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Tour de France 2017: Stage 16

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The racing is back on. I hope you enjoyed the rest day as much as we did and you're ready for the final week of action at the 2017 Tour de France. 

Today could have been a straightforward sprint day with Marcel Kittel winning at the end, but the weather is having other thoughts. Kittel may well win the stage, but he's going to have to get the better of the crosswinds first. Read the full story here

If the winds do what we expect them to do, the general classification could well be blown apart (pardon the pun). So, now seems a good a time as any to remind you how things are shaping up after Sunday's action-packed stage 15.

The crosswinds will make the abandon of Philippe Gilbert all the more disappointing for Quick-Step Floors. Marcel Kittel and Dan Martin could have done with him today. Still, they remain one of the strongest team's for these kinds of conditions. Read about Gilbert's abandon here

The winds are expected to come in the latter part of today's stage. At the start, there are a few gusts, but nothing like what is expected later in the day. It's the calm before the storm, as it were. Which means that these fans have been able to hold up this gem of a banner without fear of being blown away a la Mary Poppins. 

Today's stage will start at 13:30 local time. The riders have a 5.2km neutral section before the real racing action begins. 

Chris Froome is in the driving seat going into this final week, even if his lead is pretty slim. However, he had a bit of a scare on Sunday when he had to have a wheel change at an inopportune moment. He told reporters on the rest day that he had a moment when he thought his title defence was over. 

 

The view from the start line a little earlier this morning. It's a little busier now as riders begin to line up for the start in just under 15 minutes. 

Before we get rolling, why not take a look at our preview with route maps and a video overview of the course. 

You can also join in the discussion about today's stage in our forum.

Philippa York has penned a preview of the final week's racing. She says Froome is the favourite to be in yellow at the end of the week but believes that his rivals might be able to topple him if they can stop squabbling among themselves. Read the full preview here

The riders are in the neutral zone. Racing to commence very soon. 

Lots of riders from different teams packed out behind the car as the flag is dropped and Stefan Kung, who was one of those launches a move immediately. 

Nils Politt, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Sylvain Chavanel are also interested. With the crosswinds, this could well be a day for the breakaway. 

The road is already going upwards towards the Côte de Boussoulet and we're likely to see a lot of riders shed out the back under this pace. There is time to catch on later, but it will be hard. 

About 15 riders have got 150 metres on the chasing peloton. Representatives from a lot of teams in there but more trying to get across. 

Some of  the riders in this move are Sylvain Chavanel, Jonathan Castroviejo, Grega Bole, Jan Bakelants, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck. Their gap is being diminished though. 

The peloton is strung out in a single line. The yellow jersey is near the front but not too close as more and more attacks go off the front. 

A new group is forming but there a lot of names from that previous group trying to get in there.

Michael Matthews is moving up the peloton, but he's got Marcel Kittel in his wheel. They're duking it out in the green jersey competition and Kittel is not going to let Matthews slip up the road that easily. However, today provides a good opportunity for Matthews to make up some ground in that competition. He will have to shake Kittel if he wants it to be meaningful. 

This is what the green jersey competition looks like at the moment. There are 50 points in total available between the intermediate sprint and the finish line sprint. 

Things have settled a little bit for now. Three riders have formed a small break, but they only have 16 seconds for now. The riders are Angelo Tulik, Mauritis Lammertink and Marcus Berghardt. 

153km remaining from 165km

Tom Degand is also in that move. This could get a little confusing. 

The peleton looks like they might be about to save me from De Gendt/Degand confusion. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg has jumped the gap but the peloton is very close behind. 

 The peleton looks like they might be about to save me from De Gendt/Degand confusion. Stephen Cummings has jumped the gap but the peloton is very close behind.

Alessandro De Marchi has joined the party up front and we've got a Bora-Hansgrohe rider coming across too. This is a very strong group at the moment, but they've only got 18 seconds. 

John Degekolb is one of the riders hoping to fight for victory today. He had this to say at the start. 

The riders have been climbing for some time, but the Cote du Boussolet has only just begun. More and more riders joining the lead group and more trying to attack and Team Sky tries to get a handle on it all. 

Guillaume Van Keirsbulck was very active at the start trying to get into the breakaway but that brutally fast start has done him in and he's now off the back of the peloton. 

Team Sky has amassed on the front, along with Quick-Step floors but we've still got lots of attacks coming. Guess who's there? That's right, Sylvain CHavanel and Thomas De Gendt. 

Degand is still up there as is Nicolas Edet. There is a group of about 8 riders trying to get across and more trying to go. 

