By Martyn Herman
ROMANS-SUR-ISERE, France – Australian Michael Matthews accused German rival John Degenkolb of being a poor sport after his angry reaction to being beaten in a sprint for the line at the end of a windy 16th stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday.
Sunweb rider Matthews won his second stage of the race after his team mates set a scorching pace at the head of the peloton to take the sting out of the challenge of points leader Marcel Kittel, who was dropped during the stage.
In the sprint to the line he edged out Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), who clashed with Matthews as the riders came to a stop, accusing him of veering towards him on the high-speed dash for the line.
“He grabbed me by the neck. The officials saw that. I don’t know what they’re going to do about it,” Matthews who is second in the race for the green points jersey, behind Kittel, said.
“It was not very sportsmanlike.”
Degenkolb gesticulated at Matthews as the pair crossed the line, appearing to indicate that he felt the Australian had pushed him dangerously close to the barriers.
“From my perspective I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “I started my sprint and sprinted in a straight line. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but that’s up to him.
“If I had done anything wrong the race officials would have told me.”
Kittel, who suffered in the hot cross-winds that played havoc with the peloton, has 373 points in the green jersey race with Matthews on 344.
Matthews said with so few stages left he would be hunting high and low for points over the next few days as he tries to snatch the green top from powerhouse Kittel, who has already won five stages at this year’s event.
The Australian believes his versatility gives him chances.
TEAM TIME TRIAL
“It’s nice to have a lot of tools but that means I don’t have a rest day,” he said. “Kittel is the fastest guy on the flats, so I won’t beat him on those, but I need to get points everywhere else, like the hilly stages and uphill sprints.
“He has his game plan and we have ours and we’ll see which one is best in Paris.”
Matthews paid glowing tribute to his team who turned the last part of the stage into a team time trial — setting an incredible pace over the final 30km.
“Once we heard that there were splits in the peloton we were all really motivated to push on and extend the gap,” he said.
“From then on it was an eight-man team time trial to the finish and I was able to finish off the job in the last 500 meters. I’m so grateful for these opportunities.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Neville Dalton)