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July 18, 2019
Sunweb’s Michael Matthews will no longer focus on racking up points for the green jersey battle at the Tour de France.
As the 28-year-old Australian explained after stage 11, his team has decided to give up on the points classification to instead focus on scoring stage victories with both Matthews and teammates like Cees Bol, who was the team’s featured sprinter on Wednesday.
“I’m too close in the green jersey points for Sagan to let me go in the breakaway, so in the end we have to either keep fighting for the green and give away stage wins, or go for stage wins and give away the green jersey,” Matthews said. “It’s a decision we had to make.”
Matthews, who won the Tour’s green jersey in 2017, came out of the first rest day sitting second in the points classification behind six-time winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Although Matthews seemed like the strongest potential challenger to Sagan’s green jersey dominance, the three-time world champion had already built a sizable lead after only 10 stages. With Sagan tallying 229 points to Matthews’s 167, the green jersey seemed almost out of reach halfway into the race.
On top of that, Matthews has not won a stage so far in this year’s Tour, despite logging seven top 10 finishes, including a runner-up ride on stage 3. In abandoning the battle for green, Sunweb can give other fast finishers waiting in the wings a shot at the flatter stages that suit purer sprinters.
Michael Matthews won the field sprint on stage 3 of the Tour de France, but that was only good enough for second behind Julian Alaphilippe. Photo: Nico Vereecken/PN/Cor Vos © 2019
That led to a role reversal for Matthews and Bol on stage 11. Bol has served as a lead-out man for Matthews so far this Tour, but it was Matthews playing the support rider for Bol in the Toulouse finale on Wednesday.
“It was the team’s idea. On the rest day they came up with the idea and it makes sense,” Matthews said.
“We thought with a short hectic stage maybe it was good to give me a day off and give Cees a chance. He’s a big guy for a stage like this and it was a faster sprinter’s sort of stage so we decided to give him the opportunity.”
The 23-year-old Bol has had a strong neo-pro season so far, with a Nokere Koerse victory and a sprint win on the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California among his 2019 results. In his first sprinting opportunity at the Tour on stage 11, he registered an eighth-place finish after being led out by Matthews.
Matthews said he expects to be fully motivated to continue fighting for his own wins when the opportunities arise moving forward, while also being content to play the support role when the situation calls for it.
“I show the team I’m willing to help them on a stage that suits them better than it suits me,” he said. “That’s what brings the team spirit up, one of the leaders dropping back and saying ‘OK, now we ride for you today, you’ve done some really good work for me, so let’s reverse the roles, have a bit of fun and mix it up a bit.'”