Aussie slams rivals for 'risking their lives' in Tour
AUSTRALIAN Michael Matthews has lashed his sprint rivals, accusing them of "risking their lives" after another hectic day in the Tour de France.
German powerhouse Marcel Kittel won his second stage of the race, kicking clear from Arnaud Demare and Andre Greipel in the final frantic metres to salute in Troyes.
But Matthews (Team Sunweb) was irritated at his competitors and his teammates after finishing seventh and losing ground in the fight for the sprinters' green jersey.
"Everyone is just taking so much risk and for me as a sprinter, as I showed yesterday, I need to start my sprint from the front," Matthews told the Herald Sun.
"I'm not a guy that can headbutt people or elbow people to get into position. I think that's where I lost a really good position today.
"We just need to be in better position in the big sprints because I'm not really a guy whose going to go crazy in the last few kays and risk my life for top five or top three.
"I think we really need to work on nailing that leadout and that's how I'll get the best results.
"I have the legs to do it, I just need to be in the right position."
The long and flat 216km trek from Vesoul was raced conservatively in temperatures reaching 37C, but a sedate day meant the sprinters teams were fresh and a furious run-in on narrow roads made it a game of who wanted it more.
"I think with stages like this when it's so easy all day, everyone is stressed earlier obviously," Matthews said.
"I think the final (push) started with 50km to go. On these small roads everyone wants to be in position so they use a lot of their guys to get in position and then it comes to the final and no one has a leadout left so it's down to the individual sprinter. These days it seems they're willing to risk their lives."
German fast man John Degenkolb, involved in the nasty crash that saw Peter Sagan disqualified, agreed.
"The level of sprinting is so high here at the Tour, even if two guys are missing it's still a crazy high level," Degenkolb said.
"It was super, super fast."
Demare's leadout man Jacopo Guarnieri, meanwhile, was furious with French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni.
"Bouhanni is an idiot. He didn't just pass me, he also put his knee into my bars," Guarnieri said.
"He's a dick. He's always making people crash. We know he's like that. He's probablty upset with us because he always loses."
Matthews had earlier claimed second in a chasing group on the intermediate sprint, but his disappointing finish means the gap in the points classification between himself and Demare and Kittel increased.
"I had good confidence after (the intermediate sprint) for the final sprint, but like every other time I just had to start from too far back," Matthews said.
"The competition is obviously really high. There's so many sprints and there's so many big sprinters here."
But Matthews wasn't confident of reducing the deficit, believing this year's course wasn't suited to his characteristics - a puncher who thrives on harder finishes.
"We've been chipping away at it, but it's going to be difficult with so many flat sprints at this Tour de France," he said.
"Normally there's more opportunities for the intermediate stages in the Tour, but unfortunately this year there's not so many. It makes it a little bit harder for a rider like me, I guess."
There was no change in the general classification, with Chris Froome retaining the yellow jersey and Richie Porte happy to finish safely.
"It was a such long day. It was one of those days where you say there's nothing to gain, but so much to lose," Porte said.
Another long and flat stage - 213.5km from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges - awaits the riders on Friday before the race returns to the mountains on Saturday.