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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 16, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. - C. S. Lewis

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage 14 team reports

Here's stage winner Michael Matthews Team Sunweb's news:

Story of the Tour de France Volume 2

For the second day in a row Team Sunweb had reason for celebrations after taking the Tour de France stage 14 victory with Michael Matthews (AUS) sealing the win in Rodez.

Stage 14 was marked as a unique opportunity for Team Sunweb's sprinter Michael Matthews, with the uphill finish perfectly suiting the 26-year-old Australian. The team were in control throughout the day, always keeping the breakaway within reach. Every move until the finish was marked, showing Team Sunweb's upmost dedication to their goal; stage success. A stellar performance in a chaotic finale saw Matthews delivered to the uphill finish in optimum position by his team mates and he was then able to finish off their fantastic 180 kilometre effort to seal Team Sunweb's thirteenth Tour de France stage victory.

"I'm super happy to get the win for the team today," explained Matthews after the finish. "We were all really focused even though there was a lot of pressure and expectations. The team have worked so hard for the whole Tour de France so for us to take two in a row is incredible and we couldn't ask for anything more. The dedication from everyone shows how motivated they are and how much they believe in the same shared goal. We've prepared and worked so hard hoping to take the win today and we've done it, it's a really special victory for us all."

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews wins stage 14

Team Sunweb's Tour de France coach Aike Visbeek (NED) said: "We knew from the beginning that today would be a big chance for Michael and the team and we knew that it was our responsibility to take control. The team had a long, hard day ahead of them but they handled it really well. In the final Michael still had two from the team with him and he finished it off perfectly. It's an incredible team victory and a reward for everybody's hard work."

Second-place Greg van Avermaet's BMC team sent me this:

15 July, 2017, Rodez (FRA): After taking his maiden Tour de France stage win in Rodez in 2015, Greg Van Avermaet looked to repeat his success when the race returned to the same finish on stage 14 of the Tour de France.

The Belgian showed his trademark grit and determination in the uphill battle to the line that saw Van Avermaet cross the line in second place behind stage winner Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb).

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet (left, in red and black) was second in stage 14.

As soon as the flag dropped in the 181.5km stage, attacks started and eventually five riders formed the day's breakaway. BMC Racing Team took control of the race, along with Team Sunweb, and together the two teams kept the breakaway to within two minutes for the majority of the stage.

The gap began to come down in the final 50km and as the peloton started to bring the quintet back, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) attacked solo from the breakaway.

Behind, BMC Racing Team continued to set a flying pace at the front of the bunch and as the teams vying for the stage win began to chase, De Gendt's advantage quickly diminished.

The catch was made 12.5km before the finish line, allowing new attacks to come from the bunch. Damiano Caruso was quick to cover any threatening attacks and for a short while, was part of a 4-rider move sitting 10 seconds ahead of the bunch. Ultimately, the reduced bunch came back together with 3km to go and Van Avermaet sat perfectly positioned in fourth wheel.

Van Avermaet launched his sprint on the steep gradients with 200 meters to go but was passed by Matthews just before the line and had to settle for second place on stage 14.

Greg Van Avermaet: "The beginning was really easy and then we made the race hard until the climbs. I think we did a really good job to make the race hard which was better for me because then everyone was suffering and I had a little bit more punch in the end. I think we did what we had to do but I got beaten by one guy who was stronger so, in the end, cycling can be simple."

"With Richie Porte out of the Tour de France, one of the main objectives was a stage win with me. We tried and we were second but there are still some stages to come so I think we can be confident and we can try another time."

"The finish went how I wanted it to go because there was a lot of wind. I was hoping that I didn't have to go too early and I think the two Belgian guys, Oliver Naesen and Philippe Gilbert did a good job and I was in a perfect position. Then, I tried to launch my sprint to victory but Matthews was amazingly strong and he deserved the victory today."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "We knew before the start that Michael Matthews was a big contender and Team Sunweb also worked with us to keep the bunch together for the sprint. Thanks to our guys for what they did today. Everyone executed their job 100% from the beginning to the end. Really, all seven of the guys and Greg were amazing. Greg tried as hard as he could and was so close to the win. We still have other opportunities and I think with the spirit in this team, we can still do something."

