Tour leader Froome wasn’t so sure about the 15th stage but he escaped from it without much drama. Though Colombia’s Jarlinson Pantano won the 15th stage, Froome’s lead over Bauke Mollema was 1 minute 47 seconds. That didn’t change at the end of the 16th stage as well. When the riders took off for the 209 km stretch from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne in Switzerland for the 16th stage on Monday, Froome didn’t see any serious threat. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan ended as the 16th stage winner in a literal photo-finish with team Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff. Both Kristoff and Sagan were level with just 5 meters from finish but it Sagan won by just a few inches in one of the closest finishes in Tour de France.
2013 and 2015 champion Chris Froome has kept himself ahead after the riders finished the 16th stage in the Swiss capital, Berne. His Team Sky members have been very supportive in the set-piece mountaintop finishes despite a little struggle here and there. Froome was circumspect before Sunday’s 15th stage through the Jura Mountain but his rivals couldn’t reduce his overall GC lead. IAM Cycling’s Jarlinson Pantano became the first-ever Colombian to win a stage of the Tour de France and Froome was a little over 3 minutes behind the winner. But the mountainous 160km stage was taxing and the expected challenge from Movistar’s Nairo Quintanna didn’t come.
The 16th stage between Moirans-en-Montagne and Berne had one of the closest finishes, in which the second-placed Alexander Kristoff of Katusha, initially thought he had won, but it was Peter Sagan, who ended as winner in the photo-finish. There was one rider, however, who missed the glory going into his hometown Berne. The 35-year old Fabian Cancellara is a Berne native and the Swiss crowd at the finish line directly opposite the Wankdorf Stadium, longed to see their hero as the winner. But in the last race of his 14-year career, Cancellara was denied the pleasure. The thrilling finish was brought about by the Slovak Peter Sagan, who threw his bike at the finish line in dramatic style to pip Alexander Kristoff and for the third time this year, the stage came down to a photo finish. Cancellara was sixth and that reflected the fact that the veteran had been overtaken by a new generation led by Sagan. The Slovak has now three stages in this year’s Tour de France.
But race leader Chris Froome came away with the satisfaction that he still leads after a route that featured a short, sharp climb with section of cobbles in the last two kilometers. Froome was 13th at Berne and kept himself among the leading pack for most part of the 209 kilometer stretch. In comparison to the next stages involving the Alpine ranges, stage 16 was relatively easier despite its uphill and downhill phases. The reigning champion stayed away from danger in the quick finish and although he failed to enhance his overall lead over his rivals, he is still nicely placed to win another Tour de France. With Tuesday being the day of rest, Froome will return charged up for the next stages. His main challenger Nairo Quintanna is 2 minutes 59 seconds behind him on the fourth place but the diminutive Colombian is capable of upsetting Froome’s applecart as three more mountains remain in the competition. There is also a vital time-trial on Thursday and lot of things could change. However, having led thus far, the Brit would do his best to hang on to his leadership status.
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