Michael Matthews sprinted to victory in Revel in the 10th stage of the 2016 Tour de France. The crème-de-la-crème of an already-strong escape included several fast finishers, though with the help of two teammates, Bling held off the likes of Peter Sagan and Greg van Avermaet to record his maiden Tour win.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
Though it was Michael Matthews whose name will be in the headlines tonight, this victory was as much the work of his Orica-BikeExchange teammates as his own. They executed a textbook breakaway strategy to perfection, and it’s only right we break with tradition to give them a Team of the Race prize.
The Australian outfit managed to sneak Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey into the escape alongside Matthews, and they were both strong enough to stay at the front when the breakaway splintered in the final 20km. From there, they took it in turns to beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and company into submission, hitting their breakaway companions with attack after attack. Matthews, meanwhile, could sit on the wheels and watch, preserving his energy for the dash to the line.
The day’s stage finished in a town called Revel – a word which shares an etymology with the Old French reveler: “be disorderly, make merry; rebel, be riotous.” Orica have certainly earned the right to be so at the team hotel tonight. Champagne, s’il vous plaît!
A strong selectionEmbed from Getty Images
This stage was down in the official roadbook as a medium mountain stage, but that’s slightly misleading: it wasn’t particularly mountainous at all. Once the peloton had dispatched the first category Port d’Envirala after just 24km – the highest point of this year’s race – they enjoyed a long descent out of the Andorran principality and a fairly flat run towards the third category Côte de Saint-Ferréol inside the final 15km of the stage. It was rolling, but the slightly climbier (to use a technical term) sprinters like Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) fancied their chances.
In short, that a breakaway would survive was far from a foregone conclusion. And in the end, perhaps the only reason that it did was because it was exceptionally strong; indeed, Christian Vande Velde described it as the best he’d ever seen:
It certainly was a mighty fine breakaway, with nigh-on 50 individual grand tour stage wins distributed between its components – including riders like Steven Cummings (Dimension Data) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC), who have already recorded victories so far at this Tour. It meant that they were always able to maintain a comfortable advantage over the peloton, who gave up a half-hearted chase with around 20km to go to the finish – just as a Sagan attack split the escape in two.
Crosswind crisis avertedEmbed from Getty Images
Though the sprinters may be slightly disappointed to have seen one of their few opportunities disappear, Chris Froome (Sky) and his rivals for the maillot jaune will certainly have been relieved that the quick men abandoned their chase prematurely. Strong crosswinds could have played havoc with a peloton going full tilt, though as it was, they stayed safely bunched to the finish. What could have been a stressful day instead turned into a fairly innocuous one. It’s a pity: we’ve perhaps had a few too many of those at this race so far.
1 Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) 4:22:38
2 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) same time
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) s/t
4 Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
5 Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
GC top 5
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 49:08:20
2 Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +00:16
3 Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) +00:19
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:23
5 Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +00:37
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
KOM jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Best Young Rider: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
For full stage review: CyclingNews
Header image: © LeTour/Twitter