Wednesday, 19 July 2017
2017 Tour de France: Matthews wins again, Stage 17 first crucial Alpine stage
Michael Matthews wins sprint and closes on Kittel
Difficult and windy conditions at end sees
Dan Martin loses 51 seconds
After today Matthews is just 29 points behind Kittel – remarkable!
Anyone hoping for a nice quiet transitional stage would have been severely disappointed today as it was full-on racing for almost all of today. Marcel Kittel was dropped on the first climb of the day but only around 22 seconds off the main peloton and his points adversary Michael Matthews – result full out racing.
Kittel's group never got back on, so Matthews took both the intermediate sprint and the stage win – 50 points in total and closing fast on Kittel. Matthews has been following the tactics used by Peter Sagan to great effect in the last few years – getting in breaks and picking up points a pure sprinter can't.
As predicted wind played it part in the final 20km or so. Of the leading contenders only Dan Martin got caught out losing 51 seconds to his rivals and now at 2.03 to Chris Froome. Martin paid the penalty of his team splitting between looking after Kittel and Martin, so poor Martin was short of helpers at the crucial moment.
Stage 17: La Mure to Serre Chevalier 183 kms
First big test: La Croix du Fer
Col du Télégraphe and and the legendary Col du Galibier
Tomorrow is the first of two big stages in the Alps. I suspect that if Chris Froome is to be beaten it will have to be on one of these two stages. If he goes into the the Marseille TT in the lead it will be almost impossible to beat him unless he has mechanical problems. Can Bardet do something at the top of the Galibier and then on the long descent to Serre Chevalier?