No change in the general classification with the exeption of Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang disappearing from the top 10 after his withdrawal. Uran moves into ninth and Porte back to 10th. Thanks for joining me today and be sure to return to the Astana party tomorrow in Stage 17.
Nîmes - Nîmes
Tour de France - 23 July 2019
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The top 10 completed by Matthews, Trentin, Stuyven, Kristoff and Pasqualon.
It looked like Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) had that one but the Australian came through late to snare his second win of the race with Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) third and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) fourth.
Victory for Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal!
Matthews, Ewan and Sagan are all there, with Viviani on a good train...
Jumbo-Visma anmd Lotto are back on the front ahead of the flamme rouge, and Andre Greipel, still yet to crack the top 10 in a sprint, is up there, too.
Nairo Quintana is among a large group of riders who have been dropped.
All over for the break, who are reeled in after yet another roundabout.
Katusha now on the front of the pack with Bora. The gap is still 10 seconds as the peloton pass the magic 3km marker.
Bora-Hansgrohe take things up for Peter Sagan. Sunweb will be going with Matthews, probably, after Bol's crash.
More roundabouts and tight corners as the peloton really strings out. Still 10 seconds for the five leaders.
Another crash! A rider from UAE has gone down, and Ben King from Dimensikon Data, who swaps bikes with a teammate and gets back on his way. That will make this finale even more nervy. Remember, Thomas and Fuglsang have both gone down today - the latter forced out of the race.
Just 10 seconds now for the break as the news trickles through that Alexis Gougeard has been named the most combative rider today. The Frenchman was the first to attack, so that's fair enough.
Katusha-Alpecin have now sent a few riders to the front. They don't really have a sprinter but the likes of Marco Haller and Nils Politt often get in the mix.
Entering the final 10km now and Matteo Trentin has edged up. The Italian has been in decent nick in the sprints and will hope to add a fourth win for Mitchelton-Scott following Daryl Impey's Bastille Day victory and Simon Yates' brace. The break has just 17 seconds now.
Kasper Asgreen now on the front for Deceuninck-QuickStep. Their priority will be keeping Alaphilippe in yellow but they won't say no to a second Viviani win. The gap is 27 seconds.
The temperature is 36 degrees at the moment so it's a scorching afternoon in France. But look at those views... if only the riders could appreciate them.
So, who's going to win today? Groenewegen and Ewan are the big favourites, Viviani has a good chance also to double up, then there's Sagan, who can never be discounted, and Kristoff, who often comes good in the final week...
Meanwhile, the race goes on and a rider from Jumbo-Visma has a musette of bidons and ice which he is dishing out and Tony Martin, on the front, shoves a few cubes down the back of his neck. The gap is 40 seconds for the leaders.
Race over for Jakob Fuglsang: the Dane, who was one of the big favourites for the Tour, has taken off his helmet and is heading towards his team car. He must have popped his collarbone or something because he knew straight away. Terrible end to Fuglsang's race.
The Dane went down in a spill with a couple of Sunweb riders, including their sprinter Cees Bol. And his entire Astana team are gathered around him and this doesn't look good.
CRASH: Jakob Fuglsang is on the ground and this doesn't look good...
Bak, Ourselin, Wisnowski, Rossetto and Gougeard continue their inevitable ride towards disappointment. They have 30 seconds and the race, for them, is for the right to wear the red combativity number and not the stage win.
The peloton is all bunched up as opposed to strung out, with riders huddled together in team formations. The threat of wind seems to have passed and the gap has stretched back out to 45 seconds for the leaders.
Just 25 seconds now for the five leaders so their time out ahead is coming to an end. Perhaps we'll see a counter attack from some plucky opportunists on the ride back to Nimes?
The race is entering a dangerous segment of exposed roads and blustery winds. Everyone is on red alert because of the threats of splits - and as a result, the advantage of the gap is coming down fast.
Groupama-FDJ and Movistar come to the front now - perhaps because of the threat of cross winds ahead. Ineos, too, are lurking - but it's still Jumbo, Lotto and UAE who are sharing out the workload for the chase.
The gap drops to under a minute for our five leaders, who are: Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Lukas Wisnowski (CCC), Lars Bak (Dimension Data) and Paul Ourselin (Total-Direct Energie).
Check out what nutty Matt Stephens has been getting up to in Nimes...
Talking of swimming pools, check out how the Jumbo-Visma boys spent their rest day... and who can blame them!
Lars Bak is hungry today - he's just added the single KOM point to his intermediate sprint haul. The peloton, meanwhile, pass through 1'20" down, led by Maxime Monfort of Lotto Soudal.
We're onto the Cat.4 Cote de Saint-Jean-du-Pin (1.8km at 4.2%). The fans are out in their droves waiting for another Geraint Thomas crash...
Mechanical for Peter Sagan, the green jersey, who is waiting on the side of the road for his Bora team car.
We're on a small hill ahead of the only categorised climb of the day with the gap 1'10" for our five leaders.
UAE Team Emirates have now sent a rider to the front to help out Lotto and Jumbo. He'll be working for Alexander Kristoff, who has been there or thereabouts in the sprints but has yet to notch a win this year.
Lotto Soudal are now on the front helping out Jumbo-Visma in the chase. They're eyeing a second win for their man Caleb Ewan. The gap is down to 1'15" with 100km to go.
The gap is still around 1'30" for our five leaders. I'm off to grab my lunch - will be back ASAP.
Sonny Colbrelli zips clear of the peloton early in pursuit of the remaining intermediate sprint points but Michael Morkov leads out Elia Viviani for the sixth place, crossing the line himself ahead of Colbrelli and Peter Sagan, whose green jersey lead is cut a fraction. The Slovakian had 284pts this morning with his nearest challenger, Colbrelli, on 191pts, and so he looks pretty much odds-on to win a record seventh green jersey in Paris.