Stephen Cummings is not up there at the moment, but he did have a go a little earlier and he did say he would try to make it into the break. 

This terrain has proved tough for Kittel and he's being distanced at the moment. Matthews is told that in his earpiece and he scuttles up the road. Can he get into the break? It would be worth a lot for him today. 

Kittel is not too far back and this is the toughest part of today's stage, in terms of the parcours. If he can hang tough for a few more kilometres then he can still get back. He's got Stybar and Sabatini with him. 

It looks like Impey has made it into that front group as Matthews now leads the chase. Jack Bauer is at the front of the peloton trying to keep his sprinter in contention. 

De Gendt leads the main breakaway over the top of the climb. Meanwhile, the peloton has brought back that Matthews group and we're back to square one in that green jersey battle. 

The Kittel group is almost back with the main peloton. That was a very busy opening part to this stage but it has ultimately amounted to nothing for now. We'll have to wait and see if the peloton allows this break to go now that Matthews is caught. 

Simon Geschke, who was in that chaser group, is now trying to bridge the gap alone. Sunweb very active today. 

No dice for Geschke. Sunweb rally and are now really pushing things hard on this flatter section. They want to make life as difficult as possible for Kittel. There is still a 25-second gap between the green jersey group and peloton. 

137km remaining from 165km

The whole Sunweb team, including Barguil, is at the front. There is an infiltrator in the form of Cummings in their line. It's unusual to see the British champ up front if he isn't on the attack and that is a statement of intent from the Dimension Data team. 

There are some crosswinds out there already and that gap to Kittel is going out. It's now 45 seconds. Quick-Step Floors hasn't put too many riders to help Kittel. They need people up front to take care of Dan Martin too. 

BMC Racing is also lending a hand. This, of course, could help Greg Van Avermaet get a stage win. This is perfect weather conditions for him. The gap to the five leaders is just 40 seconds now. 

There are a few sprinters that are in that second peloton, including Nacer Bouhanni. Luke Rowe has also missed the cut, which is a big blow for Chris Froome. 

The wind is still brutalising this chase group and it's splitting into smaller groups. It's going to make it harder for them to regain contact with this main peloton. Still around 40 seconds separating the two pelotons. 

George Bennett is reportedly one of the riders that has been dropped. The race website has him at 1:35 to the leading five. He was 12th at the start of the day. 

Quick-Step Floors going hammer and tongs to bring back Kittel and that is what is doing the damage in this chase group. The gap is closing, but it's very gradual. It's 35 seconds for the moment, but they will want to regain contact before the wind picks up again. 

Bennett has been joined by Pichon, Mate and Cink. They're now 1:35 behind the leaders. The peloton is just 27 seconds back while the green jersey group is now just 26 seconds behind them.

125km remaining from 165km

With Sunweb, BMC and Dimension Data all putting riders to work, the gap is just 20 seconds now between the leaders and the peloton. 

Impey, Degand and Edet are about to be brought back. De Gendt will be the next to be swept up. 

The timings had Kittel at just 10 seconds back, but it has ballooned to almost a minute now. He really looks to be struggling right now. 

Trek-Segafredo have plenty of interests today with Degenkolb and Contador in the main group. Bauke Mollema gave the team a victory on Sunday and he spoke at length to the media before the stage. This is what he had to say earlier:

120km remaining from 165km

Chavanel is back with the peloton, after realising they were not going to let him go. They push on in earnest and Kittel's gap continues to grow out as nobody wants to help Quick-Step Floors. Kittel is now 1:07 behind the main group. 

It's not all over for the green jersey though. There is a nice little descent after this second and final climb and plenty of flat roads afterwards. He could still get back. How much energy he'll have by the end of it all would be questionable, though. 

Dan McLay looks certain of retaining the lantern rouge position. He is over three minutes behind the peloton with George Bennett. Of course, he'll have to be careful about the time cut if he doesn't want to end up going home. 

Katusha-Alpecin are joining in the pace setting as they look to try and deliver Alexander Kristoff to a victory. Lotto-Soudal too. One thing that has been apparent is that Team Sky has not had to do a shred of work for quite some time. 

If Lotto-Soudal is helping with the pace setting then Andre Greipel must have made it into the peloton. He would by far be the favourite if he can come into the finish in the main group. He will be more determined than ever after a disappointing first two weeks of this Tour de France. 

We've been told by the LottoNL-Jumbo team that Bennett has been holding off an illness for a few days now and it did not improve during the rest day. When the race starts as fast as it did today, even being a little bit ill can have a big impact. 

