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July 18, 2017 – Australian Michael Matthews won his second stage of the 2017 Tour de France on Tuesday and closed in on the green jersey held by Marcel Kittel. Chris Froome retained the overall lead in a hectic finale to stage 16 baulked by crosswinds that saw contenders Daniel Martin and Alberto Contador lose time.
AFP / Images: James Startt
Michael Matthews edged a photo finish ahead of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, already denied by the cameras in stage seven when Kittel won, with John Degenkolb third. On top of that, Matthews claimed another 50 points in the sprinters’ green jersey competition to close to 29 points behind Quick-Step’s Kittel.
But German Degenkolb was angered by the line Matthews took in the finish and waved his hand at the Aussie as they crossed the line. He then allegedly grabbed Matthews around the neck in the area just beyond the finishing line.
“I was waiting for the result and he grabbed me on the way past,” said the 26-year-old. “The officials saw it. We’ll see what the officials will do about it. I don’t think it’s very sportsmanlike. From my perspective, I don’t think I did anything wrong. I didn’t change my line, I sprinted in a straight line. I’m not sure what was wrong with Degenkolb, but that’s up to him.”
It was a selective group that reached the finish together after Matthews’s Sunweb team set a fast early pace to drop Kittel on the opening third category climb and then crosswinds in the final 15km scattered groups all over the
“We took it from the word go, attacking the whole climb to make it hard for Quick-Step to shut us down,” said Matthews. “I kept attacking on the first climb, I felt quite good and when I got to the top of climb I heard Kittel was distanced by almost a minute. I called the boys and they came to the front with big smiles on their faces and went full gas.”
The crosswinds got rid of other top sprinters Andre Greipel and Alexander Kristoff, eliminating much of the competition for Matthews at the finish.
“It was a great day, it went 10 times better than was planned,” added Michael Matthews.
“I can’t say I’m happy at losing all those points today but what can I do,” said Kittel. “It wasn’t our day today but we have to move on and think of the next chances not missed opportunities. Nothing is lost.”
There were casualties amongst the top 10 as Martin, South African Louis Meintjes and Contador were all caught out in the wind, the first two losing 51sec and the Spaniard giving up 1min 33sec.
“Everyone knew that the last 20km would be in the wind with crosswinds,” said Froome. “It was there that we decided we had to go, to ride hard and try to make a selection.”
Frenchman Romain Bardet was almost caught out but was paced back to the lead group by team-mate Oliver Naesen, while Fabio Aru had to bridge a small gap by himself. The Italian remains second at 18sec with Bardet third at 23sec.
Froome’s Spanish team-mate Mikel Landa reclaimed fifth place from Martin, who dropped to seventh, while Nairo Quintana climbed back into the top 10 at the expense of Contador.