Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

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.

Pic­ture: AFP

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

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