107km remaining from 165km

Cofidis is now helping the chase in the second group, but it feels like too little too late. Quick-Step Floors appear to have given up the chase anyhow. 

If you missed some of the rest day news, Peter Sagan spoke to Belgian broadcaster VTM yesterday. The world champion said that he had accepted he wasn't in the Tour de France any more but couldn't accept the decision of the race jury, calling it a mistake. Read his full comments here

With 1.5km to the top of this second and final climb, the gap to the chasing group has levelled out at 1:54. Cofidis is being helped by LottoNL-Jumbo for now. Sunweb is not relenting up front though. 

News coming through that George Bennett has abandoned. That is terrible news for the LottoNL-Jumbo team.

The race website points out that there are 12 teams without a win in this year's Tour de France. That means that 10 teams have wins so far. Quick-Step Floors has most with five (all Kittel). Sunweb has two with Matthews and Barguil while a selection of other teams have one victory to their name. 

Meanwhile, Barguil takes one point at the top of that fourth category climb. He is well clear in the mountains classification and looks almost certain of taking it all the way to Paris. 

Just under 100km until the finish today. That means there is time to listen to our rest day podcast. Where can I find it? I hear you all shout. Well, you can find it here. Enjoy. 

Movistar is looking to get something out of this Tour de France after Nairo Quintana cracked big style over the weekend. He told reporters that stage wins would be the way forward and his teammate Daniele Bennati confirmed that ahead of the stage this morning. 

Marcel Kittel at the front of the chase group with a teammate. He may be chasing or maybe he's just trying to stay out of trouble on this short descent. The gap is 2:20 and it now looks unlikely that he'll ever make it back to that front group. 

We didn't see it on the camera but the rider data has Bouhanni off the front of that chase group with Nils Politt. They are 1:50 behind the peloton. 

Contador is chasing back on at the moment after he changes his bike. Not sure what the problem was for the Trek rider. 

80km remaining from 165km

Pently of teammates dropping back to help Contador get back up to the front of the bunch. This is a day where you don't want to be too far back in the bunch. 

It's not going to be easy to get back up that peloton because Sunweb is still hammering it on the front, with the help of Cummings. Next job is to get rid of Greipel. They won't want to bring him to the line. 

What is of major note today is that we have no breakaway at all, just two pelotons. It doesn't happen often that a breakaway can't make it up the road. It shows you how concerned the teams are about the windy conditions. Even with 77km to go we can see flags billowing as the riders pass through the feed zone. 

Team Sky come to the front of the bunch in the feed zone. They want to calm things down a bit, even if it is only briefly. They all want to collect their musettes.

Kittel may have called it a day in terms of chasing the peloton, but Bouhanni is still plugging away. As the green jersey drops back to over three minutes, Bouhanni has cut his deficit to 1:45. Still a lot of work to do and he's only got Nils Politt with him. We've not had any images of the chase so we don't know how much work Politt is doing. With Kristoff up front, you would be inclined to think that he isn't doing much, but he wants to get up there and help his teammate out. A conundrum for the Katusha rider. 

The pace has been knocked off for a little while as the riders get their lunch in. 70km to go and we can expect the wind to pick up in the next few kilometres. 

68km remaining from 165km

Nice to see that Warren Barguil is not taking it easy further back in the peloton, despite his work for the mountains classification done. We've seen him playing the team game several times during this year's Tour. Matthews also did his bit for Barguil when he took some mountains points from Thomas de Gendt. It really has been a proper team effort from the German-registered squad. 

Today's finish is in the home town of Pierre Latour. The 23-year-old has been impressive this season and is making his Tour de France debut. He is expecting a very hectic finale. 

Bouhanni has been joined be Edet and Lemoine in the chase and they're making some inroads at the moment. Along with Politt, they've cut the gap to 47 seconds. Edet is done though and it's just Lemoine working for his team leader. 

Just 15km until that sprint. Bouhanni is now just 32 seconds back and he's making the most of a descent to bridge that final gap. He can see the back of the caravan just ahead. 

That three-rider group has finally made it onto the back of the peloton. Top job, I must say. We'll see how much energy Bouhanni has, but the pressure is on him to pull out a result. Politt has had an easy ride getting back on and he'll be another helping hand to Kristoff. 

54km remaining from 165km

The time trial on Saturday will be an important player in deciding the overall classification. Team Sky has some special bits on their bike (that's the technical term) for the Tour de France. Check out their 'unique cockpit' here

A bit of action on the front of the bunch as Sunweb ups the ante a touch. We're closing in on the intermediate sprint where there are 20 points on offer for Michael Matthews if he can take the top spot. 

