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Chris Froome back in yellow as Michael Matthews wins Tour de France Stage 14

Stu Bowers
15 Jul 2017

In an exciting finale Michael Matthews took a fabulous win in Rodez as Froome and Aru trade places again

Michael Matthews won Stage 14 of the 2017 Tour de France, in another tough finish, but the GC again saw an unexpecetd shake up as Chris Froome takes over the race lead from Fabio Aru.

As the race headed east away from the Pyrenees, this rolling stage was controlled by the teams with a vested interest in a stage win and so today was not about the GC, but bad positioning in the final kilometres cost Aru vital time, and the yellow jersey.

Although not quite as severe as Thursday’s stage to Peyragudes, the ramp to the finish line in Rodez was a steep pitch and meant it wasn't one for the pure sprinters.

It was a real show of strength from Matthews as he powered clear to take the victory over BMC's Greg Van Avermaet, and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)  

All the other race favourites crossed the line safely in the main pack, so other than the switch for the Maillot Jaune, the rest of the leaderboard was unaffected.

Incredibly, Chris Froome now leads Fabio Aru by 19 seconds, while Romain Bardet remains third at 23 seconds. Rigoberto Uran (29sec) and Mikel Landa (1min 17sec) round out the top five.

How Stage 14 played out

With the race favourites saving their legs for a battle royale in the Alps in a few days time, and with only two short Cat 3 climbs, this 181.5km stage from Blagnac to Rodez, was unlikely to have much of an effect on the GC, but as is often the case at the Tour De France, it doesn't always go to script.

The mostly rolling roads were an opportunity for a break to stay away and the early move again contained Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt, along with Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) a notable ally and puncheur to help forge a gap.

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Timo Roosen, Fortuneo-Oscaro’s Maxime Bouet, plus soon after, Katusha-Alpecin’s Reto Hollenstein who bridged alone from the peloton, made it a five man escape, that quickly built a lead of over 2 minutes.

BMC were first to throw riders on the front of the peloton and kept a tight rein on the time gap, clearly thinking Greg Van Avermaet was in with a shout of repeating his 2015 stage victory on the same finish to Rodez.

Sunweb too were actively keeping things in check for their man, Matthews.

At the first intermediate sprint at 55.5km the break had scooped up the bulk of the points on offer but as the peloton approached it was still the green jersey, Quick-Step's Marcel Kittel, that jumped clear of Matthews to mop up the leftovers, continuing to assert his authority over the points classification.

The break was never allowed to build a substantial advantage, rarely more than two minutes, and the ever present danger of crosswinds meant it was always a vigilant peloton giving chase.

Bahrain-Merida added some further assistance on the front of the chasing pack, most likely working for the chances of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).

With the time gap stagnant, and only 50km to go, the race was playing out in formulaic fashion and it very much felt as though the breakaway was being hung out to dry, with the peloton merely playing a waiting game, ready to pounce as soon as it deemed the time was right.

The ascent of the Côte du viaduct du Viaur after 131km (2.3km; ave 7%) passed without making a significant impact on the shape of the race at the front.

It was a different story over the Côte de Centrès after 145km (2.3km ave 7.7%) though.

At the summit the breakaway had shrunk to two, as Voeckler and De Gendt started to sense the possibility of a stage vistory and really pushed up the pace causing the peloton to have to remain highly attentive to keep the duo at a controlled gap.

An attack by De Gendt, with just over 30km to go, spiced things up, causing a stir in the chase, that quickly strung out the pack that soon began to fracture in pursuit of the now lone leader.

De Gendt rode valiantly but mostly thanks to the combined forces of BMC and Sunweb the peloton was in full flight and his adavntage quickly dwindled. The catch was eventually made at 168km, with 13km still to race.

At 10km to go a small group of four momentarily established a small lead, with Damiano Caruso (BMC), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Osacro) showing their hand.

Perichon even went out alone for last ditch attempt, but it was futile in front of a charging peloton being driven hard by several of the key teams, including Sky, who were looking after the interests of both Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski.

The steep final few hundred metres again made for a slow motion sprint as the gradient took its toll, but Froome who had smartly positioned himself near the front crossed the line just a few seconds back from the stage winner.

Meanwhile, Aru was a way further back, seemingly throwing away his six second advantage. It remains to be seen if it was just bad positioning, or if like Froome on Thursday, it was a case of having nothing left in the tank.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 14, Blagnac - Rodez (181.5km), result

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 4:21:56
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at same time
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 0:01
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at same time
5. Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, st
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, st
7. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, st
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, st
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, st 
10. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 0:05

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 14

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 59:52:09
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 0:18
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 0:23
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 0:29
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1:17
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 1:26
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 2:02
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2:22
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 5:09
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 5:37