Stage 16 of the Tour de France saw Ruben Plaza land a solo stage win for his Lampre-Merida team in Gap on Monday. After riding into the day's breakaway, he escaped his companions on the last climb over the Col de Manse, and held off a chasing Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who ended up finishing second place for a sixteenth time in the French Grand Tour.
Meanwhile, Team Sky's Geraint Thomas crashed on the descent into Gap but managed to get back on his bike and safely make it to the finish line without losing his place in the overall classification.
"I'm alright, I'm a bit shaken up but fine. I've had a lot worse. It's frustrating, I tried so hard to get over the climb, I don’t know why guys don’t just sit where they are on descents. It was hard for me to understand."
Thomas went on to speak about the crash post-stage with a sense of humour, "I guess the doctor will ask me my name and date of birth soon.” Can you remember? "Chris Froome.”
"A nice Frenchman [pulled me out of the ditch]. They are nice here, there's a few that aren't, but a nice Frenchman. I lost my glasses as well - they don't even make them anymore.”
"It was very difficult to get to the finish of the stage today, for the stage victory. I felt pretty good in the breakaway today, and everyone was working pretty well together. This was a stage that had interested me. Thank you very much to my team."
Philippe Mauduit (Lampre-Merida DS)
"I'm very happy for Ruben because he's always dedicated to the team and makes big efforts for the team. He made it, he won, and it's just fantastic. He was tired this morning because yesterday and the day before he tried also to be on the breakaway. He went in the break and unfortunately the breakaway split and he was in the second part.
"This morning even though he was tired he said, 'I'm going to try again because you never know'. He just did it. It's always important - a stage in the Tour de France whether you're young or old, you have experience, you haven't won for a while or you won yesterday, it's always important."
"It was about keeping control of the race, I think we knew they were going to attack. When Nibali went, we weren't too concerned about him, he's almost eight minutes down at the moment, so it isn't our responsibility to worry about that just yet. Unfortunately on the descent, I think one of the riders cut one of the corners and took G [Geraint Thomas] out. I think, as soon as I heard that we tried to keep the race as steady as possible, and limit his losses today.
Froome also commented on losing teammate Peter Kennaugh to illness, "It's really unfortunate that we lost Pete today, he's had a tough couple of days feeling a bit ill, and yesterday was tough day of chasing. Now we are going to have to try and share the work between us and get through the next four stages, before the Champs-Élysées stage."
"I decided that I'd have a go. There were a lot of good riders alongside us in that group, like Samuel Sanchez, who descend very quickly as well. As a result when we set off in pursuit of Nibali and were quickly able to reduce the gap.
"There's absolutely no chance I'm in the same form as I was at the Giro d'Italia earlier this season, obviously. It was a dream to try to win both the Giro and the Tour, but it's not easy to do. You start the race and it's a very hard first week, and you don't have the sensations that you know will lead you to victory.
The principal objective of being here is to win the yellow jersey, we didn't come here to just take part. In the first week it was really hard for me. I knew I needed to try to attack and pick up time there and wasn't able to. The second week was hard as well. In the third week in the Alps, I still think there's an opportunity.
"Sky is a very strong team, Thomas is doing really well, but there are other members of the team who aren't great. We're still a long way from Paris, and I think maybe we'll be able to do something against Sky.
Regarding Sagan's second place, "Anything can happen in the run-in. I have to congratulate Peter Sagan. He's been quite remarkable in this Tour de France, he's attacking every day, trying hard every day. I was really sorry he didn't win today because he really deserved it. Hopefully he can win a stage next week. We'll have a strategy of attacking, no doubt.
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