Aussie Michael Matthews ends his run of Tour misfortunes

After so much bad luck at the Tour de France, Michael Matthews believed he was jinxed.

Two years ago, the Australian rider crashed days before he was scheduled to take a flight to the start of the Tour in England and had to pull out before the race.

Matthews eventually made his Tour debut last year but broke four ribs in a crash in the third stage, and struggled on until the finish.

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This month, the Australian crashed twice and thought about retiring on Sunday after the toughest Pyrenean stage.

No wonder he struggled to believe that he finally won a Tour stage yesterday.

“It’s unbelievable. I was close to giving in at this race,” Matthews said after edging world champion Peter Sagan in the southern town of Revel. “I thought maybe this race is not for me, and I’d focus on other races. But today my dream comes true. I just won a stage of the Tour de France after two really bad years in this race.”

Matthews, who was also involved in the high-speed crash in the Milan-San Remo classic this season, profited from the work of his teammates to win the 10th stage after a long breakaway.

Sagan, who attacked from the start in the Andorran town of Escaldes-Engordany, rode at the front throughout the 197-kilometre trek in rainy conditions, but was overpowered in the final sprint. He finished second, followed by Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Finishing nine minutes, 39 seconds behind in the main peloton, Chris Froome kept the yellow jersey. The two-time Tour champion has a 16-second overall lead over fellow Briton Adam Yates, with Irish rider Dan Martin in third place, 19 seconds behind. Froome’s main rival Nairo Quintana sits fourth, 23 seconds back.

A group of six riders including Matthews’ team-mates Daryl Impey and Luke Durbridge fought for the stage victory in a frenzied finale. Sagan tried to make the most of a small climb nine kilometres before the line but failed to surprise his rivals with his acceleration. Impey countered the move, Durbridge then tried another attack to wear out Sagan, and the small group stayed compact until the final kilometre.

Impey then perfectly set up Matthews in the final section before Greg Van Avermaet launched the sprint in the final 200 metres. Matthews followed and easily passed Sagan to exact revenge after finishing runner-up to the Slovak in the world championships last year.