A large breakaway was cut loose on another crash-marred day in the Alps. From the large move that eventually went clear, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) proved strongest and sharpest, going clear about 45 km from the summit finish at Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, and Poels ultimately coming out on top after attacking 11 km from the summit.
Further down the mountain, the race for yellow entered another intriguing chapter as Tadej Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates looked to have the upper hand. However, Jonas Vingegaard was unshakeable and despite multiple sprints in the closing kilometre, the top two crossed the line shoulder to shoulder.
- It took over 50 kilometres of relentless attacking for a large breakaway to find a gap, helped partly by another unpleasant crash in the peloton that led to a voluntary neutralisation of aggression. The unfortunate crash was caused by a roadside fan leaning out into the road with a phone in their fist – said fist firmly striking Sepp Kuss who was knocked sideways and sent skittling into the side of the bunch. His Jumbo-Visma teammate Nathan van Hooydonck appeared worst off, with Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) also among those hitting the deck.
- Things settled somewhat in the middle of the day as the peloton allowed the breakaway a stage-winning gap. With his UAE Team Emirates squad looking after Tadej Pogačar behind, Soler attacked his breakaway companions in the last few kilometres of the Col des Aravis, just inside 50 km to go. Nobody followed at first, but he soon drew out Van Aert, who made short work of closing Soler’s 20-second gap over the top, Poels and Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech) making it four at the front.
- A combination of an unfortunate crash for the Latvian and varying descending ability among the others led to Wouts Poels and Van Aert hitting the final ramps alone, and then Poels went solo near the foot of the steep second-category test 11 km from the finish.
- In the GC race, it appeared to be advantage UAE Team Emirates again, Rafał Majka and Adam Yates successfully isolating Jonas Vingegaard for the finale. Adam Yates seemed to be on blistering form, leaving his leader to wrestle his rival alone by attacking rather than dropping away. This left Pogačar and Vingegaard exchanging poker faces as Carlos Rodríguez rejoined them to defend the podium, and – Yates now with Soler up ahead – the trio passed the flamme rouge together just waiting for Pogačar’s inevitable move.
- The Slovenian first launched his sprint about 900 metres from the line, but Vingegaard was ready to respond and Pogačar eased up within 200 m, just as they caught Yates and Soler. Two more of his characteristic punchy accelerations failed to shake Vingegaard, who tried his own in the last kick to the line. But the pair crossed the line together.
- Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 4:40:45
- Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) @ 2:08
- Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Energies) @ 3:00
- Lawson Craddock (Jayco-AlUla) @ 3:10
- Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) @ 3:14
- Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 62:34:17
- Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) @ :10
- Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) @ 5:21
- Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) @ 5:40
- Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) @ 6:38
Quote of the day:
Poels is the second Bahrain Victorious rider to take a win at this Tour de France after Pello Bilbao on stage 10. Like his teammate before him, Poels dedicated his stage 15 win to friend and Bahrain Victorious teammate Gino Mäder who died on 16th June during the Tour de Suisse.
“I always dreamed to win a stage at the Tour,” Poels said in his winner’s interview. “Especially with what happened in the team in the last three weeks with Gino, all the emotions came. It’s just incredible. I won a Monument and now a stage in the Tour. I’m super happy.
“I started to believe only in the last kilometre. I just had to keep fighting. I had to go full gas. It’s amazing.”
For Poels, it marks a high point in a tricky period, and a well-timed return to winning ways.
“I got sick at altitude camp, had to skip the Dauphiné. I went to the Tour of Slovenia. Luckily it went really well and the team took me to the Tour and believed in it. My DS Roman Kreuziger was saying that ‘ah you’re going to be there into the third week’ and here we are’.”
- the shadow of stage 14’s huge crash still loomed on the morning of Sunday’s own Alpine test, with Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) not taking the start after further medical assessment after the stage showed symptoms of concussion.
- Of the 35-plus riders up the road, Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) were particularly keen, the pair having leapt away from the larger group before the crash in the peloton. They might have been expected to sit up knowing the elastic had been cut, but despite the release behind, the pair pushed on until the descent off the first Cat.1 climb, expending a baffling amount of energy for what amounted to slim pickings at the KOM sprint and an hour spent at the front of the race.
- Giulio Ciccone’s (Lidl-Trek) efforts in the breakaway ultimately saw him draw level with incumbent polka-dot jersey-wearer Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), who was also able to collect some points. It’s the Italian, though, who takes the lead in that competition having scored on more Cat.1 climbs so far at the Tour. NB. Overnight leader Vingegaard is now four points shy, with Pogačar also only 10 points off Ciccone’s top score. With only two more high mountain stages and the GC so finely poised, the Italian and his Lidl-Trek team are going to have their work cut out to keep the points away from the overall favourites, as will Neilson Powless and the diminished EF Education-EasyPost team.
- Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) was able to ride himself back into the the vicinity of a decent GC result by sneaking into the breakaway. It’s a tactic he’s used to good effect in the past – notably at the 2021 Tour when he did it twice, first on stage 9 and then on stage 14, and ultimately ending that race eighth overall – this time taking back 2:32 to leapfrog back into the top 10. He does also have a habit of losing the time again, so his breakaway appearances are likely not done just yet.
- Carlos Rodríguez put in one of the standout performances of the day, showing his descending prowess yet again on the penultimate downhill stretch to briefly distance the GC group. He was found out by the pace set by Adam Yates higher up the final climb, but when the top two began to watch each other, he was able to catch back on and went straight to the front to defend his own status as ‘best of the rest’. His buffer over Adam Yates in fourth is now just 19 seconds, but he has the benefit of not being a domestique, so he’ll be all in for the podium.
- Elsewhere in the GC race, Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) lost almost two minutes, perhaps still feeling the effects of the stage 14 crash, with Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) all losing more time and slipping down the standings. With Adam Yates climbing ever closer to the podium despite the superlative job he’s doing for Pogačar, it perhaps raises the question as to whether his racing will be affected and how those around him will react. Though that will of course also depend on what happens further up the standings, i.e. Pogačar still takes precedence.
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The Wout stat you didn’t know you needed.
While Wout Poels was going after a career-topping stage win, and Vingegaard and Pogačar were locked in another GC fight, there was an arguably far more draining race happening out of the public eye, as Adrien Petit tried to survive another hard stage 24 hours after a heavy crash.
Survive it he did, and Petit was rewarded for his resilience in the Alps. He’ll be delighted there’s a rest day – then a GC-crucial time trial – to come.
Kids, look away now.
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