The sixteenth Tour stage took the riders from Bourg-de-Péage to Gap. As predicted the Col de Manse was a crucial point on the course. The peloton let a large front group take lots of advantage. Lotto Soudal had two riders in front: Thomas De Gendt and Adam Hansen. Rubén Plaza won today’s stage.
Soon after the start 29 riders escaped the peloton, twelve of them left the others behind. Thomas De Gendt was one of the men in the front group. In the second group some riders were dropped and twelve others were left, among them Adam Hansen. The two groups melted together with 95 kilometres to go. Only one missed out. As expected the peloton didn’t chase and the leaders got almost twenty minutes advantage.
With fifty kilometres to go there was no cohesion in the front group anymore, several riders tried to get away. Adam Hansen went solo when 45 kilometres were left. About ten kilometres further Marco Haller joined him. The duo started the ascent of the Col de Manse with about fifty seconds advantage and that wasn’t enough. A group caught them and then Rubén Plaza attacked. In the descent Peter Sagan, who consolidated his lead in the points classification today, went full gas but he couldn’t catch Plaza anymore. Thomas De Gendt arrived one minute after the winner and was eighth. Hansen finished on place eighteen, about four minutes after Plaza. Tony Gallopin lost contact with the yellow jersey group on the Col de Manse and has disappeared from the top ten, the Frenchman is now eleventh at just over twelve minutes.
Thomas De Gendt: “In the past the stage to Gap always was a stage for escapees. So today you needed to be in the break if you wanted to win or at least set a good result. This morning at the team meeting I told that, and together with some others we wanted to attack. In the beginning of a stage you always have to see who’s in the group and how large it is. Eventually two groups melted together and we rode in front with twenty-three riders and it was immediately clear that Sagan was the strongest. Despite my injury I felt good enough to join a breakaway already a few times this Tour. With 23 riders in front the cohesion wasn’t optimal of course. On the Col de Manse the group fell apart; Adam Hansen had already given it a try by then, I could follow the better riders, but with the descent still to come I knew I wasn’t going to take any risks to follow Sagan. I didn’t want to crash again. Much more wasn’t possible today. But normally I don’t get worse in a third week of a Grand Tour, so who knows, I might join another breakaway one of the next days.”
Adam Hansen: “It’s our goal to win stages, so we wanted to try that again today. It took a while before I and ten others joined the first group. We had to chase for about 100 kilometres because the speed was so high. Luckily some did an extra effort to close the gap. It was the intention to bring Thomas De Gendt into the finale in the best possible position. I had to respond to attacks, but because we were with so many I decided to attack to reduce the group and hoped Thomas could move along. Unfortunately only one other rider joined me, so it was hard to cover more than 40 kilometres. Because of my shoulder injury it’s hard to sprint, so if I would have gone to the finish with some others I wouldn’t have won anyway.”