Nimes    -    Caleb Ewan beat his sprinting rivals in suffocating heat to win Stage 16 of the Tour de France on Tuesday, with Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe keeping the race leader’s yellow jersey. With temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 F), Alaphilippe and his main rivals did not attack each other over the 177-kilometer mainly flat stage in the Nimes rural hinterland. Defending champion Geraint Thomas crashed about 40 kilometers after the race started from the Roman city but escaped largely unscathed, with a few scratches on his left elbow. Ewan, a Tour debutant, edged Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen to post his second stage win following his maiden success in Toulouse last week. After a group of five breakaway riders was caught two kilometers from the finish, Viviani was set up by his teammates and launched the sprint about 200 meters from the line but could not resist Ewan’s comeback.

“To be honest, I felt so bad today during the day.

I think the heat really got to me,” Ewan said. “I was really suffering but I had extra motivation today because my daughter and wife are here.

I’m so happy I could win for them.” Thomas, who is second in the overall standings, had already been caught in pile-ups during the first and eighth stages of the three-week race. Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who stood ninth overall, also fell with 28 kilometers left and abandoned the Tour. Thomas’ sports director Nicolas Portal said the Ineos team leader hurt his left side but “is all right” ahead of three difficult stages in the Alps later this week.

Under a scorching sun, riders tried to cool down with bottles of cold water against the backs of their necks as they pedaled on the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge set against a dramatic landscape of rocks, trees and water. Fugitives Alexis Gougeard, Lukasz Wisniowski, Stephane Rossetto, Paul Ourselin and Lars Bak had a maximum lead of two minutes but were gradually reined in as sprinters’ teams organized the chase.

There was no significant change in the overall standings, with Alaphilippe keeping his 1 minute, 35-second lead over Thomas intact. Steven Kruijswijk remained third, 1:47 off the pace and 3 seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot.