Michael Matthews wins Tour de France Stage 10 after long breakaway

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REVEL, France — Michael Matthews profited from the work of his teammates to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish after a long breakaway on Tuesday.

The Australian rider edged world champion Peter Sagan and Edvald Boasson Hagen to claim his first stage win at cycling’s biggest race.

The stage took the riders from Escaldes-Engordany in Andorra on a 197-kilometer trek to Revel in the south of France.

Matthews was part of a group of early breakaway riders during the 24-kilometer climb to the Port d’Envalira, the highest climb of the Tour at 2,408 meters.

Finishing 9 minutes, 39 seconds in the main peloton behind the breakaway, defending champion Chris Froome kept the yellow jersey. Froome has a 16-second lead over fellow Briton Adam Yates, with Irish rider Dan Martin in third place, 19 seconds behind.

A group of six riders including Matthews’ teammates, Daryl Impey and Luke Durbridge, fought for the stage victory in a frenzied finale. Sagan tried to make the most of a small climb nine kilometers before the line but failed to surprise his rivals with his acceleration. Impey countered the move, Durbridge then tried another attack to wear out Sagan, and the small group stayed compact until the final kilometer.

Impey then perfectly set up Matthews in the final section.

“It’s unbelievable. I was close to giving in at this race after I had two bad crashes two and one years ago,” Matthews said.

“I thought, maybe this race is not for me, but today my dream comes true. It was never the plan to go for a breakaway today. We wanted a bunch sprint finish but we’re such a strong group of guys. Durbridge and Impey gave me everything to win. I have no word to describe what they did for me.”

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.