photo credits @ Le Tour/Twitter
Despite a valiant effort by Peter Sagan to chase down Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) along the final decent of the Col de Manse, it wasn’t enough to catch the Spanish rider, who had attacked on the day’s final climb – subsequently building up a minute advantage that would hold until the finish.
Today’s victory, marked Plaza’s first Tour de France stage win of his career, and his first Grand Tour stage win since 2005.
A sizable breakaway group of 29 riders containing all of the top GC contenders, managed to ride clear of the peloton shortly after the start of today’s stage.
From there, they succeeded in building up a massive advantage 20 minutes over the remaining field.
However, after 15 kilometers of racing, the lead group split into two groups of 12 riders, with the first group containing Grivko (Astana), Riblon (AG2R), Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo), De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Geschke (Giant Alpecin), Haller (Katusha), Jungels (Trek), Oliveira (Lampre), Plaza Molina (Lampre), Navarro (Cofidis), Fedrigo (Bretagne Séché), and Pauwels (MTN), while the second held Erviti (Movistar), Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Golas (Etixx), Trentin (Etixx), Voeckler (Europcar), Didier (Trek), Irizar (Trek), Mate (Cofidis), Pantano (IAM), Perichon (Bretagne Séché),
Sagan collected the fruits of his efforts by taking the intermediate sprint without opposition, adding 20 points to his green jersey tally.
However, as the race reached the 105 kilometer mark, both groups were back together. And, as they tackled the long, steady climb of the Col de Cabre, the group managed to stretch out their gap over the peloton to more than 12 minutes.
Sagan was the the first rider to accelerate along the descent, only to be briefly joined by Grivko (Astana) at the bottom. However, it wasn’t long before both riders were reclaimed by the chase.
Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) was the next to attack, jumping clear of the break with 45km to go and was joined by Marco Haller (Katusha) 10km later. The duo hit the base of the Col de Manse with a minute’s lead over the chase, while the main field was as far back as 20 minutes.
Sagan, Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) caught and passed Hansen and Haller mid-way up the Col de Manse, with Plaza immediately attacking and going solo. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Luis Mate (Cofidis), Bob Jungels (Trek) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) then bridged over to the chase group to make nine.
Sagan followed every attack from the chase group, determined not to allow anyone else get away as Plaza crested the top of the Col de Manse ahead and maintained his gap to take the victory despite a determined chase by Sagan. For the fifth time this Tour, Sagan had to settle for second place.
Behind, Roman Kreuziger led Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Alberto Contador in front of Sky and Froome into the Col de Manse as the peloton was quickly whittled down to the overall contenders.
As widely predicted, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacked on the descent of the Col de Manse, utilizing his superior descending skills. Meanwhile, Thomas was knocked off the road as Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) went wide on a corner and nudged him sideways into a telegraph pole and down a bank. Thomas was helped back up by a spectator, remounted and finished the stage just 38 seconds down on Froome.
Nibali gained 28 seconds on his rivals after his downhill move, maintaining his eighth place – 7:49 behind Froome.
Tour de France 2015, stage 16: Bourg-de-Péage to Gap, 201km
1. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Lampre-Merida in 4-30-10
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 30 secs
3. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling at 36 secs
4. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 40 secs
5. Bob Jungels (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
6. Christophe Riblon (Fra) Ag2r at same time
7. Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN-Qhubeka at 53 secs
8. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal at 1-00
9. Luis Mate (Spa) Cofidis at 1-22
10. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar
24. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 17-44
25. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 18-12
28. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 18-12
30. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 18-12
32. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 18-12
34. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 18-50
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 64-47-16
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3-10
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 3-32
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 4-02
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4-23
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 5-32
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 6-23
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 7-49
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing at 8-53
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 11-03
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