Matthews Climbs to Victory in Stage 14 of Tour de France
After taking his maiden Tour de France stage win in Rodez in 2015, BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet looked to repeat his success when the race returned to the same finish in stage 14 of the 2017 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 of Team Sunweb.
As soon as the flag dropped in the 181.5 kilometer stage from Blagnac to Rodez, attacks started and eventually five riders formed the breakaway group of the day. Riding his final Tour de France Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) initiated the breakaway. He was quickly joined by Timo Roosen (Lotto NL - Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro). Eventually Reto Hollenstein (Team Katusha-Alpecin) reinforced the breakaway group at kilometer 14.
In the main peloton group Team Sunweb and BMC Racing Team took control of the chase. Joining forces the two teams managed to keep the breakaway advantage below two minutes for the majority of the stage.
De Gendt increased the pace in the front group on the second climb of the day. Only Voeckler could follow his tempo, but with 30 kilometers remaining, De Gendt decided to go solo. His attempt stranded with twelve kilometers remaining of today's stage.
A few riders tried to escape the peloton in the vacuum that formed afterwards, but they were also reeled in, thus resulting in spectators witnessing a large group competing in the steep and uphill final 500 meters of the stage. Matthews proved the strongest man of the day in the uphill sprint, finishing ahead of Van Avermaet and Team Dimension Data's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Team Sky's Chris Froome proved strong in the final uphill battle. He, therefore, took back the yellow race leader's jersey from Fabio Aru (Team Astana) who lost crucial seconds with just seven stages left. Aru is now 18 seconds behind Froome in the general classification. Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) is 23 seconds back and Rigoberto Uran is in fourth position, 29 seconds behind the race leader for his Cannondale-Drapac team.
Today's stage was a unique opportunity for sprinter Matthews, with the uphill finish perfectly suiting the 26-year-old rider.
"I'm super happy to get the win for the team today. We were all really focused even though there was a lot of pressure and expectations," Matthews told Roadcycling.com.
"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 we all 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 the whole Sunweb team," Matthews added.
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