Fast-man Michael Matthews took 7th in a hectic sprint into Troyes. He came up quickly on the leaders in the final metres but ran out of ground in a tight finish.
A three-man break jumped clear of the peloton early on in the long and hot 216km stage. The bunch were happy to let them ride away as there were no threats to GC present, which meant a relaxed start for most. It was a very hot day in north-eastern France and riders sought the relief of ice packs to cool them down. After a fairly quiet first 100 kilometres, the race heated up on the approach to the intermediate sprint in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. Team Sunweb executed a strong lead-out, setting Michael up to take second from the bunch, and adding 11 points to his tally in the points classification.
As the race entered the final 30 kilometres Laurens ten Dam took the black and white train towards the front. The escape trio were eventually caught by the flying peloton with five kilometres remaining, which kept the pace high towards the finish. A difficult and hectic run-in meant Michael had to sprint from a long way back, but managed to pass several riders at high speed to take 7th.
Michael Matthews gave his thoughts after the finish: “With stages like this where it’s so easy all day everyone is stressed early – the final started with 50km to go. On these small roads everyone wants to be in position and so you lose guys there and barely anyone has lead-outs in the final.
I need to start my sprint from the front and I’m not a guy who can elbow people to get into position. The legs are really good, we just need to fine tune our lead-out process further and keep going for it.
Nikias Arndt also reflected on the day: “The stage started quite well with a breakaway going early. We had a good intermediate sprint where we tried to get Michael in the best possible position, which went quite well. The finish was very hectic and because of that it was difficult to stay together today.”
Team Sunweb Coach Aike Visbeek added: “Today was long and hot day. Our first objective was the intermediate sprint and Michael did a good sprint after a strong leadout. In the final we had the guys together but they could not get to the front to give Michael a good position. Michael was on the wheel of Kittel but lost it in the last corner. It was not a perfect final today, but we stay focused on getting things right.”
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