“I thought I had it. I was sprinting at maximum and I didn’t really see the line until it was too late.” – Alexander Kristoff.
A welcome stage as far as Chris Froome is concerned, the 209 kilometre route essentially another transition stage before the final rest day and the final, gruelling mountain stages.
Yet it wasn’t easy for the sprinters, having to face two climbs in the last kilometres that could’ve easily distanced the likes of Kittel and Cavendish.
You see, the stage wasn’t designed for another Cavendish win, nor a Kristoff or Greipel win. Instead it was suited for Fabian Cancellara, a worthy yellow jersey wearer that was sadly in his final Tour. (‘Spartacus’ has worn the yellow jersey more than any other rider who has not won the overall GC. Unfortunate, really.) Thus, stage 16 featured a cobbled ending for the Classics specialist from Trek, with a sharp cobbled climb that could have seen the crowd favourite take the win.
LeTourData handily tweeted the ‘fact of the day’: Froome has now worn the Maillot Jaune for the 38th day, today. This places him tied 5th with Magne for days in yellow during the Tour. He wasn’t attacking on today’s mountain lacking stage however, as within the first 15 kilometres Tony Martin and teammate Julian Alaphilippe had distanced themselves from the peloton and showed no signs of relenting. Alaphilippe was trying his hardest to win a Tour stage for the second day in a row after a mechanical then a crash saw him lose the greatest opportunity for a stage 15 win. Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo – Vital Concept) were only two of the failed attempts to join Etixx today as the pair continued to elude the chasing mound of cyclists behind them. Yet if they were to go all the way, who would take the win? Experienced TT World Champion Tony Martin took the cobbled stage win at the 2014 Tour de France, yet Julian Alaphilippe is also a man on a mission after his failed (yet determined) attempt yesterday. By the time 50KM had passed they were maintaining their 1m15 lead with various counterattacks either shut down or falling too short.
However with only 25KM and at the beginning of the short climbs to complete, Alaphilippe cracked leaving Martin to go on his own. This didn’t last too long and he was caught 3KM later. Rui Costa (Lampre) attacked with 20KM left yet lasted just under 5KM, reeled back in. (He was still slightly in front of the peloton for another 5KM.) You have to admire his pained face and determination, especially how with 10KM to go he had extended his slight gap to 10 seconds. Could we see Rui take the stage?….
…Not if Trek have anything to say about it, working hard to give Fabian his final chance at a Tour stage win. They let BMC take over the work and Costa was caught just 2KM from the line. With 1KM to go, the high pace uphill saw plenty of potential winners dropped. Sagan, Kittel and Degenkolb weren’t. The pace was then set even higher, sprint trains dwindling and Kristoff went for the line. Could he finally have gained his stage win at the Tour after sadly ruling himself out to the likes of Sagan, Degenkolb and Kittel?
Heartbreak for the man from Katusha, who makes the mistake of not lunging for the line like Sagan. The green jersey had taken it in a photo finish.
“At the beginning we were really happy and celebrating because we thought we had the win. Then, it started to filter through that we hadn’t. It was disappointing. The organisers were saying Sagan had won and Kristoff was second. We lost by a tiny little margin.” – Jose Acevedo (Katusha director)
Therefore the biggest disappointment was felt by Kristoff, who came so close yet so far. Alaphilippe and Martin came close too after a fierce four hour breakaway, yet Cancellara also features here. Losing the finish to a stage designed for him must sting. However he mustn’t be too disheartened. Winning 7 stages of the Tour de France is a mighty feat indeed.
Tomorrow is another well deserved rest day as the peloton prepare to face the Alps prior to the final stage on the Champs-Élysées.