If you want just the facts, ma’am, Stage 15 of this year’s Tour de France was won by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and the maillot jaune still rests on the shoulders of Julian Alaphilippe. But if you want to know what really happened, we will work backwards from the time the riders came over the finish line on the Prat d’Albis in the pouring rain. The GC standings held just 15sec between the second and fourth rider, and the entire sport’s camera crews were filming the yellow jersey crying and vomiting over the barriers, after yet another gruelling, unpredictable and unbelievably exciting stage.
When I mused on Twitter that I had no idea how to write up this stage, Luke replied with this:
And he’s kind of right. So here is a summary of the stage and then the last kilometre with all its drama.
Not trying to discount Simon Yates‘s solo win, but it wasn’t about the stage win today. It was about the GC exploding on the slopes of that final climb. So …
Finally, someone from Movistar is on this list! With Nairo Quintana in the break with super-domestiques Andrey Amador and Marc Soler (who surely have the patience of saints after yesterday’s stage), this left Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde free to ride the wheels until Landa finally made an attack on the penultimate climb of the Mur de Peguere when his teammate was trying to put something together with Romain Bardet at the front of the race.
Catching up to Amador and Soler, Landa used them as a springboard in his chase of Yates and that elusive stage win. When he caught Quintana, he blasted past him without even looking at him. I think that says it all about Movistar team politics. But Landa stuck with it and bridged to Simon Geschke, then left him in the dust. Landa crossed the finish line third, after a flying ride with our next thriver …
Thibaut Pinot. As they did yesterday, Groupama-FDJ used their team to perfection, placing a few in the break and waiting until it was going to hurt most to put the merciless David Gaudu on the front of the slim GC favourites group, putting everyone under the cosh. With 6km to go, Gaudu came to nearly a dead stop and Pinot started to stomp up the mountain, bridging to Landa and not even caring that he wasn’t working with him – Pinot was on a mission and no one was going to stop him. He didn’t catch Yates (but I doubt that was his plan) but he was the biggest winner on this stage … he put 18sec into Egan Bernal and Emanuel Buchmann, 49sec on Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk, and 1.16 on Alaphilippe, jumping from 6th to 4th in the GC. France has much to celebrate in this Tour, which is why Pinot is the first of my Riders of the Race …
Unlike yesterday, Geraint Thomas did very well to survive – and almost thrive if it weren’t for some strange miscommunication with his teammate up the road, Egan Bernal. Bernal went with Buchmann to follow Pinot’s attack, leaving his co-captain behind. Yet seems Thomas had the legs, as he put in a dig when he saw that Alaphilippe was ready to crack. But he didn’t want to chase down the guys up front … because Bernal was there. It wasn’t a disaster, however, as Thomas put 27sec into the yellow jersey and is only 1.35 down, while Bernal put nearly a minute into the Frenchman.
In another stealth performance, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) rode strong all day, followed Bernal when Pinot attacked and came in fourth on the stage. That he lost time to Pinot sees him slip to 6th, but he is 27sec away from a podium place.
We knew it was going to come, but we didn’t know when or how bad, but today was the day the pace in the mountains (and the lack of a team) got the better of Julian Alaphilippe. Although he followed the attack by Pinot, he couldn’t keep the pace with Bernal and Buchmann and was soon caught by Thomas and Kruijswijk (with Richie Porte along for the ride). Isolated and looking more and more uncomfortable as the climb progressed, the attacks came and as valiantly as he tried, he could not hold wheels. But he wasn’t finished. It was perhaps his most impressive ride of the Tour. He wasn’t going to give up the jersey without a fight – and fight he did, riding so hard that if there were microphones on the route, they would have picked up the sound of his legs screaming. He crossed the line in 11th place, 1.49 off Yates’s time, but saving the yellow jersey for another day. He then immediately went to the barriers, sobbing and vomiting for the world to see. That is what the maillot jaune means to this rider in the Tour de France. And that’s why he’s my other Rider of the Race.
Stage Results – Top 5
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 4:47:04
2 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +0:33
3 Mikel Landa (Movistar) same time
4 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +0:51
5 Egan Bernal (Ineos) same time
General Classification – Top 10
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 61:00:22
2 Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) +1:35
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Team Jumbo-Visma) +1:47
4 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +1:50
5 Egan Bernal (Ineos) +2:02
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +2:14
7 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +4:54
8 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +5:00
9 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +5:27
10 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:33
All the Jerseys
Maillot Jaune: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
Maillot Vert: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)
Maillot Blanc: Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)
King of the Mountains: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
Header image: ©GETTY/Jean Catuffe