A nervous day, brutal pace and sharp climb to the finish has seen another shake up in the general classification at the Tour de France after stage 14.
ORICA-SCOTT leader Simon Yates was strong to finish 13th on the stage, losing just four seconds to the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky), who reclaimed the yellow jersey, but gaining time on other general classification rivals, including Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) and white jersey challenger Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates).
After an early breakaway, a furious pace in the final kilometres caught many out of position and unable to move up before the sharp 500m climb to finish. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) took the victory as those behind, including overall contenders, battled to limit their losses.
“I lost a few seconds to the guys at the very front there but I was in good position, as always I gave it my maximum and I am happy with that,” Yates said. “I put a bit of time into other guys that are close to me as well so it was a good day all round.”
“From the bottom to the top (of the climb) it was sprinting full gas. If you were a little bit caught out there was nothing you could do.
“There was a bit of wind out today and we really did a great job of keeping position. We were always in the front, whenever there was a slightly dangerous moment we were there, and I think we had a great presence today.”
How it happened:
A rare stage for the opportunists saw stage 14 controlled closely all day as a group of five riders formed the main breakaway of the day.
BMC Racing Team, Bahrain Merida & Team Sunweb took responsibility at the front of the bunch, each hoping to take advantage of the last 500m at an 9.6% ascent that would likely prove too hard for the pure sprinters.
The quintet’s advantage never drifted far beyond two-minutes as the peloton stay attentive, with narrow roads and some wind contributing to the tension in the bunch.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was the final survivor of the original break before a secondary move went off the front in the closing kilometres.
The pace was high as riders dropped off the back, and in the end the motivation of the surviving bunch was too much and brought the race back together, albeit strung out.
In the brutal, steep sprint to the line, Matthews proved to strong and, despite the battle, finished comfortably ahead of Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) for the win.
Many of the general classification riders found themselves out of position as Froome, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) and Daniel Martin (Quickstep Floors) made the first split.
Behind, Yates and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) were the next best finishers, four-seconds behind, whilst the likes of Aru, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) lost upwards of 20seconds.
Tour de France – Stage 14 Results:
1. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 4:21:56
2. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) ST
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data) +0:01
13. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +0:05
Tour de France – General Classification after Stage 14:
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 59:52:09
2. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) +0:18
3. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:23
7. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +2:02