Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère(165 km)

“It is the all singing, all dancing stage of the Tour” said Rob Hatch of Eurosport, giving a Fight Club(the movie!) reference. It indeed was. People expected Kittel to win today. Take number 6. Consolidate the Green. Look more and more like Hulk with great hair. Instead, it was the opposite. Let me start from the start. (I was about to make a joke on the Big Bang and conception of the universe but nevermind). After a rest day yesterday, the tour had another sprint finish day before it moved into the Alps.

To be honest, the start isn’t “flat”. Cat 3 and Cat 4 climbs would definitely have an impact on “pure” sprinters like Kittel while people like Michael Matthews(Sunweb) who posses climbing skills, would be in a more beneficial position. Plus it was very windy, checkout Le Tour De France’s instagram story. That’s an indication of how windy it was. From the start there were a lot of attacks, but nothing really substantial. After 5k : Maurits Lammertink (Katusha) and Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) went substantially clear from the Peloton, with the German Champion Marcus Burghardt (Bora) joining them after some effort. But by 10k they were all caught and back together. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) attacked after this capture with Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) joining them later. De Gendt was the 1st to the reach the top of the Cat 3 côte de Boussoulet, even as Michael Matthews counter attacked from the Peloton. It was here that Team Sunweb did some tactically genius cycling. The first half of the Peloton led by Team Sky bridged over to the Matthews/Sunweb group. Sunweb’s Simon Geschke pushed the pace and by doing so, Sunweb dropped Kittel and built at 40 second gap between themselves and Kittel.
Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) built a 35 seconds lead over the peloton after 35km of racing. 12th placed George Bennett (LottoNL) was in trouble today and sadly had to retire from the race. Sylvain Chavanel remained the only one in the front with 40k done, but was caught within the next 5 kilometers. The Kittel group led by Julien Vermote and Zdenek Stybar fell 1.15 behind as Sunweb really pushed the pace With 100km to go, the difference between the yellow jersey group and the green jersey group increased to 1.50. Warren Barguil scored one more point at cat. 4 col du Rouvey. Nacer Bouhanni and Julien Simon (Cofidis) attacked from Kittel’s group to try and bridge the gap to the front part of the race, but Quickstep gave up to bridge the gap. This meant, Matthews could really bridge the 79 point gap between himself and Kittel. Bouhanni rejoined the 1st group with 56k to go. At 121.5k, Matthews executed the perfect sprint to take 20 green jersey points in the intermediate sprint.
Kittel fell far back, almost 6 minutes. There were extreme crosswinds and the commentators said “from 22 to 9k are the toughest part of today’s stage, smaller guys would have a hard time just staying on the bike”. Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), crashed in the crosswinds but was able to catch the Peloton. Kittel fell more than 8 minutes behind, as the Team Sky began to push the pace. At one point, Trek Segafredo attacked even as Michal Kwiatkwoski (Sky) was trying to grab something to eat from the bag. Kwiatkwoski threw the bag and started chasing which was funny to watch. In the speeding up, the peloton was again split in two. Dan Martin(5th overall, Quickstep Floors), Louis Meintjes(UAE) were left behind in the 2nd group. With more echelons forming Alberto Contador fell in the 3rd group, which honestly made me very sad. I want him to be in the Top 10 atleast. Even Mikel Landa(Sky, 6th overall) fell back in the crosswinds. 32 riders rode at the front, including Froome, Aru, Bardet, Uran, Contador, Quintana, Yates. Martin and Meintjes were 15 seconds back. In the sprinters Greipel and Kristoff aweren’t in the first group. Matthews, Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb, however, were right up there. In a really really tight finish, Matthews attacked from behind, Degenkolb was very pissed by that. Boasson Hagen started from way far back and almost caught Matthews. And in another photo finish, it was another heartbreak for Boasson Hagen. But celebrations for Sunweb who had executed the perfect race from start to finish and Matthews, who won his 2nd stage of the Tour!!!

If Sagan was still there, the green jersey competition would have been over by now. He would have been leading by 200 points. But with today’s win, Matthews took 30 more points, reducing his deficit to Kittel to just 29 points and with 2 hilly stages, he can actually take the green jersey and make it into an actual competition!!! Today’s results:
General Classification(Martin lost 50 seconds in the end and fell to 7th overall):
Green Jersey competition (which I had stopped posting after Sagan was unfairly disqualified)
Jersey wearers after Stage 16:
And now onto the Alps! Thanks for reading! #TDF2017


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