Caleb Ewan strikes again as Alaphilippe keeps the Yellow Jersey
Caleb Ewan sprinted to his second stage victory at the Tour de France as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe kept the overall lead after stage 16. Geraint Thomas fell but finished, Fuglsang Crashed Out.
While France sweltered, defending champion Thomas's gears jammed throwing him from his bike, hitting the tarmac hard, suffering minor cuts and abrasions, making it his 3rd crash at this year's race.
Thomas remains 1min 35sec behind Alaphilippe in the overall standings, with the following three riders all within 27 seconds ahead of three challenging days in the Alps.
Thomas's teammate the 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal, who is fifth 27 seconds behind Thomas but 2min 02sec behind Alaphilippe was a picture of serenity after the race.
"Okay it was hot but it wasn't so bad," said Bernal, who has the best under-25's white jersey.
"I rather like these conditions and to be honest I'm looking forward to the Alps. In terms of altitude it'll be like in Colombia" he said "The day off really did me good, I feel great today."
Bernal said that Thomas was in good shape despite his heavy fall, "I spoke to him just now and he's seen the doctor already and he's just got a couple of cuts, nothing serious" said Bernal, "It was nothing out of this world"
Alaphilippe has been hugely active signing autographs with the French public the past two weeks, went straight to his team bus Tuesday and did not reappear.
Ewan meanwhile was following up his victory on stage 11 at Toulouse and with Nimes melting under 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) the Australian was favourite for a repeat performance, this time edging Italian Elia Viviani on the line, "I'll look back on this Tour and say it was a success," said the diminutive Ewan. "This is the furthest I have ever been in a Grand Tour, I've never finished one before."
Peter Sagan, who came fourth on the day but is in the green sprint points jersey, said it was too hot to race and that something should be done to protect riders.
Dehydration was a major issue as team cars were carrying an average of 200 water bottles, many of them with added minerals and saline with riders expected to drink 15 of the half litre bidons each.
Some fans stayed away due the extreme afternoon heat on this southern French route, but the conditions failed to slow the peloton as it sped past the celebrated regional vineyards and olive groves.
One of the pre-race favourites Jakob Fuglsang, the Criterium du Dauphine champion, pulled out with 25km to go after crashing and hurting his hand.
Wednesay's 17th stage sees the Tour head north towards its Alpine reckoning with a 200km run from the Pont du Gard bridge in the Camargue to Gap, where bonus seconds atop a climb 10km from the finish line ensure further drama ahead of the three much awaited stages that follow it.
VIDEO: 2019 Tour de France Stage 16 Highlights
2019 Tour de France Stage 16 Top 10
1 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal 3:57:08
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
10 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert
2019 Tour de France General classification after stage 16
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 64:57:32
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos 0:01:35
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:01:47
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:50
5 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos 0:02:02
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:02:14
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:54
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:00
9 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First 0:05:33
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo 0:06:30