Michael Matthews came to this race in a confused frame of mind. With the Sunweb team putting all their eggs in the Tom Dumoulin basket for the Tour, once the Dutch team leader cracked and withdrew before the Grand Départ in Brussels, it left the former green jersey winner scratching his head and wondering what he was doing there.
With no specific sprint training in his legs but plenty of climbing and TTT work, Matthews had transformed himself into a willing helper and effectively scuppered his chances of any personal glory for the best part of the season. Now, it seemed, it was all for naught.
So good, then, to see the three-time Tour stage winner right in the mix on the nasty little kicker closing today’s stage to Épernay. Had the majestic Julian Alaphillipe not cleared off up the road with 15km remaining, it would have been the man with the rather irritating nickname of ‘Bling’ putting his arms in the air.
He finished ahead of the likes of Sagan, Van Aert, Van Avermaet, Stuyven – and that shows the kind of form he’s got for a finish like this.
Hopefully, today’s performance has given the Australian a nice little boost. A stage win is just around the corner, for sure.
We might need a golden banana for Bling.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition
Tour de France 2019, Rouleur Top Bananas:
Stage 1 – Greg Van Avermaet
Stage 2 – Tony Martin