It feels as if we're in the theatre waiting for the show to start. There's a sense of anticipation, but nothing is happening just yet. The wind isn't too strong just yet but the riders are relatively protected for now. 

Lots of teams moving to the front as we approach the intermediate sprint. Sunweb still up there, but Sky, BMC, and Orica are all up there and Movistar is moving up. They won't be interested in the points, but they're obviously expecting things to kick off very soon. 

No sign of Aru or Martin near the front. AG2R La Mondiale are a little way back too. 

Matthews takes the 20 points at the intermediate sprint. Greipel stayed on his wheel but didn't challenge Matthews and takes second. Colbrelli was in third place. 

There are just 53 points now separating Matthews and Kittel and there are 30 available at the finish. It could be very close in the points classification at the end of the day, which goes to show that you should never give up. 

Even with the wind today, the peloton is close to being on the fastest time schedule for today's stage. That has obviously been helped by that bit of tailwind. 

I'm like a kid waiting for Santa at the moment. Orica are up at the front pushing the pace now. This is about to go down. 

Some riders are feeling the strain and Voeckler is one of the riders who has been dropped off the back of the bunch. 

Voeckler is back on, but for how long. The wind is getting stronger. 

Crash. It looks like Serge Pauwels came down on a punch point. Steve Cummings checks he's ok and carries on. 

Trek-Segafredo attacks as Kwiatkowski takes a musette. 

Kwiatkowski has to dispose of the musette to help with the chase. There's a close call for one of the Orica riders as he almost touches wheels with another rider. 

Trek has stepped off the gas now and Sky moves to the front, but they did ruin Michal Kwiatkowski's lunch. 

Sunweb also moving back up after taking a bit of respite. They don't want to miss out on any splits after doing so much work to get into this position. 

30km remaining from 165km

If you're wondering where Marcel Kittel is. He's now more than six minutes back. 

The race website has the peloton at 120 riders but that is being cut down quite quickly as more riders shoot out the back. That's more to do with the pace rather than the wind at the moment. 

GC teams once again moving to the front. Sunweb are at the head in a long line, but there are trains from Orica, Cannondale, Trek and Team Sky coming up. There are some nerves in the bunch. 

Riders trying to get some bidons from the car before the bar shuts. They won't be able to get anything after 20km to go. Also, going back at the wrong time could see you getting dropped. 

24km remaining from 165km

Chris Froome is towards the front of the bunch on the right side. He's got several teammates with him. One rider that isn't is Luke Rowe, who was dropped in the first split in the opening kilometres of the race. 

AG2R La Mondiale's Oliver Naesen is up there. He could play a crucial role for Romain Bardet in this finale. 

Team Sky now right at the front. They've learned their lesson from a few years ago where Froome missed the cut and lost over a minute. 

Lots of jostling as the riders now battle into a headwind. This is tough. 

There are a lot of nerves in the peloton. They all know how huge a loss can be if they get it wrong. 

Stephen Cummings has been doing a lot of work on the front and it looks like his day is done. He's not at the back of the peloton. 

20km remaining from 165km

The pace is going up and the peloton his hovering between 45-50kph. Lotto-Soudal moving up. Andre Greipel remains the stage favourite as things stand, although Bouhanni is a threat. 

The peloton thinning out as more riders are shelled out. Team Sky take control again as the pace remains high. 

Kiryienka is the man up front for Team Sky. 

BMC is also trying to get up front. They've still got Greg Van Avermaet up here. He could take a stage win if things break up as expected. 

The riders turn again into the crosswinds and the peloton is in the gutter. 

Echelons are beginning to form and Fabio Aru is chasing a split. 

It looks like Pantano has crashed. He's in a lot of pain. 

Aru is back with the yellow jersey group with is only about 30 riders now. Bardet is brought in by Naesen. 

Groups all over the road now. It looks like most of the GC contenders has made it into the first group, but we wait for confirmation of who exactly is in it. 

Yates and Quintana are there. Dan Martin appears to be missing and maybe Contador. 

Dan Martin is in the chasing group, which is 18 seconds back from the yellow jersey group. 

Boasson Hagen, Matthews and Van Avermaet are in that leading group. They will all be interested in that win. Greipel moving up there too. 

Apologies, that was not Greipel I saw. He seems to be in the chasing group with Meintjes and Kristoff. 

Degenkolb also appears to be in that front group. Contador appears to have been caught out, but no sighting of him just yet. 

Interestingly, it looks like Froome only has one teammate with him.

