izagirre (Movistar) and Michael Matthews (Orica-Bike Exchange).


Thick fog made the descent very difficult and Nibali and Sagan took advantage of that to rejoin Costa. Matthews chased solo, but the field was just 22 seconds behind. While the Australian sprinter closed the gap, Sky and the lone Ag2r rider who helped in the chase finally slowed down, and therefore the gap went out to 50 seconds.


More riders join the break

The peloton did not give up, and when it began to split up, the pace was increased and the gap came down. Mikel Landa (Sky), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Cummings took off before the Briton continued alone. He was the first to make contact, and later his four companions also made it. However, the bunch was only 12 seconds behind. At the same time, Langeveld abandoned.


Gallopin and Luke Durbridge (Orica-BikeExchange) took off in pursuit of the nine leaders but before they could make the junction, Sagan and Dumoulin took off. While they tried to increase their advantage, the two chasers joined Nibali, Caruso, Izagirre, Matthews, Costa, Landa and Cummings. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and an Etixx-QuickStep rider tried to make it across as they finished the descent but it was only the former two who managed to bridge the gap together with Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE).


Katusha start to chase

There were lots of attacks but the peloton finally slowed down and so the gap went out to almost three minutes. That allowed a group with Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to make it back and so Katusha started to chase with Alberto Losada, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Angel Vicioso.


Katusha chased for a few kilometres but as the gap went out to more than 3 minutes, they gave up almost immediately. Hence, the peloton almost came to a standstill and so a group with Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) made it back. Finally, the gruppetto with André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) also rejoined the main group.


Katusha try again

With 110km to go, the gap had gone out to six minutes and this was the signal for Katusha to start their chase again. Vicioso and Van den Broeck hit the front and kept the gap at around six minutes during the next fifteen kilometres.


With 95km to go, Katusha had not received any help and so they stopped again. Instead, Sky again hit the front but they were absolutely not chasing. Hence, he gap went out to seven minutes before they upped the pace and stabilized the situation.


IAM take the initiative

With 87km to go, IAM decided to go for the stage win with Sondre Holst Enger and so they put Reto Hollenstein and Jerome Coppel on the front. They slowly reduced the gap from seven minutes to 6.35 when they reached the intermediate sprint. Here no one wanted to challenge Sagan who rolled across the line in first position followed by Matthews, Caruso and Boasson Hagen.


IAM went all in as they lined out most of their team on the front and Leigh Howard and Stef Clement started to work with their teammates Hollenstein and Coppel. However, it didn’t make much of a difference as the gap was still six minutes with 60km to go.


Direct Energie start to chase

The peloton was getting increasingly nervous and the fight for position intensified. At the same time, Direct Energie decided that they believed more in Coquard than in Chavanel and so Thomas Voeckler started to work with the IAM riders in the peloton.


Voeckler’s work paid off as the gap had dropped to 5.15 with 50km to go. At the same time, the cooperation ended in the breakaway where the Orica riders tried to attack twice. However, Sagan shut everything down.


The peloton splits

The progress of the peloton stopped and the gap was still 4.45 as they entered the final 40km. Ten kilometres later, Direct Energie decided to go all in as Romain Sicard and Antoine Duchesne came to the fore to work with Voeckler, Howard, Coppel, Hollenstein and Clement.


The effort paid off as the gap came down to 3.55 and it continued to fall when the peloton approached a windy section. Things got extremely nervous and as all the big teams gathered on the front, lots of riders were dropped in the windy conditions.


Sagan splits the group

With 22km to go, Sagan decided that it was time to split the group and Chavanel, Gallopin, Cummings, Costa and Caruso fell off immediately. Nieve and Nibali were the next to get dropped and finally Izagirre also had to surrender, leaving just seven riders to press on. Nibali, Landa and later Izagirre were picked up by the rest of the chasers.


There was no cooperation in the chase group which and so they were already a minute behind when they entered the final 20km. Nibali briefly tried to bridge across on his own but it was impossible.


After the nervous moment, the peloton almost came to a standstill and as the pace went down, a regrouping took place. It was just a matter of keeping the captains in position and so the gap had gone out to 5.45 with 15 km to go. At that point, it was clear that the escapees would decide the stage and the exciting finale started.



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