Tour de France 2017: Michael Matthews Wins Stage 14 as Chris Froome Takes Lead

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2017

Team Sunweb's Australian rider Michael Matthews sprays Cava as he celebrates on the podium after winning the first stage of the 2017 Tour of the Basque country (Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco), a 153.3km route between Iruna and Eguesibar-Sarriguren, near Pamplona on April 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANDER GILLENEA        (Photo credit should read ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images)
ANDER GILLENEA/Getty Images

Team Sunweb rider Michael Matthews powered to victory in Stage 14 of the 2017 Tour de France on Saturday, while Team Sky star Chris Froome reclaimed the general classification lead and yellow jersey from Fabio Aru.

Australian Matthews sprinted to the finish line in Rodez following an uphill battle across two category three climbs, as the Tour's official Twitter account confirmed his first stage win of this year's competition:

Saturday's 181-kilometre route took the riders out of the Pyrenees and toward France's Massif Central, which will provide its first real terrain challenge in Sunday's Stage 15.

Froome again benefited from a bonded Team Sky effort to finish seventh overall and a second behind Matthews, but Aru ending a further 26 seconds behind him gave the Briton the opening he needed to move back into the lead. 

The official Tour de France Twitter account posted Saturday's top 10 finishers:

And this is how the general classification looks after Stage 14:

Four riders set off from Blagnac with swift intentions of distancing themselves from the peloton, and it was Belgian Lotto-Soudal star Thomas De Gendt who pushed the pace for much of the breakaway's assault on hilly terrain.

While that small group drove from the front, green jersey holder Marcel Kittel added to an already impressive tour by winning the intermediate sprint, as depicted by Le Tour Data:

Saturday was always expected to play out like a transition stage, and the lower difficulty of the stage compared to others around this portion of the Tour meant the peloton was happy to bide its time hounding down those out front.

Two category three climbs only 15 kilometres apart featured near the climax of the stage, and it was agonising to see De Gendt only lose his momentum after clearing both ascents still at the head of the pack, via ITV Cycling:

The road into Rodez laid on one more downhill sprint to make for a grand crescendo, however, and Matthews had a raft of world-class talent for opposition coming into the closing kilometres of his first 2017 Tour stage victory.

Despite that overshadowing from his peers, however, the man from Down Under showed great perseverance to maintain a winning pace and snatch a second successive stage win for Team Sunweb following Warren Barguil's win on Friday:

Per the Tour's official website, Matthews referred to Saturday's result as a "dream come true":

"It went as expected. We rode all day. We kept the breakaway so close, I knew I'd very few team mates at the end, but still I had 2-3 guys with me in the final. It's a sweet day. Last time here, two years ago, I had four broken ribs. It was the stage I targeted before I crashed. To come back and win is a dream come true."

Sunday's Stage 15 is likely to be a considerably more testing trip to Le Puy en Velay, which is almost bookended by category one ascents before Monday brings the second and final rest day.

Tensions are rising with less than a week now left in the 2017 Tour de France, meaning those desperate contenders and confident frontrunners alike will be pushing to make their moves in order to have any chance at victory. 

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