The gap back to the Martin group is now 30 seconds. It looks like the Team Sky rider with Froome is Mikel Landa. He will climb up the GC if Martin can't get back. 

Rigoberto Uran is in there, but he is the only member of the Cannondale team in there. 

The reason we didn't see Contador is because he is actually in the third group on the road at a minute back now. He's got Mollema for company but this is looking bad, if his GC position wasn't bad enough already. 

Given the conditions, you would have expected Quick-Step to excel today, but they've really had a poor day out. 

2km remaining from 165km

He's got a decent kick on him, but the peloton is chasing hard. 

Dimension Data and Sunweb are the ones trying to shut this down. 

Flamme rouge for Bennati, but he's not got much of a gap at the moment. 

Bennati is caught as Sunweb lead it out

Van Avermaet has a go

Van Avermaet leads it out

It's a three-way photo finish

It was a blanket finish between Matthews, Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb

The Martin group crosses the line 50 seconds down and we're still awaiting the winner. 

Andre Greipel crosses the line and he looks dejected. This was a big chance for him.

Matthews is confirmed as the winner and there are big celebrations in the Sunweb camp. 

An overhead shot shows that it wasn't as close as we might have thought. Matthews won by a wheel's length with Boasson Hagen second again and Degenkolb in third. 

Contador finished a minute down. Another kick in the teeth for the Spaniard. 

That win gives Michael Matthews another 30 points for the green jersey competition while Marcel Kittel (who is still out on route) takes none. There are some pure sprint stages to come but that really brings things together in that competition. Matthews has not been prepared to give up on the jersey just yet. 

Matthews told reporters ahead of stage 10 that Richie Porte had told him to go win the green jersey, after Porte had been forced out due to a horror crash on stage 9. Just 29 points separate the Australian from Kittel. 

Nothing has changed in the top four places, but Dan Martin has dropped two places in the overall classification after losing out when the splits came. Landa is now in fifth place, Yates in sixth and Martin in seventh. Quintana is back in the top 10. 

So this is how the stage finished in the end. 

This is the new top 10 overall. 

Having lost over a minute, Contador is now back in 11th place. The last time Contador finished the Tour de France outside of the top 10 was his debut in 2005. 

"Three in four days," shouts Matthews as he celebrates with his team. This has been a good few days for Sunweb. 

Sunweb deserve the victory today after riding a very smart stage. They put Kittel to the sword immediately, and made sure that he never came back. They took the intermediate sprint and then made sure they were in the right place when the splits came. Matthews finished it off very well too, using Van Avermaet as a springboard to the sprint. 

A decent sprint from Edvald Boasson Hagen, he just didn't quite have the legs to overtake Matthews. Another second place for the Norwegian. While it's not what they came here for, they will be happy to take home some WorldTour points. 

Michael Matthews seemed stunned by his second win of this year's Tour de France, his third in his career. 

Even in disappointment, Dan Martin is always good at talking to the press. We will have his comments on the website later this evening. 

Here is Edvald Boasson Hagen talking after the stage and a few of his words.

There are two more chances for the sprinters. Sunday's stage should be a battle of the pure sprinters, but Friday could be another day to mix things up. With three third cat climbs, the teams could work together to take guys such as Kittel out of contention. 

We told you we'd have some comments from Martin later. Here's a little taste of what he said as he warmed down outside the team bus. 

They had Matthews taking the win and closing the gap for green, but Sunweb also kept hold of the polka-dots jersey. He stepped up, to the cheers of the crowds, to claim the jersey for another day. 

John Degenkolb was visibly frustrated at the finish and he three his arm up in the air to demonstrate that. He said afterwards that he felt Matthews had moved in on him. 

We're hearing rumours that Degenkolb and Matthews got into it after the finish line. Matthews says that Degenkolb grabbed him by the neck. In what manner, we don't know. We'll bring you more on that when we find out. 

Alexander Kristoff finished just behind the second group on the road at 53 seconds back. The Katusha rider was out of position when the splits happened. This is what he said after the finish. 

Luis Angel Mate was one of the last riders to finish today. He crossed the line with Dan McLay 26:17 behind Matthews. Mate wrote on Twitter that it was a "black day" for him and he is now off to hospital to see if there is something wrong and whether or not he will start tomorrow. 

Marcel Kittel kept hold of the green jersey despite cracking today. Passing through the mixed zone, he spoke to the media about his tough day out. 

Here is the incident between Degenkolb and Matthews after the finish. 

If you want to see more photos like that one and read our report, plus results, then go here

You can also see a selection of quotes from today's stage here. 

 

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