Chris Froome regained the yellow jersey. Here's the report from his Team Sky:

Chris Froome powered back into the Tour de France yellow jersey in emphatic fashion on stage 14 as Team Sky capitalised on a tough uphill finish into Rodez.

On paper the 181.5-kilometre test might have looked straightforward, but a fast and technical run-in, coupled with a tough drag to the line, saw the peloton blown to pieces.

Seventh across the stripe, Froome dug deep to finish in a group just one second behind stage victor Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). Overnight leader Fabio Aru (Astana) saw himself caught out and finished 25 seconds back. The end result saw Froome elevated back into yellow, with an 18-second lead – the same advantage he enjoyed prior to losing the jersey on Thursday.

Chris Froome

Chirs Froome is back in yellow.

After detailed planning work ahead of the stage, the Brit was expertly manoeuvred into position in the final kilometres as Team Sky hit the front to apply the pressure. Vasil Kiryienka strung out the bunch, before Michal Kwiatkowski expertly took Froome to the foot of the final climb. Mikel Landa was also able to navigate the tricky finale, retaining his fifth place on GC, 1:17 back on his team-mate.

After the stage a thrilled Froome explained the thought that had gone into the tricky run-in.

He said: "We did this two years ago and we saw some pretty big time gaps there with Greg van Avermaet and Peter Sagan going over the line. We knew there were going to be time gaps today - but I didn’t expect that. It’s incredible to be back in yellow, especially after a tough day in the Pyrenees a couple of days ago. To bounce back like this now feels amazing.

"I’ve got to thank the team today. The only reason I’m back in yellow is because of the way they rode that final. Always at the front, it meant that I was out of trouble and had the best lines through the corners. It meant that I got to that last climb and had the legs to be able to follow those front guys."

Froome also reserved praise for the wingman role Kwiatkowski played in the final kilometres. He added: "He’s been just amazing, this whole race. Everything we’ve asked of him he’s done it - and more. Today again, in the last few hundred metres he was shouting on the radio, ‘You’ve got a gap, you’ve got a gap, push forward, all the way!’ It’s such a great feeling.

"I’m not going to be safe until I reach Paris. As we’ve seen, each day has had surprises. The time gaps are so small, as we expected they would be in this year’s Tour, so really at this point we’re just fighting for every second we can."
The start to the stage had been a much more relaxed affair, with Froome and Landa both able to sit comfortably in the bunch, protected by team-mates. Five riders pushed clear leaving Blagnac but the peloton were keen to keep the quintet on a tight leash. With the gap hovering around the two-minute mark, BMC Racing, Team Sunweb and Bahrain-Merida all put in stints on the front.

After the stage Team Sky's road captain Luke Rowe talked through a stage of two halves, and the hard work that went into planning the finish. He told ITV4: "It was a pretty straightforward stage for the main part and then in the final it got quite windy. Sitting quite far up the front made it a lot easier.

"We really looked at that final. We looked at the video of two years ago when Greg [Van Avermaet] won here and we said it’s got to be a leadout into that climb. We’ve got to be right at the front and there will be splits. It’s great to have Froomey back in yellow.

"We’ve given up the yellow jersey once and I saw a pretty disappointed Froomey when he had to hand it over. He won’t want to do that again."

Sport Director Nico Portal was also full of praise for the way the team executed the plan, adding: "We’ve been looking at this finish when Van Avermaet won and there was some splits. Froomey took some time on some guys that day and we knew that six seconds to Aru is a lot, but at the same time it’s quite tight. When you look at yesterday’s stage it was so hard and technical and we ended up with a good plan with Mikel now at one minute, but we didn’t really gain time on the guys who are close.

"So today we said if we stay calm and everything is under control we can really focus on the finish and we can be just behind the sprinters. We knew it would be Sunweb or BMC, and behind we could lead out Froomey and on the climb he had the legs. It’s worked out perfectly, and it’s a big gap.

