Dan Martin’s hopes of Tour de France podium damaged in crosswinds




Michael Matthews won stage 16 of the Tour de France to Romans-sur-Isere as Ireland’s Dan Martin lost almost a minute in fierce crosswinds.

Australian Matthews won his second stage of this year's Tour in a sprint finish ahead of Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen and German John Degenkolb.

The peloton battled strong winds over lengthy stretches of the 165 kilometres stage from Le Puy-en-Velay, but three-time Tour winner Chris Froome stayed on the right side as the peloton split into pieces over the final 20km to protect the yellow jersey.

Froome's Team Sky did much of the work to cause those splits, with Dan Martin caught on the wrong side as he surrendered 51 seconds and dropped to seventh overall, now two minutes and three seconds back.

That saw Britain’s Simon Yates move up to sixth in the best young riders' white jersey, one second ahead of Martin.

Froome leads the Tour, the closest in history at this stage in the race, by 18 seconds from Italian national champion Fabio Aru, with Frenchman Romain Bardet a further five seconds back.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran is fourth, only 29 seconds down.

Team Sky had upped the pace with a little over 20 kilometres remaining to cause the decisive split as only 22 riders made it into the front group.

Jack Bauer did his best to drag Martin back up to the leaders, but Martin could not keep up with his Quick-Step Floors team-mate.

Two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador was also dropped, a day after his Trek-Segafredo sports director Steven de Jongh told Dutch television this would be the Spaniard's final Tour.

It proved a hugely profitable day for Matthews, who cut his deficit in the points classification from 79 to 29 as Marcel Kittel struggled in the green jersey, finishing in a group more than 16 minutes behind the leaders.

Team Sunweb had ensured no breakaway could get away early in the day as they sought to deliver Matthews to the intermediate sprint, and once news came through of Kittel's struggles, they upped the pace further to ensure the Quick-Step Floors rider could not get back.

A nervy peloton hung together until the final run-in to the finish, when Sky began to pull away, causing a scramble behind as others tried to get on.

Bardet needed a big turn from AG2R La Mondiale team-mate Oliver Naesen to avoid being left behind himself.

With so few riders in the front group it was a selective sprint, but still a very close one as it took a photo finish to separate Matthews from Boasson Hagen.

It is the second sprint Team Dimension Data's Boasson Hagen has lost by the narrowest of margins in this Tour, and will be particularly disappointing for his South African-based team as they hoped to replicate Steve Cummings' Mandela Day win from 2015.

Nicolas Roche finished today's stage in 24th place. The BMC rider is 30th overall.

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