The yellow jersey race at this year’s Tour de France is the closest in history. The green jersey standings are tightening, too.
Australian Michael Matthews won Stage 16 in a photo finish on Tuesday for his second stage victory of this year’s Tour. Matthews edged John Degenkolb and Edvald Boasson Hagen in the final sprint, then reportedly said Degenkolb grabbed him by the neck in frustration.
Degenkolb said Matthews made an illegal move off of his line in the sprint, cutting off Degenkolb.
“That cost me the victory today,” Degenkolb said on NBCSN. “He saw me on the right side and closed the gap on the right side. That made me stop the sprint to sprint for the victory. … In the heat of the situation, you’re obviously very angry if you cannot go for the victory, if you know you have the legs to overtake him. That’s very disappointing.”
The top four in the overall standings — Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran — all received the same time to stay within 29 seconds of each other with five stages left.
Matthews chopped German Marcel Kittel‘s lead for the green jersey as top sprinter from 79 points to 29 points.
Matthews hopes to become the first Australian to win the green jersey at the Tour since the last of Robbie McEwen‘s three victories in 2006.
The Matthews-Kittel battle could come down to the final stage, the ceremonial ride into Paris on Sunday.
Kittel needed to win Tuesday for a shot at equaling the record of eight stage wins in a single Tour. Alas, he was not in the first group to finish. Kittel has five stage victories with two more chances on flat stages Friday and Sunday.
The Tour heads into the Alps for the first of the final two mountain stages Wednesday. Stage 17 features four categorized climbs, including two of the beyond-category variety, during a 114-mile stage.
NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN coverage starts 6 a.m. ET.
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