Hard work pays off for Team Sunweb as Matthews picks up stage win number two
Stage 16 was not just about the leader’s jersey, it very much about the Green Jersey, lead by Marcel Kittel. The German rider found the early pace too much, Team Sunweb rider Micheal Matthews took full advantage and 50 points for his efforts. Today’s stage win was the second in three days for Matthews.
Crosswinds dominated the pre-stage talking points. A number of breaks formed from the gun, none had the sustainability to maintain a gap of more than 20 seconds. The riders began the climb up the first categorised climb of the day, many with their jerseys partly unzipped, Team Sky were prominent at the front of the pack.
Marcel Kittel was dropped 2KM from the summit. Matthews, the nearest challenger to Kittel’s green jersey acknowledged a message from his team car and put the hammer down. Sunweb, setting the tempo, were doing their utmost to prevent Kittel from taking any Intermediate Sprint points. Sunweb had a clear plan, their tactics would eventually come to fruition.
The unsettled conditions were starting to have an impact, echelons formed up and down the road, the peloton split into two. At the front of the race, Sunweb’s work ethic allowed Team Sky a respite from their familiar duties at the front of the peloton. Matthews took 20 points in the Intermediate Sprint, Andre Greipel had to be content with 17 points.
Matters turned back to the changeable conditions, no rider wanted to be caught out by the crosswinds. Alberto Contador made the first attack in the wind, albeit a brief one, his efforts to create an echelon came to no avail. Riders jostled for position, the pace increased, as did the tension – Team Sky led the pack with 15Km to go. Echelons began to form, Dan Martin found himself in an unwanted position, back with a chasing group, Mikel Landa had an opportunity to move back into fifth position overall.
The final attacks came 2KM out, Movistar’s Daniele Bennati made the first move – for a brief period it looked like the chasing bunch had let him go. Bennati was reeled in. It boiled down to a sprint finish between Matthews, Edvald Boassan Hagen and John Degenkolb. Take nothing away from Team Sunweb and Matthews, they executed their plan to perfection.
The gap between Kittel and Matthews has been reduced to 29 points. Chris Froome remains in the leader’s yellow jersey. On to the Alps.
Stage 17 is a monster. The Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier stand between the start point of La Mure and the finish in Serre-Chevalier.
- Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb) 3hrs 38mins 15secs
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) Same time
- John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)
- Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC)
- Christophe Laporte (Fra/Cofidis)
- Jens Keukeleire (Bel/Orica)
- Tony Gallopin (Fra/Lotto Soudal)
- Tiesj Benoot (Bel/Lotto Soudal)
- Maciej Bodnar (Pol/Bora)
- Romain Hardy (Fra/Fortuneo-Oscaro)
- Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 68hrs 18mins 36secs
- Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +18secs
- Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +23secs
- Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +29secs
- Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 17secs
- Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +2mins 02secs
- Dan Martin (Ire/Quick-Step) +2mins 03secs
- Louis Meintjes (SA/Team UAE Emirates) +6mins 00secs
- Damiano Caruso (Ita/BMC) +6mins 05secs
- Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +6mins 16secs