The breakaway forged their way through one of the most iconic images of the Tour, sunflower fields.

Photo Gallery: 2017 Tour de France, Stage 14

by Evan Hartig

Australia’s Michael Matthews (Sunweb) sprinted to victory on Stage 14 of the Tour de France Saturday, edging out Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) on the final 500-meter uphill sprint. It was the first win for Matthews at this year’s Tour, and his second Tour win of his career. It was also the second Sunweb victory in 24 hours, following Warren Barguil’s win at Foix on Friday.

After two strenuous days in the Pyrenees, the peloton came out of the mountains for Stage 13. It wouldn’t be a flat day, however, with two Category 3 climbs on the profile, in addition to a steep final 500 meters.

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro) formed the breakaway from kilometer 1. Five kilometers later, Reto Hollenstein (Katusha) jumped from the field to make his way up to the leading four.

BMC and Sunweb led the chase behind, lacking any generosity for the breakaway. Their margin didn’t rise above three minutes for the entirety of the stage.

At 38 kilometers remaining, on the ascent of the Côte de Contrès, De Gendt’s pace distanced Bouet, Hollenstein, and Roosen. Voeckler was the only one with the ability to follow De Gendt’s pace, and over the top of the second categorized ascent the two found themselves alone. Six kilometers later, De Gendt went solo.

The gap continued to fall due to the diligent work of Sunweb and BMC on the front of the peloton. With 12km remaining, Swiss powerhouse Michael Schär took the front. De Gendt’s gap diminished until it was negligible, and the Belgian was reeled in as Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) took the front of the field.

Counterattacks immediately flew. The first instigator was Maurits Lammertink of Katusha-Alpecin, and was immediately followed by Damiano Caruso (BMC), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo- Oscaro). The four, with only Lammertink and Périchon pulling, were able to gain 13 seconds going into the final, but their gap quickly diminished.

Quick-Step Floors was on the front of the field behind, setting tempo into the base of the final climb for Belgian puncheur Philippe Gilbert. With five kilometers to go, Caruso, Arndt and Périchon had surrendered, but Lammertink wasn’t content to go down easily. He remained out front for another kilometer before finally succumbing to the vicious pace being set behind.

Belgian champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) led into the base of the final ascent. On his wheel was Gilbert, followed by Van Avermaet, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Matthews. Matthews launched his final kick with 100 meters remaining, distancing Gilbert and Van Avermaet for the win.

Aru found himself behind a split on the final climb, and he succumbed the GC lead back to Froome by 19 seconds. Froome finished an impressive seventh on the stage, just ahead of Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and Uran.

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