Saturday, July 15, 7:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. ET
Stage 14 returns to Rodez, where Greg Van Avermaet won two years ago ahead of Peter Sagan. These two could likely duel for the victory again. Much of the stage will take place on rough, sapping roads that, after 15 days of racing, demand incredible energy. Then there’s the uphill finish to the Côte de Saint-Pierre, which is exhausting too: It’s only 570 meters long, but averages 9.6 percent. It’s also possible that the members of a long-range breakaway will end up vying for the stage victory.
Stage 14: Matthews wins, Froome sprints to yellow
Australian Michael Matthews sprinted to his first stage win of the 2017 Tour de France on the steep Côte de Saint-Pierre in Rodez Saturday. Sunweb’s all-rounder got the better of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet. Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen was third behind BMC’s Belgian.
“Last time we finished here, I had four broken ribs. It was a stage I was targeting that year before I crashed,” said Matthews, referring to stage 13 of the 2015 Tour de France. “Now to come back on the same finish, to win like that it’s really a dream come true.”
Behind the one-day classics specialists, the GC riders were fighting for seconds in the overall on stage 14.
Sky’s Chris Froome was fastest on the 570-meter kicker at the end of the 181.5km day. He was seventh on the day. With that result, he took the yellow jersey off Fabio Aru’s back.
Stage 14, top 10
1. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) in 4h21:56.
2. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) à 0:00.
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/DDT) 0:01.
4. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/QST) 0:01.
5. Jay McCarthy (AUS/BOR) 0:01.
6. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/BAH) 0:01.
7. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:01.
8. Daniel Martin (EIR/QST) 0:01.
9. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:01.
10. Tiesj Benoot (BEL/LOT) 0:05.
1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky) in 59h52:09.
2. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) at 0:18.
3. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:23.
4. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:29.
5. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 1:17.
6. Daniel Martin (EIR/QST) 1:26.
7. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 2:02.
8. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 2:22.
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 5:09.
10. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 5:37.
A sharp right-hand corner led into the finish hill. Belgian champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) attacked into the base of the Saint-Pierre, which averaged 9.6 percent.
His move came too early. Tour of Flanders champion Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) ramped up the pace.
The Matthews, 26, sat comfortably on Van Avermaet’s wheel as Gilbert drove the pace. Before Van Avermaet had a chance to jump, Matthews accelerated. He quickly built a gap and had ample time to celebrate his victory.
“I think it was as expected. We rode all day,” said Matthews. “When we hit the breakaway so close, I knew it would be hard to have teammates in the final because we rode so hard. We were still able to have two or three guys with me in the final.”
Froome was dropped off in perfect position, finishing with the bunch. Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán was right there with the Brit. Bardet was only a couple seconds behind.
“It did help knowing the finish from two years ago. But I have to say that was all the team today keeping me at the front through all those twisty corners in the final,” said Froome.
On the other hand, Aru was in dismal position. He finished 30th.
“He just didn’t stay on my wheel so it’s hard to keep him at the front,” Aru’s Astana teammate Michael Valgren said.
“It was kind of a lottery to be at the front, I don’t know what happened to Fabio to be honest.”
Sunday’s stage 15 should be less stressful for the GC riders, and it may actually favor a breakaway. The 189.5km route has a category 1 climb with about 30 kilometers to go, as well as a Cat. 1 climb that starts after just 19 kilometers of racing.
“A lot of planning went into that day, not just today weeks or months of planning, to deliver a win like that from my whole team,” Matthews added. “I targeted this stage from the beginning of the year, I’ve been gearing my efforts around that finish and it came true.”