Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took the win on stage 14 after an otherwise quiet day at the 2016 Tour de France, beating his main rivals in the bunch sprint to take his fourth win this year and the 30th of his career.
Following the wheel of Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step), Cavendish came round with approximately 170 metres left to race and powered his way to the line. Kittel appeared to be raising objections as he crossed the line, but it didn’t look like there were any infringements.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had been coming up fast but poor positioning ended his chances of taking his first stage win of this Tour de France, and he had to settle for second on the day.
This is his best finish since the horror crash he was involved in on a training ride earlier this year.
After the breakaway had been caught, Dimension Data were committed to the cause of their sprinter and were joined by Katusha and Etixx on the front of the bunch.
Cavendish once again used his tactic of using his chief rival as his final lead out man, and once again took the win.
What’s more, after Sagan, Chris Froome (Team Sky) and co rode away from the bunch on stage 11 to deny a textbook bunch gallop, the teams of the fast men were far more attentive to proceedings.
A four man breakaway was allowed to ride away and push the block headwind for most of the day, with the peloton happy for them to dangle out there.
The four doomed men were: Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), and they commanded a lead well over four minutes for quite some kilometres but they were never going to be left out there until the end.
It had looked as though the quartet was about to be reeled in with 20km to go, but their advantage was allowed to go back out to 35 seconds with 16km left to race, as the roads narrowed and the peloton slowed things down to ensure everyone got through safely.
Howes was the first to drop away from the lead group as his former companions pushed on under the 10km banner with a 30 second advantage. Benedetti’s day was done not long after as Roy and Elmiger looked determined to try and deny the inevitable catch.
By this time many riders were out the back and resigned to rolling in behind the bunch as the wind once again got in amongst the riders and caused splits.
The last two escapees to be caught shared a handshake with 3.5km to go and then pulled to the side of the road as the peloton came speeding through.
Watch: Highlights of stage 14 at the 2016 Tour de France
Stage 15 sees the road go up, and go up a lot. There are six categorised climbs, including the famous HC ascent of the Grand Colombier followed by the first category climb of the Lacets du Grand Colombier.
The day’s route finishes with a descent and then flat run-in to the finish in Culoz after 160km of racing. Expect to see a breakaway take it, unless someone in the GC top ten sees a way of gaining some time and forces their closest rivals to react.
Tour de France 2016, stage 14: Montélimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208.5km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data in 5-43-49
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
5. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep
6. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
7. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
10. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r all same time
18. Daniel McLay (GBr) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
21. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange
60. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky all same time
General classification after stage 14
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 63-46-40
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1-47
3. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 2-45
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2-59
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 3-17
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 3-19
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 4-04
8. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 4-27
9. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-03
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 5-16