Froome retains lead as Matthews wins sprint

Michael Matthews

Matthews held off Edvald Boasson Hagen (r) to win his second stage of this year’s Tour

Michael Matthews won his second stage of the Tour de France with victory on stage 16, as Britain’s Chris Froome retained the leader’s yellow jersey.

The 165km stage came alive at the end as crosswinds split the peloton before Matthews held off Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Froome leads by 18 seconds over Italy’s Fabio Aru and 23 seconds over France’s Romain Bardet with five stages to go.

Marcel Kittel was dropped early on a bad day for his Quick-Step team after Dan Martin lost time on the leaders.

The German sprinter was looking for his sixth stage win but Matthews’ Sunweb team pulled hard to distance him, with the Australian also winning the intermediate sprint to move 29 points behind Kittel in the green jersey points classification.

Ireland’s Martin was caught behind a split on the run-in to Romans-sur-Isere and dropped to seventh overall as Britain’s Simon Yates moved up to sixth and extended his lead in the best young rider’s white jersey competition.

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Sunweb’s Michael Matthews out-sprints Edvald Boasson Hagen to take a second stage win

Sunweb scheme reopens battle for green

Matthews, who also won Saturday’s stage 14, initially tried to leave Kittel behind by getting in a breakaway group during a frantic start after the roll-out in Le Puy-en-Velay.

Those attempts failed but with the category three climb of Cote de Boussoulet coming early in the stage, Sunweb upped the pace and Kittel was soon visibly struggling, also lacking the help of key team-mate Philippe Gilbert, who pulled out before the start through illness.

The green jersey leader never looked like bridging the gap as Sunweb ruthlessly drove on over the second and final climb of the day and down onto flatter terrain.

An unchallenged Matthews took 20 points at the intermediate sprint before his team-mates then also helped rid the front group of sprint rivals Andre Greipel and Nacer Bouhanni as high winds split up the peloton inside the final 20km.

The final drag saw BMC’s Greg van Avermaet go early but Matthews had enough power to pass him and deny a surging Boasson Hagen and John Degenkolb on the line.

Kittel rolled home easily within the time limit and still has stage 19 and the final stage in Paris to target victory. But as the form rider and with perhaps the form team in the race, Matthews could snatch a green jersey that had looked safe.

Martin misery on nervy day for favourites

Kittel’s struggle had a disastrous knock-on effect for Quick-Step later in the stage as Julien Vermote and Zdenek Stybar dropped back to help their sprinter but also never made it back.

It meant two of the most impressive riders of the Tour so far were not present when Martin slipped behind the other favourites, leaving an exhausted Jack Bauer to try in vain to bridge the gap.

As a result, Martin – who has been battling a back injury since a crash involving Richie Porte on stage nine – lost 51 seconds and perhaps his chance of finishing on the podium.

“I didn’t have great legs today and the team was suffering,” Martin told ITV4. “We put a brave face on it at the start but we’ve had a few people sick.”

Aru was also briefly caught behind a split but managed to recover, while South Africa’s Louis Meintjes ended up in the same group as Martin and now trails Yates by nearly four minutes in the best young rider classification.

Spain’s Alberto Contador also dropped out of the top 10, while New Zealand’s George Bennett – who started the day 12th overall – was forced to abandon through illness partway through the stage.

Overall battle heats up on stage 17

Wednesday’s stage 17 sees the race tackle two ‘hors categorie’ climbs, including the famous Col du Galibier, as the Tour finally reaches the Alps.

As the first of only two mountainous stages remaining, expect Froome’s rivals to attack the Team Sky rider and try to claim the yellow jersey.

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Stage 16 result:

1. Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb) 3hrs 38mins 15secs

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) Same time

3. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

4. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC)

5. Christophe Laporte (Fra/Cofidis)

6. Jens Keukeleire (Bel/Orica)

7. Tony Gallopin (Fra/Lotto Soudal)

8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel/Lotto Soudal)

9. Maciej Bodnar (Pol/Bora)

10. Romain Hardy (Fra/Fortuneo-Oscaro)

General classification after stage 16:

1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 68hrs 18mins 36secs

2. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +18secs

3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +23secs

4. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +29secs

5. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 17secs

6. Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +2mins 02secs

7. Dan Martin (Ire/Quick-Step) +2mins 03secs

8. Louis Meintjes (SA/Team UAE Emirates) +6mins 00secs

9. Damiano Caruso (Ita/BMC) +6mins 05secs

10. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +6mins 16secs

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/40647398

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