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18 July 2017 - 17:07

Degenkolb third in windy stage 16

"I clearly came with more speed from his wheel, and he saw me on the right side and closed the gap on the right side"

John Degenkolb sprinted to third place from a reduced group that arrived at the finish of stage 16 in the Tour de France after a crosswind section split the peloton with 15-kilometers to go. 

With many riders caught out, including many of the top sprinters, the odds for Degenkolb looked good, but in the final meters ahead of the line, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) moved slightly into Degenkolb's path, enough to impede his progress.

Matthews snatched his second win with Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) taking second and leaving a fuming Degenkolb in third.

"Matthews did not hold his line in the sprint, and that cost me the chance for victory today," stated Degenkolb. "I was on his wheel, in the perfect position to launch the sprint at 200 meters, and I started the sprint. I clearly came with more speed from his wheel, and he saw me on the right side and closed the gap on the right side. It made me stop the sprint - stop sprinting for the victory.

"I felt like I had the legs to win today. It was very clear he went off his line into my line. In the heat of the situation, you are immediately angry if the chance for a win has been taken away when you know you have the legs to overtake him. It's very disappointing."

Trek-Segafredo did not file an official protest and left it up to the race jury to decide if it was enough to flag as foul. The decision was swift, and Matthews was declared the winner.

From the TV replays, it showed Matthews moved from his line, but it was also evident that Degenkolb had enough space to respond. However, pointed out General Manager Luca Guercilena, at well over 60km/h even a small movement is amplified, and it was enough to disrupt his sprint. 

"You can see that he had room, but when you ride at over 60km/h even a small move, and [this was] even a bit more than a small move, then you feel easily the risk that it will put you into the barriers. But I think it is up to the Jury to make a decision, and they decided it was okay.

"Probably from the above images it was clear he had enough room, and we have to respect their decision, we are not here to make more stress for this kind of situation. But we also understand the side of John and that he probably had the power, but he felt the risk of being closed into the fence. For the Jury that is not the case, and that's the end of the story."

While most of the top riders of the general classification had made the front group that numbered only 28 after Team Sky had torn the peloton apart in the crosswind, a few were caught out and lost time, including Alberto Contador.

Contador arrived over 90 seconds in arrears and dropped from 9th to 11th place, closing the door, perhaps, on any miraculous comeback, but opening the door wider to play for a victory.

"We were the whole time upfront, attentive, but then because there were some braking maneuvers I suddenly sat more in the back and exactly at that moment [Team Sky] started to pull," said Contador about the stressful moment in the crosswinds.

"The problem was that I had only Koen de Kort with me and that made it complicated to organize ourselves. We lost (Jarlinson) Pantano to a crash, and also (Markel) Irizar and (Michael) Gogl got dropped, and they could have been a huge help in a stage like today.

"I didn't have to put my foot on the ground because of the crash, but the brake maneuvers made me lose quite some places. And then afterward the peloton split."

"Of course I would have preferred to be more in the front. But I have to admit that this is a completely different situation than when you are defending the GC.

"The day after the rest day is always particular; you feel a bit heavy. I lost some time but let's see how I feel tomorrow. Everything will depend on how my legs feel and how my rivals act during the race."

Jarlinson Pantano fell heavily just as the crosswinds reared up in an exposed section of road, but he was able to remount and finish the stage.  X-rays revealed nothing broken, and he will be able to take the start, albeit bruised and sore, for stage 17.


Tour de France

Chris Froome
Team Sky
Rigoberto Uran
Romain Bardet
AG2R La Mondiale