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Michael Matthews wins Stage 16 of the 2017 Tour de France on a day defined by the wind

Jack Elton-Walters
18 Jul 2017

Michael Matthews took the win on Stage 16 of the 2017 Tour de France from a reduced bunch on a day that had implications for the GC top 10

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) won Stage 16 of the 2017 Tour de France from a reduced bunch after Team Sky had ripped the bunch to bits in crosswinds late in the stage.

The points Matthews gained from the stage win and the intermediate sprint put him back within reach of the Green Jersey, which is currently held by Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) launched his sprint first but was passed by the stage winner Matthews, second place Edvard Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and third John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

Degenkolb crossed the line gesturing about an apparent infringement by Matthews, but the race jury saw no problem with the sprint and the result stood as it had happened.

The big losers of the day were Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) who missed a split, lost time and dropped down in the overall General Classification.

Martin could look to his lack of teammates as a reason for not being able to make the front split. Most of the Quick-Step Floors squad were about 11km back down the road trying to nurse Kittel to the finish line.

With Kittel already counting five stage wins this Tour de France and having been dropped so early in the stage, there is an argument that Martin should have been given a greater allocation of resources for today at least.

The rest of the big GC names were all present at the head of the race and maintained the same gaps between each other.

With two mountainous days to come and the Stage 20 time trial ahead, the top 10 could shift around again but time is running out for anyone to knock Chris Froome (Team Sky) off the top step of the final podium.

Stage 16 was relentless from the flag drop

Some teams came out of the rest day with clear plans and others restarted the race with clear nerves.

Team Sunweb were the most active as they sought to distance the Green Jersey of Kittel over the early third and fourth category climbs.

This plan worked as Kittel was 1:54 down with 100km left to race.

Separate to that race-within-a-race, Team Sky kept an eye on things and closed down a couple of moves that involved General Classification riders like Martin.

Other riders tried their luck off the front trying to get a breakaway clear with the aim of taking the stage.

The profile of today looked like one for a breakaway but with Matthews chasing the points classification and the GC battle taking place in the crosswinds there was always a strong chance of it coming back together.

Kittel's deficit went out over three minutes and it was clear that his race was over for the day. Worryingly, the German looked particularly uncomfortable and could have been suffering from the same illness that forced his teammate Philippe Gilbert to abandon before the start of Stage 16.

Infiltrating the Team Sunweb line was Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), who was active at the front and assisted with the pace setting.

Matthews' plan worked as hoped and he took the maximum 20 points at the intermediate line to move closer to wearing the Green Jersey.

Surprising considering their approach to the rest of the 2017 Tour de France so far, AG2R La Mondiale were seemingly absent from the sharp end of the peloton and at time Romain Bardet looked lonely without the company of teammates.

With 35km left to the finish, and the imminent threat of crosswinds playing on everyone's mind, Alberto Contador's Trek-Segafredo tried to split the peloton but their move was shortlived and fruitless.

Those crosswinds looked to be slightly more head-on which kept the potential for attacks in check, for a time.

As the race got within 16km of the finish line Team Sky took to the front and put the hammer down. Straight away there were splits in the group and for a time Fabio Aru (Astana) looked to be in trouble.

Aru battled back onto the back of the lead group and sat in after that small scare. Bardet, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were also present in the front group, but Martin was caught out and stuck behind a growing gap.

By now the race was really on and as the front group upped the pace overall leader Froome found himself alone as his teammates who had initiated the move disappeared out the back of the group.

Mikel Landa made it back to the front and joined Froome in taking a turn on the front.

Daniele Bennati (Movistar) went alone with 1.8km to go which caused a reaction from both Team Sunweb and BMC Racing.

Bennati was caught and the reduced bunch sprint kicked off.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 16, Le Puy en Velay - Romans sur Isère (165km), result

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 3:38:15
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at same time
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo, st
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
5. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, st
6. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott, st
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal, st
8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, st
9. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, st
10. Romain Hardy (Fra) Fortuneo-Oscaro, st

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 16

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 68:18:36
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. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 2:02
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 2:03
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 6:00
9. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, at 6:05
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 6:16

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