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It meant that Kittel just lost once in the final sprint, and he has achieved back-to-back wins twice this year.

Nacer Bouhanni's lead-out man, punched a hole through which Kittel charged, onto McLay's wheel.

"There should never be an unwritten rule that you should stop".

The intermediate sprint came 61km from the finish and was hotly contested by those that considered themselves to still be in with a shot at clawing back the large advantage of Marcel Kittel in the race for green. "I can be happy about my legs but not the end".

Meanwhile Chris Froome maintained his overall lead, and held onto his spot as the Yellow Jersey for yet another stage to show how dominant he is in this entire field. For others, however, the memory was not all sweet. If the Italian Dario Cataldo, touched a wrist, was forced to abandon the race, two riders highly placed in the overall standings, the Dane Jakob Fuglsang (wrist) and the French Romain Bardet (knee), have been able to leave without too much apparent damage. Alberto Contador, the two-time victor, also went down twice.

"In the last kilometres, I was thinking that I could do it", he said. Otherwise, this is a day to gain yet more clarity in the General Classification and King of the Mountains competition. It started to get stressful because everyone thought there was going to be crosswinds over the top of the climb and (Thibaut) Pinot just came sideways at me and totally took me out.

His Bora-Hansgrohe team could have used the win after losing world champion Peter Sagan to disqualification and general classification hopeful Rafal Majka in a crash, but Bodnar had his own reasons to chase glory as well.

With 30km remaining, the peloton has cut their deficit to 30 seconds.

The climb is completed with five kilometres to go, with the riders then descending along straight roads until the 2.5 kilometre to go point, where they start the final climb, to the finishing point at the top of the Peyragudes. British promising Simon Yates had no clue of falling down on the best young rider honor.

Matthews sat outside the Team Sunweb bus with his head in his hands for several minutes after the finish before being consoled by teammate Nikias Arndt.

The 214.5-km trek from Pau to Peyragudes will offer opportunities for the aggressive riders, but a solo effort will be doomed as Briton Froome's Team Sky outfit are experts in containing the opposition.