Peter Sagan sprinted to his third win of this year’s Tour de France on stage 16 as Chris Froome overcame a late scare to retain the overall lead.
Sagan of Tinkoff narrowly edged out Alexander Kristoff of Katusha in a photo finish in Bern to claim the seventh Tour victory of his career and all but seal top spot in the points classification for the fifth year in a row.
Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish managed to get over a steep climb in the final 2km in the front group of the peloton, but the ascent left him too tired to contest the sprint and he could only finish 24th.Froome of Team Sky briefly slipped back from the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres and had to fight to avoid being caught out when it splintered into several groups on a technical and largely uphill finale.
He eventually finished in the front group alongside all of his closest rivals, which means the Briton remains 1min 47sec ahead of second-placed Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo at the top of the general classification with five stages remaining. Orica-BikeExchange’s Adam Yates stays 2min 45sec back in third, while Nairo Quintana of Movistar remains 2min 59sec adrift in fourth.
Stage 16 covered 209km and ended with a 250m cobbled climb, a 600m paved climb and then a flat final 1km.John Degenkolb’s Giant-Alpecin team deterred attacks by setting a fierce pace up the two climbs and that in turn set up a sprint finish.
Cavendish looked to be favourite for victory when he emerged at the back of the heavily reduced peloton at the top of the final climb, but it quickly became apparent that he had already spent all of his energy and his challenge did not materialise. Sagan rode both climbs just off the front of the peloton and looked too far forward for the sprint, but he launched at the perfect moment and beat Kristoff by lunging his bike forward at the line.
Sagan now leads second-placed Cavendish by 114 points in the points classification, but given that four of the remaining five stages are in the mountains, the Manxman does not have enough opportunities to make up his deficit.
The Tour pauses for its second rest day tomorrow but resumes on Wednesday with a 184.5km 17th stage ending with a summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson.
Stage 16 result
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, 4:26:02
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, same time
3 Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling, st
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin, st
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange, st
6 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek-Segafredo, st
7 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
8 Ariel Richeze (Arg) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, st
10 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
14 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
20 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, st
24 Mark Cavendish (GB) Dimension Data, st
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 72:40:38
2 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +1:47
3 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +2:45
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:59
5 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +3:17
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:04
7 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +4:27
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +4:47
9 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +5:03
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +5:16