Ian Boswell
Team Katusha-Alpecin
Data from Wahoo

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Stage 16 took the race into the Pyrenees. With a brutally short 65km climbing stage up next, the top GC riders likely came into this stage hoping to save their matches for tomorrow. But those out of contention, like Michelton-SCOTT GreenEdge’s Adam Yates, had nothing to lose and redemption to gain with stage win. The resulting racing was hectic and aggressive despite the challenging terrain, and spent riders could be seen dangling desperately off the back of the peloton.

The dynamics of the day were compounded by rain and a roadside protest at 185km to go, involving bales of hay across the road. No, it wasn’t directed at Team Sky—this time it was a group of farmers protesting a reduction in EU funding. A gendarme reportedly used pepper spray to deter a protester, and riders were caught in the crossfire. While some were seen washing out their eyes with water, none seemed to suffer any lasting effects.

Fifteen confusing minutes later, the race was back up and running. Finally, after 108 stressful kilometers, 44 riders finally got free. The leaders would eventually put almost 11 min on the Sky-controlled yellow jersey group, but with the top-placed rider in the break (Pierre Latour of AG2R La Mondiale) over 17 minutes down in the GC, there was little motivation to bring them back.

Phillipe Gilbert made his move at 70km to go on the Col de Portet-d’Aspet. He managed to put a minute on the lead group, but with roads wet from the earlier storm, he lost control on the descent, hit a low wall, and flew worryingly out of sight. He was pulled out, flashed a thumbs-up, and was able to finish—but ultimately abandoned the race due to an arm injury he sustained in the crash.

The massive lead break dwindled to just seven, with some big names among them including Latour, Yates, Barguil and Alaphilippe. Adam Yates led over final climb. He had a 25-second buffer over the Col Du Portillon and looked poised to descend to victory, until he, too, slid out on a wet corner and was passed by Julian Alaphillipe. Yates apparently suffered just roadrash, but could not regain his confidence on the remaining turns. It was the Frenchman who took his second stage win of the tour, and will remain the King of the Mountains for another day.

The GC remains unchanged going into tomorrow’s short stage. Serge Pauwels of Dimension Data did not start stage 16, having broken his elbow sprinting for the finish in stage 15. Damien Howson of Mitchelton-Scott GreenEdge also abandoned with broken wrist from the same crash. Tim DeClerq of Quickstep Floors started the day, but called it a race after struggling for 80 km, and is reportedly dealing with illness. Lawson Craddock of EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale is still fighting through his broken scapula—in case you haven’t heard, for every stage he finishes he’s donating $100 to the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation to help rebuild a local velodrome decimated by hurricane Harvey. Inspired? You can pitch in here.