Matthews Wins Stage 16 of Tour de France
Following the second rest day of the Tour de France 2017, today's 165 km stage 16 from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère began with a twenty kilometer ascent. Having used the rest day to recover as much as possible, numerous riders attacked from the very beginning of the stage. The fast pace in the uphill section proved too much for the points classification leader Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors Pro Cycling Team) who quickly got dropped in his green outfit.
This prompted Team Sunweb to go to the front in order to pull for their designated sprinter, Michael Matthews. Team Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings took part in the workload at the front of the peloton, which ultimately saw the group with Kittel getting dropped for good.
In the final 15 kilometers, the peloton split up into several groups in the crosswinds, riding in echelons, leaving just a dozen of riders at the front. Riders such as Chris Froome (Team Sky Pro Cycling), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Michael Matthews and Edwald Boasson Hagen made the cut, while other famous riders such as Daniel Martin did not. Martin, therefore, lost valuable time in the general classification following today's stage.
"It was a really tough stage and we suffered out there. It was difficult without Matteo (Trentin) and Philippe, who were forced to say goodbye to the race earlier. Their presence would have probably made the difference today," Martin explained to Roadcycling.com. "Can't say it's the best situation for us, but the team is upbeat and optimistic about our chances now that the race is heading into the Alps for two days," Martin added.
Daniele Bennati (Movistar) tried to take the front group by surprise in the last two kilometers of the stage, but Dimension Data's Janse van Rensburg closed him down and delivered Boasson Hagen in a good position for the sprint. Unfortunately, the strong Norwegian lost a few positions in the final corners but thanks to a powerful sprint, he still managed to take second place, narrowly beaten by Matthews. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) finished third.
Froome finished in the front group and thereby kept the yellow jersey for another day. Tomorrow, the Tour de France peloton will take on the first big stage in the Alps. Wednesday's stage 17 will be 183 kilometers long and and features four difficult climbs on the route between La Mure and Serre-Chevalier.
“I believe these next two days are the biggest consecutive days in this year’s Tour de France. It’s hard to say exactly how selective they will be, or whether it will be a case of the four of us who are all within half a minute just chasing each other’s shadows. Or it could be blown wide open – that still remains to be seen."
"But on the upside I think both myself and Mikel Landa are feeling great coming into this last week of the race. Certainly for me that was the goal for of my preparations for the Tour – to come into the third week feeling the way I’m feeling now. I’m quite looking forward these next few days in the Alps now," Froome added.
"It was quite a crazy stage today. With the selection coming not long after that climb with 20 kilometers to go, it meant that quite a lot of the GC guys were actually quite far up in the bunch, ready for that split. So maybe there weren’t the biggest differences on the GC that we could have expected on a crosswind stage, but at the same time I think a few guys on the top 10 – Dan Martin, Louis Meintjes – did get caught out unfortunately for them," Froome concluded.
"I am in a very good condition. We will see what happens in the Alps. You can be quite relaxed when you are well and when you can be with the best riders in the mountains," fourth place GC challenger Rigoberto Uran of Team Cannondale-Drapac said.
"I feel good, and the team is very strong. I want to keep improving as I'm close to the podium and am only 29 seconds back from yellow. It’s not much," Cannondale-Drapac's Uran added.
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