Matthews wins Stage 16
Froome keeps yellow jersey at Tour de France
Ahead of two gruelling Alpine stages likely to decide the outcome of the 104th Tour de France, Chris Froome and his teammates have sent a clear message to their rivals with another impressive display of collective strength.
Amid heavy crosswinds that played havoc in the finale of Tuesday’s 165-kilometre (102.5mile) Stage 16 between Le Puyen-Velay to Romans-en-Isere, Team Sky riders tried to unsettle their opponents by setting a frenetic tempo that split the pack like a jigsaw puzzle.
After relentless work from Vasil Kiryienka and Michal Kwiatkowski, only 22 riders, including Froome and teammate Mikel Landa, managed to stay in the reduced bunch at the front.
Also among them were Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran, who avoided the trap. But Dan Martin lost 51 seconds after getting caught in a split in the finale. He dropped to seventh place overall, 2:03 off the pace.
At one point, it looked like Bardet was going to be left behind but he was helped back into the leading group by Oliver Naesen. Australian Michael Matthews won the stage in a sprint to the line.
With the race now in money time, with stages set to decide the final podium, Froome went straight to the point with his aggressive racing. He appears in great shape and has the best team surrounding him in his bid to win a fourth Tour title.
“Everyone knew it was going to split at some point,” said Froome. “For us it was more about just being on the right side of it. Knowing it was going to kick off on that open section in the last 20 kilometres to go, the guys committed to that and we saw the gaps opening out straight away.”
Froome, the defending champion, has an 18-second overall lead over Aru, with Romain Bardet 23 seconds back in third place. Colombian Rigoberto Uran completes the leading quartet, 29 seconds off the pace.