Tour de France 2017 : Stage 16 – Michael Matthews victorious after Sunweb crosswind perfection

Team Sunweb delivered a sublime performance from kilometre zero to the finish line that saw Michael Matthews double his victory tally and move within touching distance of the maillot vert. The Australian blasted around the around the final bend, edging out a fast-finishing Edvald Boasson Hagen and a disgruntled John Degenkolb. The threat of crosswinds stalked the peloton all day and when they did hit the only GC contender caught out in the echelon action was Quick Step Floor’s Dan Martin. Chris Froome remains in yellow.

Rider Team of the Race

Team Sunweb are sharing the spotlight tonight and I have every confidence that not one of them will fall off the podium. Because that’s exactly how they ride – all together and pulling for each other in any situation. The men in black and white have put in some blinding performances already. If their plan at the start of the day was to deliver victory number three and take the maximum number of points in the green jersey competition, then they executed it to PERFECTION. In a stage whipped by a maelstrom of tailwinds and crosswinds they forced the pace on the first climb of the day to drop Marcel Kittel and worked like Trojans to ensure he never saw the front of the race again. They delivered ‘Bling’ to collect maximum points at the intermediate sprint and put two riders with him in the front echelon when the crosswinds hit in the last 15km. A date with alpine peaks were the last thing on the Polka Dot Pixie Warren Barguil‘s mind as he chased down a strong attack by Movistar’s Daniele Bennati with 2km to go. The victory was the icing on the cake, with Matthews being only 30 points shy of the maillot vert the cherry on the top.  Team coach Aike Visbeek had this to say post stage…

This is definitely a team victory today. We had nine guys that went full gas for the entire day and we can be extremely proud of the outcome. We knew that there could be a scenario where sprinters could dropped on the first climb and the team knew that if that was the case, they would go for it. It’s a really impressive performance from the entire team and I’m pleased that Michael was able to finish off their hard work.

Quickstepper woes

The day did not start well for the Belgian team with the announcement that Philippe Gilbert would not take the start, the latest victim of the gastro-intestinal bug that has swept through the squad. With Kittel dropped on the first climb, the team sent nearly everyone back to help him close the gap to the front group. By the time they realised that was a lost cause their 5th placed GC rider Dan Martin was left with only two teammates in the front, a position that would prove to be very costly. With 15km to go Team Sky lined everyone out, the road changed direction and BAM the crosswinds struck. Rigoberto Uran and Froome made the split easily. Romain Bardet  had Belgian champ Oliver Naesen to guide him up. Fabio Aru scrabbled across as last man almost but Dan didn’t make it. Teammates Jack Bauer and Gianlucca Brambilla rode to a standstill to bridge the gap and Dan gave it everything he had to the line. It wasn’t enough, he finished 51secs after the winner, a time which sees him fall from 5th to 7th on GC.

While we were recovering from the shock of seeing a team of such crosswind pedigree fail to display it and questioning Quick Step tactics of leaving their GC contender so exposed, the Irishman was typically not downbeat about the affair…

From the back

Days like these with constant action from the get-go are enough to exhaust even the fittest rider. How much worse to face the stage when you’re already suffering. Today saw LottoNL-Jumbo’s George Bennett retire from the race after illness over the rest day. Such a shame for the popular Kiwi rider who was 12th on GC and heading for a great finish in this year’s edition.

Spare a thought also for Dan McLay of Fortuneo-Oscaro. The British sprinter suffered through stage 15 on Sunday finishing just in front of the broom wagon and went through the same again today.

However, he’s still there and there’s only a couple of mountains between here and a date with the Champs Elysee #AllezDan, and it’s not all bad news…

Top 5 stage 

1 Michael Matthews (Sunweb) 3:38:15

2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension data) same time

3 John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) s/t

4 Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t

5 Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) s/t

Top 5 GC

1 Chris Froome (Sky) 68:18:36

2 Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:18

3 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:23

4 Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) +0:29

5 Mikel Landa (Sky) +1:17

All the jerseys

Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)

Points: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)

KOM: Warren Barguil (Sunweb)

Best Young Rider: Simon Yates (Orica-Scott)

Team Classification: Sky

Most Aggressive Rider: Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie)

For race reviews, go to CyclingNews; official LeTour website is here

Header image: Michael Matthews and Warren Barguil © LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

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