Matthews is our latest green machine
MICHAEL Matthews was partying in Paris last night after a Tour de France green jersey triumph he hopes can inspire another generation of Aussie sprinters.
Matthews finished safely in a final stage sprint won by Dylan Groenewegen, while Chris Froome's fourth Tour crown was cemented on the famous Champs-Elysees.
Matthews walked on to the podium with the national flag around his shoulders as the first Australian to win the green jersey since Robbie McEwen in 2006.
"I think I've worked really hard to get to this point and cycling in Australia has helped me also to get to this point,” Matthews said.
"Hopefully we can really enjoy it and we can even get better from it. What's it been? Eleven years since an Aussie has won the green jersey? Hopefully we've ended that dry spell now.”
So overjoyed was the Canberra-born, Monaco resident that he had to be told to get off the podium.
"I was trying to soak it up as much as I could,” he said.
"I actually wanted to stay a little bit longer. I didn't want to get off because the crowd was going quite crazy and I really enjoy that.
"It went a little bit too fast.”
While Matthews benefited from the early disqualification of world champion and five-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan, along with crash victims Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, his consistency in a volatile race made him a worthy winner of the race's most prestigious jersey behind yellow.
The Aussie trailed a seemingly unbeatable German Kittel by 133 points after stage 11, but clawed his way back by hunting intermediate points on mountain stages, while winning two stages himself.
Matthews' wife Kat said she knew her husband had it in him.
"He is a fighter. He was never going to give up,” she said. "I can't even describe how proud I am of him.”
Matthews said he was motivated by good friend and Australian title contender Richie Porte, who crashed out of the Tour on stage nine and faces a long recovery.
"When the accident happened, straight after he was still super motivated for me to achieve my dreams and that shows what a true champion he really is,” Matthews said.
"For him to keep believing in me after his dreams got taken away, it's pretty special for me.
"I know how hard he was working for this Tour de France and what sort of shape he was in. He would have given Froomey a real run for the jersey.”
Froome's fourth title in five years was a reminder of his enduring supremacy, with the Brit making a mockery of a previously winless 2017 with a Tour in which he was in yellow for 15 of 21 days.
The Brit took the traditional sip of champagne at yesterday's stage start in Montgeron before soaking up the atmosphere in Paris.
"The Champs-Elysees never disappoints. There's just something magical about it when you've spent three weeks thinking about being here in this moment. It's just so rewarding every time,” Froome said.
"Each time I've won the Tour it's been so unique. So different and such a different battle to get to this moment. They're all so special in their own way.
"This year, I think, will be remembered for being the closest and most hard-fought battle between the GC (general classification) rivals.
"Definitely a celebration is overdue. I'm looking forward to it.”
Dutchman Groenewegen also had reason to celebrate, winning his first Tour de France stage on its most famous setting.
"It's a perfect day. It's a dream,” Groenewegen said.
"When I was a kid I watched the Champs Elysees stage of the Tour on the television, so to win here today is an amazing feeling.”