"When Kiry dropped back he said on the radio that Aru was not that well positioned and I repeated that to make sure that Kwiato, Mikel and Froomey knew. It’s fantastic."

Team Sky also maintained their grip on the team classification on the day, with an advantage of 19:07 over nearest rivals Ag2r-La Mondiale.

Fabio Aru's Astana team posted this short update:

A very fast and tough final in Rodez produced some changes in the general classification of the Tour de France. After stage 14 (Blagnac – Rodez, 181,5 km) Fabio Aru stepped down to second place in the overall classification, while Chris Froome took again the yellow jersey and became the Tour leader.

For the moment 18 seconds separate Froome and Astana leader. Third place holds French rider Romain Bardet, 23 seconds behind the GC leader.

- There was a really high speed in the final, and the peloton started to split in parts. I did not have the best position, was a bit far behind. I tried my best to come in front at the last kilometer, but it did not work. So, it happens. Of course, I’d prefer to keep the leaderships, but there is no any big tragedy in it. Tomorrow is a very tough stage and also we still have a full third week with a lot of mountains. I want to recover as well as possible today and tomorrow I will keep on fighting. This Tour is still open, everything is possible, - said Fabio Aru.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru finished 30th in stage 14.

Australian Michael Matthews won the stage in a powerful sprint ahead of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and Norwegian rider Edvald Boasson Hagen. Fabio Aru finished 30th, 25 seconds behind the winner.

Tomorrow, the 15th stage of the race will end the second week of the Tour de France. It will be a mountain stage from Laissac-Sévérac l’Église to Le Puy-en-Velay of 189.5 km with 4 climbs in the distance.

Orica-Scott's Simon Yates is still in the best young rider's white jersey. The team sent me this:

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.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates (on left, sprinting against Dan Martin in stage 13), remains in the best young rider's white jersey.

“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 too 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.

And here's Lotto-Soudal's stage 14 report:

After two stages in the Pyrenees, the riders faced a stage with less climbing, even though the finale to Rodez was rather hilly. Immediately when the flag went down in Blagnac, Thomas De Gendt escaped the peloton, together with Maxime Bouet, Timo Roosen and Thomas Voeckler. They were joined a few kilometres later by Reto Hollenstein. The favourites for the stage victory, Michael Matthews and Greg Van Avermaet, let their teams set the pace in the peloton. This made that the advantage of the five leaders never grew higher than three minutes.

Thomas De Gendt increased the pace in the front group on the second climb of the day. Only Thomas Voeckler could follow his tempo, but with 30 kilometres remaining, De Gendt decided to go solo. His attempt stranded with twelve kilometres remaining. A few riders tried to escape the peloton afterwards, but they were also reeled in which made that a large group begun the steep final 500 metres. Michael Matthews was the strongest in the uphill sprint, ahead of Greg Van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Tiesj Benoot finished in a nice tenth place. Chris Froome takes back the yellow jersey from Fabio Aru.

Thomas De Gendt: “We knew beforehand that only a large breakaway could survive until the finish line, but it wasn’t easy to get away with many riders on the flat roads. It was not a must for me to be in the breakaway today. That’s why I decided to attack immediately when the flag went down, hoping that other riders would use a lot of energy to catch me and which would allow a teammate to escape. But eventually, the first breakaway was successful and we formed a front group of five riders.”

“Since the peloton kept us within limits, we decided to ride on an easy tempo until the final 60 kilometres, when the course started to go uphill. I quickly sensed that I was the strongest rider in the breakaway and I had to choose between two options. Either I went solo way too early or I waited a bit longer for the others. When I increased the pace for the first time, only Voeckler was able to follow me, but I was clearly stronger than him, which led me to go solo with 30 kilometres remaining. However, I was no match for the upcoming peloton.”

“It was definitely worth it to be in the attack today. Two years ago, I was also part of the early breakaway in the stage that finished in Rodez. Back then, we were only caught by the peloton inside the final 500 metres. It is to be seen which opportunities are still left in this Tour de France, but we will keep trying for a stage victory.”

Here's a look back at the 2016 Tour:

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary