Michael Matthews: 'It's harder to win when you're the stage favourite'

Planning pays off perfectly for Australian rider

Michael Matthews on the podium after winning stage 14 of the Tour de France
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Australian Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), winner of stage 14 of the Tour de France to Rodez on Saturday, says that his victory was made harder by being touted as the favourite coming into the stage.

Matthews blasted ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) to win the violent 500-metre uphill kick.

>>> Chris Froome sensationally retakes Tour de France race lead as Matthews wins stage 14

"I think with being clear favourite it makes it difficult because everyone has probably been talking about you leading to the stage because everyone's eyes are on you," Matthews said.

"Not that they follow in the final, but try and get in front of you and make it harder for you to win. Luckily, I had some legs left to zip around to the front and get back in third wheel and do my sprint properly."

Matthews, 26, won a stage of last year's race while at Orica-BikeExchange, before switching to to Sunweb this winter. He had some pressure taken off him with team-mate Warren Barguil's win in Foix 24 hours ago, but was still a marked man.

Watch: Tour de France stage 14 highlights

He and Greg Van Avermaet were two stand out favourites for the uphill finish, similar to the former Amstel Gold Race Cauberg conclusion. They both knew the arrival, with Van Avermaet having won ahead of Peter Sagan on the same finish in 2015.

"We discussed with BMC that we both had the same goal. In the end, we just decided to work together," he added. "We said to each other we would stick together in the final and hopefully work together and stick to the front."

"No one else were going to help me and Van Avermaet because were he favourites today"

>>> Chris Froome: 'I never dreamt I'd take 24 seconds out of Aru'

They brought back the escape in the last five kilometres. The speeds and pressure grew with the classification men like Chris Froome, who regained the yellow jersey today, near the front with their team.

"We knew we had a good chance today. We put all the eggs in the basket today," he said.

"It was getting a little hectic there but I had Nikias Arndt to support me. Impressive to have a guy to support me in that final, no one else had team-mate."

>>> Five talking points from stgae 14 of the Tour de France

Matthews rode the stage in 2015, but at that point he did not figure due to rib fractures and could only manage 17th.

"Using that knowledge I had from 2015. I wasn't able to test it properly with four broken ribs, but it was nice to do for 'recon' for this year."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.