09 July, 2017
"I think if I'd started my sprint a little bit earlier second would have been possible but Kittel is just another level", Matthews said, adding that the disqualification of Sagan hadn't changed Team Sunweb's plan of attack.
Robert Gesink of the Netherlands finished second while Guillaume Martin of France was awarded third, leading led a group of riders who were credited with finishing 50 seconds back, including Nathan Brown of the United States in ninth place.
In a stage featuring two category-four climbs, breakaway rider Quemeneur took the honors on both summits for Direct Energie.
I've been telling Richie and the guys here that Irish porridge tastes way better than the stuff the team usually use but they didn't believe me, until they tried it last week.
Dutchman Robert Geesink was second while Chris Froome retained his overall lead after the group of favourites finished together 50 seconds behind the victor.
"Of course (it will be easier) but Sagan was already behind me when I took the jersey - it's going to be a big fight", he said.
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Froome's day wasn't without incident: On a downhill, right-hand bend after the second of three rated climbs on the 187.5 kilometer (116-mile) stage from Dole, the three-time Tour champion went straight into roadside gravel instead of cornering. You just have to see how it will be raced. "I've never been up there myself so I can't say what it would be like but if the Norwegian fans are anything to go by they would certainly give the Tour what it deserves in terms of a Grand Depart".
Tour de France stages such as those we raced on Friday are anything but recovery days for general classification riders like me. "The level that we have here for the sprints is still very, very high".
"This was one of my most relaxed days on the Tour de France", said Froome. Three climbs on the 116-mile route will serve as a warm-up for the extremely tough Stage 9 in the Alps on Sunday, which has seven climbs, including three with the "hors categorie" or beyond rating.
"The situation is different to the last years for sure", he said, referring to Sagan winning the green jersey in each of the last five years.