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Aussie Michael Matthews wins Tour de France Stage 10 after long breakaway

Australias Michael Matthews celebrates on Tuesday as he crosses the finish line to win the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 197 kilometers (122.4 miles) with start in Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra, and finish in Revel, France. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
Australias Michael Matthews celebrates on Tuesday as he crosses the finish line to win the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 197 kilometers (122.4 miles) with start in Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra, and finish in Revel, France. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
Samuel Petrequin Associated Press

REVEL, France – Michael Matthews profited from the work of his teammates Tuesday to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish after a long breakaway.

The Australian rider edged world champion Peter Sagan and Edvald Boasson Hagen to claim his first stage win at cycling’s biggest race.

The stage took the riders from Escaldes-Engordany in Andorra on a 197-kilometer trek to Revel in the south of France.

Matthews was part of an early breakaway during the 24-kilometer climb to the Port d’Envalira, the highest climb of the Tour at 2,408 meters.

“I just won a stage of the Tour de France after two really bad years in this race,” Matthews said. “I was really close to giving in on this race. I just thought this race is maybe not for me, and I’d focus on other races. But today my dreams came true.”

Finishing 9 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.

A group of six riders including Matthews’ teammates, 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 kilometers 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 kilometer.

Impey then perfectly set up Matthews in the final section.

“We have such a strong group of guys here,” Matthews said. “The way we work as a team, whoever’s up on that day we give that rider 110 percent. You could see Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey today, they gave me their everything. There are no words.”

The stage started with a flurry of attacks in the climb to the Port d’Envalira. Sagan was in the thick of the action as the air started to thin out. Former world champion Rui Costa then surged from the leading group and crested the summit with a one-minute gap.

He was joined by Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, and Matthews in the highly technical descent to the spa town of Ax-les-Thermes, made even more dangerous by the thick fog at the top. Several riders bridged the breakaway group, which passed by the characteristic and colorful cafes of Ax-les-Thermes at full speed with the main peloton in its wake.

Sagan and French sprinter Samuel Dumoulin vainly tried to go clear and were reined in by the lead group in the head wind. With no general classification contenders among the leaders, Team Sky did not narrow the gap, and the 15 riders at the front built a lead of seven minutes with 90 kilometers left.

Sagan then secured the green jersey by winning the intermediate sprint at Aigues-Vives, earning 20 more points in the best sprinters’ classification.

Back at the peloton, IAM Cycling and Direct Energie accelerated the tempo in rainy conditions and the gap dropped under five minutes with 45 kilometers to go. But under pressure of being caught, the breakaway riders started to collaborate more until Sagan accelerated with 25 kilometers left, going clear in the small group that eventually fought for the stage win.

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