©Tim De Waele

The German will lead the points classification at the Grande Boucle for the 15th time in his career.

Early fierce attacks, crosswinds, full-throttle action and gaps in the general classification, stage 16 (Le Puy-en-Velay – Romans-sur-Isère, 165 kilometers) of the Tour de France had it all. The rapid tempo led to many riders being dropped from the peloton, among them also Marcel Kittel, who once he lost contact with the main group rode his own pace until the finish, where he made his daily visit to the podium to don again the prestigious green jersey he wears since last week.

With five stages to go, the German holds a 29-point lead over Tuesday’s winner, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), but is determined to fight until the very end, despite the gap coming down and the fact the team will continue in seven riders after Philippe Gilbert was forced to abandon due to a viral gastroenteritis: “It is as it is. I can’t change any of the things that happened today. The stage suited Matthews better with that tough uphill start, where I lost contact. But I won’t think of the points I lost today, although I’m not happy with this, I’ll just focus on the next stages and take it day by day.”

The stage was affected by severe crosswinds in the final 20 kilometers, with strong gusts of wind splintering the peloton on the roads to Romans-sur-Isère, a town which last year featured on the course of the 2016 Paris-Nice. Unfortunately, Dan Martin was among the riders caught on the wrong side of these crosswinds and conceded 51 seconds by the finish, a loss which moved him down to seventh in the overall standings.

“It was a really tough stage and we suffered out there. It was difficult without Matteo and Philippe, who were forced to say goodbye to the race earlier. Their presence would have probably made the difference today. Can’t say it’s the best situation for us, but the team is upbeat and optimistic about our chances now that the race is heading into the Alps for two days”, said Dan Martin at the finish of stage 16.