Michael Matthews won his second stage and more importantly significantly reduced his gap to Kittel in the points competition to just 34 points after taking the intermediate sprint too.
Points jersey Marcel Kittel got dropped almost immediately after the hilly start to the stage and despite fervent chasing was never able to get back onto the peloton.
The crosswinds in the latter half of the stage caused havoc with the riders, blowing the peloton into many pieces which saw most of the sprinters distanced along with Dan Martin who lost 48″ to the yellow jersey group, with the other GC riders finishing safely together.
The stage was set up for a sprint finish providing the riders could get over the first two climbs and stay in contention, but the long flat run into the finish was always a potential for crosswinds which can cause splits all over the road and ctach riders out.
The day’s breakaway wasn’t as clean cut as it normally is with the opening kilometres including several attacks from various riders and teams including Thoms De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Steven Cummings (Dimension Data) and Sylvain Chavanel (Dimension Data) but none were able to stick until the climb of the Cote du Boussolet (Cat3) when a group including De Gendt, Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott), Thomas Degend (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Chavanel and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) managed to get away.
Their advantage never got more than 2′ though and despite De Gendt leading them over the climb with a lead of around 1′ the news soon came through to the Sunweb team that green jersey leader Marcel Kittel had been dropped on the climb, prompting them to put riders on the front and push the pace to keep Kittel off the back.
Matthews trails Kittel by 79 points in the points classification so this was a significant development and on the plateau before the next climb the crosswinds blew the peloton into several groups, with sprinters falling off the back and dropping further behind whilst the GC was in the group that was chasing down the break, which was being driven by the entire Sunweb team.
With 125km to go the group containing Kittel was 30″ back on the main peloton and the breakaway was just 40″ to the five leaders, which prompted Chavanel to attack off the front and try to stay away. The pace being set by Sunweb to keep Kittel distanced though was too much for the break and their lead continued to fall with Impey, Degand and Edet being caught shortly after Chavanel’s attack.
De Gendt was swept up next before Chavanel gave up his effort, realising he was fighting a losing battle as the Sunweb team continued to distance Kittel and the chasing group, the gap now going out to almost 1′. With 100km remaining the gap had gone out to 2′ on the Kittel group and Sunweb were being helped on the front by Katusha-Alpecin for Alexander Kristoff and Lotto-Soudal for Andre Greipel, all of the sprinters happy to commit riders to the pacesetting to prevent the green jersey from getting back on.
King of the Mountains Warren Barguil took the solitary point atop the Col du Rouvey (Cat4) as the race began a long descent into the valley where the intermediate sprint was located. The descent was an opportunity for distanced sprinters in the Kittel group to chase the peloton and potentially get back into contention, and Nacer Bouhanni took off with Katusha-Alpecin’s Nils Politt to begin a long chase.
Kittel soon gave up the hope of getting back to the peloton as his deficit went out to more than 3′ as Nacer Bouhanni was slowly clawing his way back up, his deficit just 1’45” as the front group went through the feed zone.
With 54km to go and the intermediate sprint imminent Bouhanni got back onto the peloton after burning through teammates Edet and Lemoine to get there, but he wasn’t able to contest the sprint in Chantemerle-les-Bles which saw Matthews take the full 20 points on offer with Greipel second and Colbrelli third.
That win reduced Matthew’s deficit to just 59 points and with 25 on offer for the stage win Team Sunweb continued to push the pace to try and deliver Matthews to the finish and also get rid of Greipel, who would be the favourite in the sprint without Kittel’s presence.
With 30km to go the peloton was very jumpy and Team Sky was keeping the pace high whilst Sunweb had some respite, with the help of Trek-Segafredo, Cannondale-Drapac and Orica-Scott. The crosswinds were causing havoc in the peloton with riders constantly being dropped and echelons forming in the rear as the GC riders massed at the front behind the leading teams to keep their riders safe from any splits.
As the peloton turned into another crosswind more echelons formed which saw Dan Martin distanced along with Andre Greipel, with the main GC riders all together at the front of the race with Matthews, Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Van Avermaet (Lotto-Soudal), all of whom would be looking for the stage win.
Despite most of the GC riders being in one group, they had lost many teammates with Froome only having Landa for company and Uran having no other Cannondale rider with him. With 3km to go the Dan Martin group which also contained Greipel, Kristoff and Bouhanni was 34″ behind the leaders with Contador a further 40″ behind them.
With 1km to go Movistar’s Daniele Bennati attacked and got a small gap with Sunweb and Dimension Data trying to shut the move down and bring it back together. Bennati was caught and Sunweb led out Matthews with Van Avermaet on his wheel.
Van Avermaet went early along with Boasson Hagen and John Degenkolb which resulted in the photo finish with Matthews just edging out Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb on the line.
Tour de France 2017 Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay>Romans-sur-Isere 165km
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Michael Matthews (Sunweb – Aus)||3:38:15″|
|2||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data – Nor)||s.t.|
|3||John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo – Ger)||s.t.|
|4||Greg Van Avermaet (BMC – Bel)||s.t.|
|5||Christophe Laporte (Cofidis – Fra)||s.t.|
|6||Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott – Bel)||s.t.|
|7||Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal – Bel)||s.t.|
|8||Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal – Bel)||s.t.|
|9||Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe – Pol)||s.t.|
|10||Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Oscaro – Fra)||s.t.|
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||59:52:09″|
|2||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||+18″|
|3||Romain Bardet (AG2R – Fra)||+23″|
|4||Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac – Col)||+29″|
|5||Mikel Landa (Team Sky – Spa)||+1’17”|
|6||Simon Yates (Orica-Scott – GBr)||+2’02”|
|7||Dan Martin (QuickStep – Ire)||+2’03”|
|8||Louis Meintjes (UAE – RSA)||+6’00”|
|9||Damiano Caruso (BMC – Ita)||+6’05”|
|10||Nairo Quintana (Movistar – Col)||+6’16″|