Australia’s Michael Matthews claimed his second stage win and the third one for Sunweb after his team pulled the bunch almost all day to keep Marcel Kittel behind. Crosswinds made it a spectacular finale in the Rhône valley with a small group including Chris Froome and most of the GC contenders but not Dan Martin and Alberto Contador in contention for the stage victory. Edvald Boasson Hagen was second again, by very little.
Chavanel at the front, Kittel off the back
174 riders started stage 16 in Le Puy-en-Velay. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was a non-starter due to illness. Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) were the most active riders in the first hour of racing. At the côte de Boussoulet (km 20.5), they were in the lead with Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis). All skirmishes made the race too hard for Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and many other riders, so Sunweb put the hammer down. Chavanel was the last breakaway rider reeled in at km 44.5. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), 12th on GC, abandoned the Tour de France.
The long chase of Nacer Bouhanni
As a long downhill was following the col de Rouvey with 100km to go, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) didn’t give up. He decided to attack from the green jersey group to bridge a gap of two minutes to the yellow jersey group led by Sunweb. He firstly did it in the wheel of his team-mate Julien Simon. He was later drafted successively by Nicolas Edet and Cyril Lemoine who waited for him. He was always accompanied by Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) who had no interest to help him come across to the peloton and become one more rival to Alexander Kristoff. It took Bouhanni 50 minutes of chasing to make it back to the pack with 56km to go.
Boasson Hagen, close to winning again but…
Crosswinds caused some tension in the peloton in the run-in to Romans-sur-Isère in the Rhône valley. GC riders started jostling for positions with 20km to go. Team Sky sped up with 15km remaining. It reduced the front group to 28 riders. Among the top ranked riders overall, Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) were missing. With 2km to go, Daniele Bennati (Movistar) tried to anticipate the sprint but he had to surrender 600 metres before the line. In a tight finish, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) outsprinted Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) who missed out for the second time by very little after the photo-finish declared Kittel the winner on stage 7 in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Chris Froome (Sky) retained the lead while Martin dropped from fifth to seventh overall.