Groenewegen came close to making it a fairy tale finish in Paris, but he was edged out at the line by Belgian sprinter Jasper Philipsen.
“The team today was really brilliant,” said Groenewegen after finishing the final stage. “I went a bit too early [in the sprint] but there was no other option I think. Sometimes you are lucky, today we are second.”
Despite the disappointment of not getting the win in Paris, Groenewegen and the whole team could look back on plenty of highlights at the year’s biggest stage race. “I signed seven months ago with the team, and now we did one of the best lead-outs,” Groenewegen said. “I’m really, really thankful for that, for this big chance. We have two stage victories for the team, and we are really proud. And now we are going to celebrate.”
Aiming for Stage Wins
Groenewegen and Australian Michael Matthews fulfilled the team’s goal to contest stages and go for wins throughout the Tour. Each scored a victory and several near misses, keeping the team at the front of the action throughout the Tour.
It was Groenewegen who kicked things off when he won Stage 3 in Sønderborg on the opening week of the Tour in Denmark. Riding the new Propel Advanced SL team bike with a CADEX WheelSystem, the Dutchman blasted past Belgian Wout van Aert and seven-time Tour de France points classification winner Peter Sagan to earn his first Tour stage win since 2019.
“It’s been a big comeback for Dylan,” said Team BikeExchange-Jayco head sports director Matt White after that breakthrough win. “It’s never easy changing teams and he’s worked very, very hard this year and we’ve got a really strong, committed group around him.”
The team’s next big chance came on Stage 6, a tough 220km race from Binche to Longwy. Matthews put in a strong ride to finish second to two-time defending Tour champion Tadej Pogacar, who took the yellow jersey by edging out Matthews in an uphill sprint to the finish. Two days later, the Australian again came close to winning when he finished to Wout van Aert on Stage 8.
“I did my best,” Matthews said after his second near miss. “The team rode a great race to lead me to where I needed to be, and it’s second again. Hopefully I’m knocking on the door of that win.”
Two days later, the team scored another agonizingly close second-place finish when Australian Nick Schultz, riding his first-ever Tour de France, came within centimeters of a win on Stage 10. The 27-year-old made it into the day’s main breakaway with teammate Jack Bauer and nearly won the 148km stage.
Schultz made all the right moves in the uphill finish, going clear on the approach to Mègeve. The stage came down to a dramatic duel between the Australian and Danish rider Magnus Cort, with Schultz eventually settling for second place.
“It was almost perfect, but we know Magnus Cort, he has won stages in grand tours before, and he was just the better man,” said Schultz. “I am really happy with second, but to be honest I am also really upset. It is not like every day you get to win a stage of the Tour de France. I will keep trying and see where we get to.”
Breakthrough for Bling
With two second-place finishes already, Matthews was showing that he clearly had the form to do something special. A former Tour de France points classification winner who excels in tough, classics type races, he had eyed Stage 14 from Sainte-Étienne to Mende as his next opportunity. The 192km route took riders across the Massif Central, covering 192km including five categorized climbs and 11,000 feet of vertical ascent in scorching hot temperatures.
The Australian went to work early, joining a large breakaway group that split off the front early. Then, with 50km to go, Matthews launched a gutsy solo attack. He was eventually joined by three others as they approached the final climb to the Mende Aerodrome.
Matthews had to dig deep on the final climb after Italian Albert Bettiol attacked. Riding the new Giant Propel Advanced SL aero road bike with a CADEX WheelSystem, he was able to reel in the Italian, then surge ahead in the final kilometer. He crossed the finish line solo, spread his arms wide, looked to the sky, and savored his fourth career win at the Tour and his first since 2017.
“I think this is pretty much the story of my career,” said Matthews, who also wore the new Giant Surge Pro shoes and Rev Pro helmet to take the win. “I’ve had so many rollercoasters, ups and downs. How many times I’ve been smashed down, to all the time get back up.”
After the finish in Paris, team owner Gerry Ryan said it was the strongest effort he’s seen yet from the team. “It was a fantastic Tour and I’ve never seen any team that I’ve been involved with work so well together,” he said. “The bonding from the first day, to now, is pretty special. Two stage wins and four seconds, we’re going to come back next year and be a lot stronger. It’s very exciting times ahead.”