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Tour Stage 16: Plaza Tames Tiger-Like Sagan

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Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Ruben Plaza of Lampre escaped on the day's final climb and held off Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan to take today's 16th stage of the Tour de France in Gap. The Spaniard snuck away on the Col de Manse, gained nearly a minute over Peter Sagan and the remnants of the day's breakaway, and crossed the line solo, sucking his thumb (I guess he has a kid at home). Sagan had to settle for second place, an incredible fifth time this happened already this Tour. Sagan was the star of the day, isolated and performing one feat of strength and skill after another -- chasing breaks, bridging gaps, attacking on the descent -- and crossed the line in second, unable to haul back Plaza's 50 second lead from the summit, pounding his heart with his fist in a gesture of defiance and determination. Sagan was awarded the Combativity Prize for a second consecutive day.

Sagan in Second

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/Getty

Twenty three riders got away from the peloton for the day's major breakaway, including Sagan but not his chief rival André Greipel. That left the two Lotto-Soudal riders in the break, Adam Hansen and Thomas De Gendt, with some work to do to disrupt the Slovakian's stage ambitions, and the large cache of points he stood to gain in the process. The other riders also understood their own interests in dropping Sagan from the bunch, and Lotto forced Sagan to chase down attacks after the Col de Cabre descent (which was interrupted by several punctures, apparently from tacks on the road).

Hansen then went off alone, but Sagan and others kept him from getting too far away, and on the Col de Manse Sagan himself climbed with the top riders chasing down Plaza, covering the occasional acceleration as the urgency to drop him increased. But Sagan -- already riding in the red number for most aggressive rider -- was simply too strong going up, and too fast going down, for anyone to stop him. There were some hiccups on the descent, possibly due to melting tar, but only Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling could stay with Sagan heading down, and not for long.

The GC leaders spent a bit of time jabbing each other on the Col de Manse, with Nairo Quintana taking a shot at Chris Froome, but nothing much happened besides Vincenzo Nibali stealing away near the top and giving himself room to attack on the final descent. It was a technical one though, and on the way down Warren Barguil lost control on one particularly notorious corner and took out Geraint Thomas of Sky, sending him flying off the road and grazing a pole, though apparently he was up quickly and back riding again, suggesting it looked much worse than it was.

Nibali wound up picking up a few seconds. Tony Gallopin, starting in ninth place (and best-placed Frenchman), conceded several minutes to the yellow jersey group over the Col de Manse and fell out of the top ten. Thomas conceded less than a minute after his crash. Pantano, third on the day at 36 seconds, was the big mover on the GC, gaining nearly 19 minutes on the maillot jaune, half his deficit entering the day, and now sitting in 15th place.

For all of Sagan's agony regarding the stage win, he made a huge move up the points scale, and now seems set to maintain his grip of the Green Jersey all the way to Paris. He leads Greipel by 89 points, with four mountain stages and a sprinters' affair remaining. Greipel would have to sweep the intermediate sprints and take the final stage in Paris to have a chance, while Sagan would have to miss out a lot, but the reality is that the intermediate sprints in the Alps are all following significant climbs, meaning Sagan is likelier to increase his lead than to see it shrink.

The peloton now settles into the final rest day of the Tour de France before four consecutive stages in the Alps. Results:

1. ESPPLAZA MOLINA Ruben 156 LAMPRE - MERIDA 04h 30' 10''
2. SVKSAGAN Peter 47 TINKOFF-SAXO 04h 30' 40'' + 00' 30''
3. COLPANTANO GOMEZ Jarlinson 188 IAM CYCLING 04h 30' 46'' + 00' 36''
4. GERGESCHKE Simon 86 TEAM GIANT-ALPECIN 04h 30' 50'' + 00' 40''
5. LUXJUNGELS Bob 147 TREK FACTORY RACING 04h 30' 50'' + 00' 40''
6. FRARIBLON Christophe 17 AG2R LA MONDIALE 04h 30' 50'' + 00' 40''
7. ERITEKLEHAIMANOT Daniel 219 MTN-QHUBEKA 04h 31' 03'' + 00' 53''
8. BELDE GENDT Thomas 73 LOTTO-SOUDAL 04h 31' 10'' + 01' 00''
9. ESPMATE MARDONES Luis Angel 174 COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS 04h 31' 32'' + 01' 22''
10. FRAVOECKLER Thomas 129 TEAM EUROPCAR 04h 31' 32'' + 01' 22''


1. GBRFROOME Christopher 31 TEAM SKY 64h 47' 16''
2. COLQUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander 51 MOVISTAR TEAM 64h 50' 26'' + 03' 10''
3. USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay 61 BMC RACING TEAM 64h 50' 48'' + 03' 32''
4. ESPVALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro 59 MOVISTAR TEAM 64h 51' 18'' + 04' 02''
5. ESPCONTADOR Alberto 41 TINKOFF-SAXO 64h 51' 39'' + 04' 23''
6. GBRTHOMAS Geraint 39 TEAM SKY 64h 52' 48'' + 05' 32''
7. NEDGESINK Robert 131 TEAM LOTTO NL - JUMBO 64h 53' 39'' + 06' 23''
8. ITANIBALI Vincenzo 1 ASTANA PRO TEAM 64h 55' 05'' + 07' 49''
9. NEDMOLLEMA Bauke 141 TREK FACTORY RACING 64h 56' 09'' + 08' 53''
10. FRABARGUIL WARREN 82 TEAM GIANT-ALPECIN 64h 58' 19'' + 11' 03'


1. SVKSAGAN Peter 47 TINKOFF-SAXO 405 pts