‘GREEN JERSEY IS MINE’
MICHAEL Matthews nearly lost hope of wearing the green jersey; now he vows not to give it up.
The Australian took the Tour de France points classification lead after Wednesday’s 17th stage – won by Primoz Roglic – after Germany’s Marcel Kittel, the winner of five stages this year, crashed and abandoned the tour.
Matthews had gradually whittled down Kittel’s seemingly insurmountable lead, and he has subsequently taken the green jersey after the German’s misfortune.
“I hope Marcel is fine,” Matthews said.
“I heard he crashed when I was already in the breakaway. It’s not nice to get the green jersey in those circumstances but I’ve also fought a lot for having it. “I won’t let it go.” Matthews, on 364 points, has a 160- point advantage over German veteran Andre Greipel with just four stages remaining.
Team Sunweb’s Matthews had moved up to second in the points classification after the ninth stage – the same day star countryman Richie Porte crashed out. He has also benefited from the absences of sprint heavyweights Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Demare, who have also failed to finish the race.
Matthews has starred in his own right by winning two stages ( 14 and 16).
If he holds on, he will be the first Australian to win the green jersey since three- time winner Robbie McEwen’s success in 2006.
Roglic, meanwhile, scaled the race’s highest peak and then barrelled down the other side at 75km/ h while holding off the competition on the famed Galibier climb to win stage 17.
Chris Froome consolidated his overall lead as Fabio Aru lost touch with the three- time champion on the punishing gradients in France’s southern Dauphine Alps.
Froome finished 1min 13sec behind Roglic in a group with Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet, who climbed to second and third overall respectively.
Aru dropped from second to fourth, 53 seconds off the lead.
Uran beat Froome to get six bonus seconds for second place, while the Team Sky leader outsprinted Bardet to the finish line, securing four bonus seconds for placing third on the stage.
NO SURRENDER: Australia's Michael Matthews puts on his green jersey for best sprinter on the podium at the end of the 183km 17th stage of the Tour de France