Tour de France: Team Sky's Chris Froome reclaims yellow jersey
|Tour de France: 1-23 July|
|Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. BBC Radio coverage on 5 live sports extra and/or website from 14:30 BST on every stage.|
Chris Froome sensationally reclaimed the yellow jersey after a thrilling uphill sprint at the end of stage 14 of the Tour de France.
Australia's Michael Matthews beat Greg van Avermaet up to the line in Rodez - but the real story unfolded behind.
Froome finished seventh and turned a six-second deficit into an 18-second lead over Italy's Fabio Aru, who was caught out by the late surge.
"I didn't think I could get the jersey back on this stage," said the Briton.
"It is a great day."
Froome's unexpected yellow
For most of the 181.5kms from Blagnac to Rodez, there was very little to suggest that there would be any serious movement at the top of the general classification.
But anyone who watched the finish in Rodez two years ago - won by Belgian Van Avermaet - would have noticed riders strung along the road during the the tough final uphill sprint that averaged 9.6%.
And it was precisely this that the brilliantly aware Froome and his Sky team exploited to wrestle back the yellow jersey from Aru.
The Italian had capitalised on Froome's laboured finish up to Peyragudes at the end of stage 12 to snatch the overall lead.
After Sky ensured that a high pace was maintained on the long run-in to Rodez, the isolated Astana rider was caught out up the final punchy climb while Froome sprinted strongly to the finish.
"We've given up the yellow jersey once and I've seen a pretty disappointed Froomey when he had to hand it over," Sky's Luke Rowe said at the finish.
"He won't do it again."
French AG2R rider Romain Bardet remains in third, 23 seconds behind Froome with seven stages left before the race ends in Paris on 23 July.
A magic day for Matthews
In the end, it was a relatively comfortable victory for Matthews, who had time to lift his hands off his handlebars in celebration as he crossed the line.
Van Avermaet's BMC and Matthews' Sunweb teams had worked hard to ensure that their heavily fancied riders would have the chance to claim a stage that was always unlikely to suit the pure sprinters.
A fairly flat and straightforward stage had just two category three climbs - and such was the pace of the riders that green jersey leader Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel were dropped, finishing in a group more than 13 minutes behind the winners.
Olympic champion Van Avermaet and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen were well positioned towards the finish but could not prevent Matthews adding to the stage he won in Revel last year.
"A lot of planning went into that day," said 26-year-old Matthews. "Not just today - weeks or months of planning, from my whole team, to deliver a win like that.
"I targeted this stage from the beginning of the year, I've been gearing my efforts around that finish and it came true."
One more day - then a break
Quick-Step Floors' Dan Martin, sixth in the general classification, has been riding with a back injury and is in no doubt about the need to get through to Monday's rest day.
"It has been a brutal week," said the Irish rider after Saturday's stage.
"Everybody is tired. Nobody is really feeling good. It is a battle of the mind."
Standing between the riders and Monday are the 189.5kms between Laissac-Severac l'Eglise and Le Puy-en-Velay.
There are two category one climbs, one category three, one category four and an intermediate sprint in the middle. It could well be suited to a breakaway from riders such as Britain's Steve Cummings.
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Stage 14 result:
1. Michael Matthews (Aus/Team Sunweb) 4hrs 21mins 56secs
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel/BMC) Same Time
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Team Dimension Data) +1sec
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) Same Time
5. Jay McCarthy (Aus/BORA-hansgrohe) Same Time
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) Same Time
7. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) Same Time
8. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) Same Time
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) Same Time
10. Tiesj Benoot (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +5secs
General classification after Stage 14:
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 59hrs 52mins 09secs
2. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +19secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +23secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col/ Cannondale-Drapac) +29secs
5. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 17secs
6. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) +1min 26secs
7. Simon Yates (GB/Orica-Scott) +2mins 02secs
8. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +2mins 22secs
9. Louis Meintjes (SA/UAE Team Emirates) +5mins 09secs
10. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +5mins 37secs