Andre Greipel takes his 3rd stage win in this year’s Tour to overcome his rivals, establishing himself as the premier sprinter in this year’s tour. This is the last stage that could be won by the sprinters before the finale on the Champs Elyse. There was no change in the top of the overall classification today as Froome retains his lead.
Stage 15, classified as a hilly stage starts from Mende and finishes 183 km later in Valence. It could be a pretty wrong classification. There are 4 categorized climbs. In the first third of the course today, there are three climbs (One Category-3 climb followed by two category 4s). The third climb allows a quick descent which would eventually lead to the intermediate sprint at 108 km. Then lies the biggest obstacle lies, a Category-2 climb. This will be tough but after that, it’s a quick 56.5 km to the finish, as the descent opens into relatively flat terrain.
26 riders have abandoned the tour already, with 172 of the 198 starting stage 15. Building on yesterday’s success, MTN-Qhubeka was the first to attack with Daniel Teklehaimanot going early. As the first climb approached, 16 riders broke off to ride ahead. There were more attacks as well before a group of 27 formed. The biggest shock was the see Mark Cavendish dropped from the first climb. He would then struggle throughout the stage with other riders including Jean-Christophe Péraud as they struggled to keep up with the Peloton and leading riders.
35 km into the stage, 9 of the 27 broke ahead further. This included Peter Sagan and Thibaut Pinot. Team Katusha did most of the pace making and kept the gap around the two minute mark before running out of steam. 80 km to go, Team Sky took over as they slowly reeled the leaders in. 50 km left, the final climb out of the way, Etixx-Quick Step’s Matteo Trentin rode solo and was joined by 2012 Giro winner, Ryder Hesjedal of Cannondale Garmin. However, just after 30 km to go banner, their heroics were done as they were caught by the Peloton that had been paced by Europcar and Katusha and Lotto-Soudal in the last 20 km.
The Teams jostled for position as they began to organize their lead out trains. The General Contender favourites were also bought forward by their teams to protect them. The final 5kms saw BMC and Lotto do the pace making as they charged forward in the excess of 50km/hr. Zdenek Stybar made the most of the uncooperative nature between the teams to try and solo in the final 3.5 km. He was not successful and was caught before the final kilometer.
As the sprinters charged, it was Greipel, the strongest of the lot who crossed the line first. It was another disappointing day for Alexander Kristoff as the Norwegian has had the most stage wins this year but has not opened his Tour de France account. Sagan’s winless run continues as he finished 4th, but solidified his grip on the Green Jersey. There were no changes in the top of the General Classification as they all crossed the line without incident.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of the Mountains Top 20
Stage 16 will be a mostly uphill, medium mountain classification. There may not be too much of a fight between the general contenders who will want to conserve energy heading into Tuesday’s 2nd and final rest day before we approach the final battleground. The ALPS