Breakaway rider Michael Matthews claimed the first Tour de France victory of his career on stage 10, as Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey.
Matthews of Orica-BikeExchange beat Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan into second place and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data into third after six surviving members of the day’s 15-man escape group contested a sprint finish in Revel. Team Sky’s Froome followed safely in the peloton 9min 39sec behind the leaders to ensure he remains 16 seconds ahead of second-placed Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange and 19 seconds in front of third-placed Etixx – Quick-Step Dan Martin rider at the top of the general classification.
Stage 10 started in Escaldes Engordany in the Andorran Pyrenees and took the riders back into France on a 197km route that looked certain to end in a bunch sprint. However, when the likes of Vincenzo Nibali of Astana, Mikel Landa of Team Sky and BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet joined Sagan and Matthews in a high-pedigree breakaway, the sprint teams who didn’t have riders in the escape foolishly allowed them to open up a lead of more than six minutes and were unable to bridge the gap.
Knowing the breakaway would survive, Sagan attacked with 25km to go to reduce the group to just seven riders, but it was Matthews who took the upper hand when two of his team-mates, Daryl Impey and Luke Durbridge, also made the final selection. Despite Orica-BikeExchange’s numerical superiority, Sagan bizarrely opted to do much of the pace-setting for the remainder of the stage and Impey duly made him pay by attacking no fewer than four times on a late 1.8km climb and a flat last 3km, forcing the world champion into a tiring chase on each occasion.
Sagan was consequently drained for the finish and never threatened to overhaul Matthews once the 25-year-old Australian had hit the front, although a late surge did take him past Boasson Hagen into second place. The consolation for Sagan was the points he received at both the finish and intermediate sprint took him back above Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data at the top of the points classification. Sagan now has 242 points, while Cavendish is second with 204. Back in the peloton, Froome and the other contenders for overall victory enjoyed a relaxed day after the sprint teams were forced to do almost all of the chasing on the front.
The Tour continues tomorrow with a flat, 162.5km 11th stage from Carcassonne to Montpellier.
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, same time
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, st
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
5 Samuel Dumuolin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
6 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-BikeExchange, +2sec
7 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange, +1:10
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, +3:01
9 Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, +3:10
10 Tony Galopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, st
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 49:08:20
2 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +16sec
3 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +19
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +23
5 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, +37
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +44
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, st
8 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, st
9 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, +55
10 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +1:01