Tour de France 2017: Chris Froome retains lead as Michael Matthews takes second win

Tour de France 2017: Chris Froome retains lead as Michael Matthews takes second win: Michael Matthews took his second stage of the Tour de France with victory on stage 16, as Britain’s Chris Froome retained the leader’s yellow jersey.

Tuesday’s stage came alive at the end as crosswinds split the peloton before Matthews held off Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Wednesday’s stage 17 features two ‘hors categorie’ climbs including the Col du Galibier at 2,642 metres.

As it is the penultimate stage in the mountains, Froome can expect to see his rivals go on the attack.

The defending champion leads Italy’s Fabio Aru by 18 seconds, with France’s Romain Bardet a further five seconds back with five stages to go.

On Tuesday, points leader Marcel Kittel was dropped early on a bad day for his Quick-Step team, with Dan Martin also losing time on the leaders.

The German sprinter was looking for his sixth stage win but Matthews’ Sunweb team pulled hard to distance him, with the Australian also winning the intermediate sprint to move within 29 points of Kittel in the green jersey points classification.

Ireland’s Martin was caught behind a split on the run-in to Romans-sur-Isere and dropped to seventh overall as Britain’s Simon Yates moved up to sixth and extended his lead in the best young rider’s white jersey competition.

Sunweb’s Michael Matthews out-sprints Edvald Boasson Hagen to take a second stage win

Sunweb scheme reopens battle for green

Matthews, who also won Saturday’s stage 14, initially tried to leave Kittel behind by getting in a breakaway group during a frantic start after the roll-out in Le Puy-en-Velay.

Those attempts failed but with the category three climb of Cote de Boussoulet coming early in the stage, Sunweb upped the pace and Kittel was soon visibly struggling, also lacking the help of key team-mate Philippe Gilbert, who pulled out before the start through illness.

The green jersey leader never looked like bridging the gap as Sunweb ruthlessly drove on over the second and final climb of the day and down onto flatter terrain.

An unchallenged Matthews took 20 points at the intermediate sprint before his team-mates then also helped rid the front group of sprint rivals Andre Greipel and Nacer Bouhanni as high winds split up the peloton inside the final 20km.

The final drag saw BMC’s Greg van Avermaet go early but Matthews had enough power to pass him and deny a surging Boasson Hagen and John Degenkolb on the line.

Kittel rolled home easily within the time limit and still has stage 19 and the final stage in Paris to target victory. But as the form rider and with perhaps the form team in the race, Matthews could snatch a green jersey that had looked safe.

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