Matthews had been knocking on the door since the start of this year’s Tour, riding aggressively and scoring two agonizingly close second-place finishes on Stage 6 and Stage 8. Showing terrific form and an attacking style, it was only a matter of time before the 31-year-old Australian broke through for the win.
That breakthrough came on Saturday’s Stage 14, a tough 192km race through the Massif Central that featured five categorized climbs and 11,000 feet of vertical gain. Riding his Giant Propel Advanced SL with a superlight CADEX 36 WheelSystem, Matthews was part of a large breakaway group that split off the front early. He launched a solo attack with 50km to go and was eventually joined by three others as they approached the final climb to the Mende Aerodrome.
Matthews had to dig deep on the final climb after Italian Albert Bettiol attacked, but he was able to reel in the Italian, then surge ahead in the final kilometer. Crossing the finish line solo, the Australian spread his arms wide, looked to the sky, and savored his first Tour stage in five years.
“I think this is pretty much the story of my career,” said Matthews. “I’ve had so many rollercoasters, ups and downs. How many times I’ve been smashed down, to all the time get back up. I was just thinking of my daughter on that final climb, all the way up to the finish, and my wife. How much sacrifice they make for me to make my dreams come true, hopefully today I showed them the reason why we sacrifice so much.”
The win by Matthews was the team’s second so far in this year’s Tour, following a Stage 3 sprint victory by Dylan Groenewegen. The team came into the race aiming for stage wins, and the riders have fought hard to be part of the action as much as possible.
In addition to Matthews’ two near misses, the team’s lone first-year Tour rider, Australian Nick Schultz, also came within centimeters of a win on Stage 10. The 27-year-old made it into the day’s main breakaway with teammate Jack Bauer and nearly won the 148km stage.
Schultz made all the right moves in the uphill finish, going clear on the approach to Mègeve. The stage came down to a dramatic duel between the Australian and Danish rider Magnus Cort.
“It was almost perfect, but we know Magnus Cort, he has won stages in grand tours before, and he was just the better man,” said Schultz, who also rode the new Giant Propel Advanced SL team bike with a CADEX WheelSystem. “I am really happy with second, but to be honest I am also really upset. It is not like every day you get to win a stage of the Tour de France. I will keep trying and see where we get to.”
More opportunities lie ahead as the race heads into the Pyrenees and toward the finish in Paris on July 24.