Lars Bak, the old man of the break, leads our five escapees through the intermediate sprint at Vallerargues. The 39-year-old is riding his eighth and last Tour de France. This is his 20th Grand Tour.
Vincenzo Nibali is currently mincing off the back of the pack. He's had a bit of a rotten Tour - not in the GC mix nor ever being a threat to win a stage. He got in the large break in the stage to Prat d'Albis the other day but he was one of the first to be caught.
That Thomas crash earlier...
Thomas is back with the peloton again after dropping back to get patched up and speak to his Ineos team car. He seems ok but he may have hurt his back where the radio was placed - the impact seemed to be concentrated there. But he doesn't have any apparent cuts or any bleeding. Being on a replacement bike won't be ideal but today was the day for such a crash rather than one of the big stages in the Alps.
The riders covered 45.9km in the first hour today.
Thomas needed to change his bike after that crash and it took him a bit of time to get back on the road and into the peloton. He looks OK but he'll be ruing that unnecessary encounter with the tarmac. Looks like he clipped the kerb with his pedal on the apex of that bend, landing heavily on his side. Let's hope he's ok.
CRASH: Geraint Thomas is down!
Finally the gap creeps up above the two-minute mark for these three Frenchmen, a Dane and a Pole in the break. Although it may have been because Tony Martin was answering a call of nature because it's gone down to 1'50" as I write. I have to say, it's a wretch watching this one on TV when all these swimming pools and chateaux are being caught by the aerial cameras...
The riders have gone over a little hill with some respite from the sun from teh shade of the trees. The gap is very stable - it has not crept above the 1'30" mark since the metronomic Tony Martin has come to the front.
Here's a little rest day blog I wrote about the battle for yellow - asking whether one of the dazzling Frenchman can end the host nation's long 34-year wait for an overall win, but concluding that perhaps the more likely scenario is a first-ever Tour triumph for a Colombian...
Paul Ourselin is in the break for Total-Direct Energie, the only team in this race which has yet to finish in the top 10 of any stage. It's a torrid record for Jean-Rene Bernaudeau's men, who are crying out for a rider in the Voeckler or Chavanel mould. Lilian Calmejane was meant to be that man, but he's more off the boil than Jeremy Hunt's Prime Ministerial campaign.
The race has just passed over the resplendent Pont du Gard, where tomorrow's stage starts.
It's the last real chance of a bunch sprint before Paris and the Champs-Elysees and so it's no surprise to see Jumbo trying to keep a leash on the break. What a Tour they have had, with victories for Van Aert, Groenewegen and Teunissen, as well as the TTT, plus their man Kruijswijk still in with a shout of winning the whole thing. The best all-round team? Without a doubt.
The gap is up to 1'35" but the Jumbo-Visma team of Dylan Groenewegen is doing a good job to keep things in check because they will want today's stage to come down for a sprint. It's currently Tony Martin doing the honours on the front, as is his custom.
That man Rossetto is in the break for a fourth or fifth time in this race. He has the most amount of breakaway kilometres in the peloton - or out of the peloton, if you will. LeTour.fr spoke to him at the start today and he didn't seem overly fazed by the weather: "I’m fine. I feel in good shape to break away again. It’s summer time, I love it! It’s hot but as pro riders we are used to it. I rode La Vuelta four times and I’ve already experienced one week of such heat in Andalusia. I definitely prefer the heat than the rain."
Those three riders have managed to make the connection. They are Lukas Wisnowski (CCC), Lars Bak (Dimension Data) and Paul Ourselin (Total-Direct Energie). The gap is 40 seconds.
Geraint Thomas is off the back with one Ineos teammate after what must have been a mechanical. If it has to happen, now's the time because the pace isn't high in the break.
Alexis Gougeard (AG2R) and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) are the riders who zip clear from the outset with three others now trying to bridge over.
And they're off! A slightly delayed start today after someone picked up a mechanical in the neutral zone and the official start was put back a bit. But the show is now on the road with a flurry of attacks...
A reminder of who's wearing each of the jerseys: Alaphilippe is in yellow (but for how much longer?), Peter Sagan (who else?) is in green, Egan Bernal in white, and Tim Wellens in polka dots. The only one that could realistically change hands today is the yellow because the gaps are so big everywhere else - and there's just the one KOM point up for grabs.
One withdrawal to report: Dutchman Wilco Keldermann (Sunweb) is out with a painful shoulder. He becomes only the 13th rider to withdraw - this is the lowest amount since dual rest days became standard in 1999.
And the riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone ahead of the stage start.
Here's the official profile today as the race resumes with the 177km Stage 16, a slightly rolling ride through the Gard which starts and finishes in Nimes and could well reopen the door to some of the remaining sprinters. Although don't rule out a break going the distance.
And a quick reminder of the top 10 as we enter the final five competitive stages of the race, with that man Julian Alaphilippe still top of the pack.
A quick reminder of what happened before the rest day... The first cracks in Julian Alaphilippe’s yellow armour appeared in a scintillating and sodden Stage 15 to Foix Prat d’Albis on Sunday as the Frenchman limited his losses to retain the race lead after Britain’s Simon Yates held off a late surge by the irrepressible Thibaut Pinot to take his second win of the race.
Indeed, it's already 35 degrees Celsius in the shade and the mercury is only going to get higher as the afternoon progresses.
Bonjour le Tour! Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 16 of the Tour de France - an out-and-back loop through the Gard from Nimes to Nimes. And it's going to be a scorcher...