Extra tools means less rest for Matthews

Michael Matthews (AP)
Michael Matthews (AP)

Romans-sur-Isre - Michael Matthews won his second stage of this year's Tour de France on Tuesday to reignite the sprinters' green jersey competition.

A few days ago, German Marcel Kittel seemed to have that competition sewn up on the back of five stage wins and a 128-point lead over Matthews.

But he's picked up only 10 points over the last four stages as Matthews has won two of them and closed the gap to just 29 points.

And it's the Australian's all-round ability that has allowed him to come on strong, getting away on the day's break and fighting for points on undulating terrain that leaves the burly German lagging.

"It's nice to have a lot of tools in the toolbox but it also doesn't give you a rest day," said Matthews, 26.

"Kittel is obviously the fastest guy on flat stages, I'm probably not going to beat him on those stages, so I need to go get points everywhere else, where he's not going to be.

"So where it's hilly, I need to go in the breakaway every day and survive the climbs.

"It's two totally different gameplans -- he has his gameplan and I have mine. We'll see in Paris whose works best."

Kittel, 29, insisted he never believed the race was over, despite his big lead.

"Now it's getting more and more tight -- I was probably right to say it would be decided on the Champs Elysees," said the German.

The next two stages are in the high mountains where Kittel will be unlikely to pick up any points.

It means Matthews could even take over the green jersey if he does well in the next two intermediate sprints.

But Friday's stage 19 and Sunday's finale in Paris clearly favour Kittel -- and with a maximum 50 points available on each of those compared to just 20 in the intermediate sprints, the German remains in pole position to win the jersey.

But after five years of Peter Sagan dominating the green jersey competition, Matthews said at least the fans are getting something to be excited about this year.

"It's still gong to be difficult (to win), there are still two totally flat sprints with Paris and stage 19," he said.

"It's not over yet but for sure it's exciting for the crowd now. The last five years the same guy was dominating but now two guys are fighting all the way to Paris -- so it's going to be exciting."

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