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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 14: Michael Matthews wins solo in Mende

The Australian put in a fine performance to drop his breakaway companions.

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Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) took one of the finest victories of his career with an impressive solo effort into Mende on stage 14 of the Tour de France.

Matthews was part of a large breakaway that went clear after around 40k to go and the Australian then attacked that group with just over 50k to go. He was joined by several riders but a late attack on the Montée Jalabert was enough to deliver him to victory.

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) finished second after initially catching and passing Matthews on the final climb, with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) taking third.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) rode across the line together well over 12 minutes behind Matthews. The pair went clear on the final climb after Pogačar put in a string of big attacks and dropped the other GC riders. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was one of those distanced and he rolled over the line some 17 seconds behind the duo.

“I think it’s pretty much the story of my career, I’ve had so many rollercoasters up and down but my wife and my daughter kept believing in me,” Matthews said. “How many times I’ve been smashed down, I’ve got back up. This is for my daughter today. She’s four years old, I’m away all the time and I really wanted to show her what I do it for. Today was that day.

“After yesterday, I think that was a big opportunity missed. Yesterday was a really good stage for me and this three-day block from yesterday through to tomorrow is what our team was aiming for in the second week. Yesterday went so badly for myself, the team rode in the final to bring back the sprint for Dylan a bit too late. Today, I just knew that it was probably going to be my last chance. Into Lausanne, it was a good opportunity, and I came off second to Tadej in another stage. I was running out of chances in this Tour de France. I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just a sprinter. I can ride like I rode today.”

How it happened

With an almost guaranteed assurance that the stage winner would be decided from the breakaway, there was an almighty fight to get into it. There was hardly a moment of rest as rider upon rider tried to force the definitive split.

The pace was so frenetic that television cameras missed second-placed Pogačar making it into a move. The first indication that the Slovenian had gone clear was the sight of Vingegaard chasing down a sizeable group.

Vingegaard had to do it alone as Wout van Aert was up the road with Pogačar and the rest of his Jumbo-Visma teammates appeared to have been caught out by the split. Primož Roglič was one of those caught behind the split and was over two minutes behind at one point. He eventually got back on when the bunch slowed after the breakaway went away following about 40 kilometers of racing.

In total, a whopping 23 riders went up the road, including Bettiol, Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Rigoberto Urán, and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco).

As soon as the breakaway got a gap, Jumbo-Visma spread across the road and the rest of the peloton was happy to ease off the pace. Under the heavy heat that was beating down on the peloton, nobody wanted to expend any unnecessary energy and the gap to the leaders went out quickly into double figures.

With such a large group, it was never going to make it to the finish intact and it was a matter of time before the action kicked off. It started a long way from the finish with just over 50 kilometers to go with Matthews making the most significant attempt.

Repeated attacks in the breakaway

Matthews took almost 30 seconds before the riders behind started trying to bridge across to him. The constant upping in pace as each rider jumped off split the breakaway into many small pieces over the Côte de Grandrieu.

Just three riders were able to get over to Matthews initially, Luis León Sánchez (Bahrain-Victorious), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal). The gap to the chasers behind was still just under 30 seconds as the bridge was made.

In the second breakaway group, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) was put to work but the European time trial champion was in the escape to Alpe d’Huez the day before and his effort wasn’t enough. As the group hit the penultimate climb of the Côte de la Fage, Bettiol upped the pace on the front of the group, splitting it and bringing the gap back to 30 seconds.

After a big turn by Bettiol, Urán launched a stinging attack, which was quickly followed by Pinot, Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech), Meintjes, Soler, and Martinez. While all this was going on, the leading trio maintained their gap over the top of the climb and continued to work well together.

Tired of the pace, Soler attacked over the top of the climb in an effort to get back to the leading group but the run to the final climb was almost all downhill and it would be tough work. He would be caught by remnants of the chasing breakaway group on the descent.

The breakaway would be reduced to just three riders with Kron dropping out after suffering a blown tire on the hot French roads. Despite being one less, the group continued to extend its advantage and had almost 39 seconds inside the final 15 kilometers.

Behind, Jumbo-Visma was keeping a close eye on the gap with Meintjes now coming close to becoming the virtual yellow jersey. The Dutch team turned up the pace over the third category Côte de la Fage, thinning out the peloton and dropping many riders, including Tom Pidcock. The Ineos Grenadiers rider did make it back to the group on the descent.

As the leaders hit the final climb, the gap to the three leaders fell quickly to 17 seconds with Woods putting on a lot of pressure on the front. Sensing the chasers closing in, it was Matthews that put in a surge of pace up front, gapping Sanchez and Großschartner with relative ease.

Attacks continued from behind, with Bettiol setting off after the leaders. The Italian managed to reel in Matthews with just three kilometers remaining, before launching an attack with 2.6k to go. It looked like the Italian had the beating of Matthews but the Australian clawed the gap back and dropped him before the climb was done and rode solo to the line.

With the main peloton still over 13 minutes behind, there was a lot more bike racing to come. Pogačar maintained his promise of taking the race to Vingegaard and attacked several times over the final ascent. While he didn’t manage to shift the yellow jersey from his back wheel, the repeated digs distanced all of the other GC contenders.

The pair sprinted to the line together with Pogačar putting in one last surge to the finish to try and shake off the Dane. Behind, Thomas lost 17 seconds to the duo while Romain Bardet (Team DSM) giving away 28 seconds.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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