RODEZ, France (AFP) — Michael Matthews said Saturday he’d had to quit the Australian Orica team to improve his chances of winning races.
Matthews won stage 14 of the Tour de France, dominating Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in an uphill sprint finish in Rodez.
Afterward, the Aussie said his move from Orica to German team Sunweb made all difference.
“For sure, one of the reasons I changed to this team, Sunweb, was because they were willing to give me a lot of guys to support me in races like this,” said the 26-year-old, known as ‘Bling’ by some for his flashy lifestyle.
“Orica had different goals, so I decided to come here where I’ll get a lot of opportunities.
“It’s been a great experience so far with a great group of guys.”
Matthews actually won a Tour stage last year with Orica. He also won stages at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, the other two grand tours.
But Orica has targeted overall success with young Briton Simon Yates, currently seventh overall, with his twin brother Adam having finished fourth overall last year. Orica also has talented Colombian climber Esteban Chaves. Although he is struggling at this Tour, he was second in last year’s Giro and then third at the Vuelta.
But now with a team used to dedicating its efforts to sprint finishes — Sunweb won four sprint stages in each of 2013 and 2014 with Marcel Kittel — Matthews feels he has more chances to shine.
Even French climber Warren Barguil, who won his first Tour stage on Friday on Bastille Day, was put to Matthews’s service.
“We put all the eggs in the baskets for me today. Even Warren went back to get the bottles with 30km to go and managed to get back to the peloton when riders were getting dropped.”
It made for an incredible couple of days for the Sunweb team after Barguil’s stage 13 victory.
“I’m relieved, happy, amazed — there’s a few really nice words I can say but in the end I’m just super happy to get this win for the team,” added Matthews. “They’ve been working so hard in this Tour de France. To get two in a row, we couldn’t have asked for a better two days.”
Matthews took 30 points on the line towards the green sprinter’s jersey competition. He remains 99 points behind Quick-Step’s Marcel Kittel, a winner already of five stages at this Tour.
And the Australian admitted he has little chance of winning that jersey.
“He’s still quite a long way in front with those flat sprints. He’s won almost every one of them,” said Matthews. “It’s always an uphill battle with 50 points on flat stages and 30 points on these ones [intermediate stages].
“We’ll have to keep trying and see what comes. It’s not over until Paris.”