Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was thwarted in Rodez by Michael Matthews on Saturday, and it was a familiar sight on Tuesday in Romans-sur-Isère as the Sunweb rider won his second Tour de France stage in three days.
In 2015 Van Avermaet won in Rodez and claimed a second career Tour stage win last year into Le Lioran while riding into the yellow jersey. Although main rival Peter Sagan is watching the race from home after his stage 4 expulsion, Van Avermaet has found a new adversary in Matthews who has had the better timing in the finals of the two so far. With 16 stages raced and won, Van Avermaet is still searching for his 2017 stage win.
With the peloton blown to pieces in the crosswinds, a reduced peloton approached the technical Romans-sur-Isère finale to decide stage 16. In the twisty finale, Van Avermaet decided to take his rivals by surprise and launched his sprint first. While he enjoyed a brief lead,Matthews, John Degenkolb and Edvald Boasson Hagen blasted past to relegate Van Averamaet to fourth place.
"It was a really hard stage all day long. I'm happy with how we rode. I think everyone was always in the front and we were never surprised which is how you have to be in these kinds of races. So I'm really proud of the team," said Van Avermaet. "Ok, we didn't win but I think the most important thing is that you do everything right and then the result will also be pretty nice."
Van Avermaet added the finale proved to be much harder than the road book suggested and as a result, lost momentum as he had to slow to avoid crashing.
"I think it was a pretty hectic final. I didn't know the corners very well. You can look in the book but I was a bit surprised that it was such a hard corner and I had to brake a little bit harder than expected. I think with the head wind it was really hard but I tried," he added.
With two stages to come in the Alps, Van Avermaet's next opportunity for a stage win will come on stage 19. While the profile suggests a sprint finish, the Mistral could again force a selection in favour of Van Avermaet and BMC who have been forced into 'plan b' since losing team leader Richie Porte in a stage 9 crash.
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