Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) grabbed his second stage victory after a brutal finish atop the Grand Colombier on a tense stage 15 of the Tour de France. The young Slovenian held off Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) with Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) putting in a brilliant performance to claim third. Roglic remains in yellow after a dominating performance from his team. Defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) tumbles from 3rd to 13th.
Do not call it an Alp!!
The second week of Le Tour ended atop a huge -and I mean HUGE- lump of rock known as the Grand Colombier, not to be confused with the Col de la Colombiere.
Unlike it’s sound-a-like ascent, it is, in fact, part of the Jura range
Your stage profile – categorised as OUCH! The riders tackled the same mountain three times by different routes: two Cat 1 efforts (the first with insane 22% ramps near the top) before the final, HC summit assault.
Cycling fans were abuzz with excitement for the potential GC battle royale. The riders, well …
The eagle eyed among you will remember an identical stage at Tour de l’Ain this year. Where a swarm of climbing Jumbo Bees ripped the legs from the peloton and Roglic secured victory.
We really should have expected what was to come today. Let’s go through it
Everyone wants to be in the breakaway
With a 100km of flat road before the climbing showdown the battle for the break was fierce and protracted. Many teams tried and failed and in the chaos of one attempt, EF Pro Cycling’s Sergio Higuita crashed hard after a collision with Bob Jungels (Deceuninck Quickstep). News came through that he crashed a second time, quickly followed by an update that he was forced to abandon the race. It was tough to watch…
Thankfully not the head injury many feared
It wasn’t the last time Jungels would be involved with crash
We also got a resumption of the green jersey battle. Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) tried to get into the break, but Sam Bennett was VERY alert to the danger.
It was anxious times for B&B Hotels-Vital Concept… won’t someone let Pierre Rolland go?
FINALLY the right riders hit the right break, and YES Rolland made it!
Matteo Trentin (CCC) took maximum green jersey points at the intermediate sprint. The Quicksteppers played it smart to ensure Bennett scored higher than Sagan.
Jumbo-Visma very definitely had a game plan, and that did not include giving the break any breathing space at all. The yellow train kept the break to within 4:30 mins on the flatlands.
The climbing begins
The break blew apart as the slopes of the Montee de la Selle de Fromentel began to bite. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) Pierre Rolland and best beard in the peloton, Simon Geschke (CCC), struck out with NTT’s Michael Gogl in pursuit.
The 22% ramps produced a rare sighting of the ZIG-ZAG climbing technique as demonstrated by Gogl.
Got to hand it to the Austrian, he was tenacious in his pursuit of the three out front. Catching them just before the summit and then attacking on the descent to zoom into the lead. Back with the GC riders, the equally tenacious Jumbo Bees winnowed the group to around 40 riders, and there were already signs that Ineos Grenadiers had problems.
Right at the back of the action, the non climbers waved the white flag and settled in for a long day.
One of the amazing facts I learned today from Mr Millar on the ITV commentary is that the riders actually shout ‘gruppetto’. I love this.
Onto the Col de la Biche for more pain. A phalanx of yellow Jumbo-Visma lined out the GC favourites behind them, shedding the weakest as they went.
Out front, Rolland bridged up to Gogl. They made a very strong pairing who could have battled for stage victory if circumstances had been different.
As it was they hit the final climb with 1.30 on the yellow jersey group.
The final showdown
There were no fans at the side of the road for the final HC climb. To be honest, I didn’t notice as the action was TENSE in ALL CAPS. Not tense in the sense of watching all out, balls-to-the-walls attacking, but tense in that I didn’t know who the Jumbo train would drop next.
Rolland dropped Gogl early on in the climb, the Frenchman continuing solo until he was chased down by the GC group. That effort enough to earn his podium time as the Most Combative rider
“What a stage. Big battle at the start but not enough of a lead to hope for victory at the Grand Colombier.”
Gogl also deserves a round of applause
Jumbo-Visma rode onto the Grand Colombier with five riders surrounding their leader, it only took four of them to deliver him victory. When Robert Gesink gave way to Wout Van Aert what followed was a show of strength that left me open-mouthed. For the next eight kilometres, the Belgian set a ferocious pace that put Grand Tour winners in a whole world of trouble.
With 13km still to go
The pain and frustration went on over the lacets. Those sinuous bends, so pretty to watch so brutal to ride
One minute ballooned into four, five, six and there was nothing the defending champion could do about it.
Wout Van Hurt eventually finished his trail of destruction, handing over to George Bennett. The pace slowed marginally, just enough to allow a glimmer of hope to attack-minded riders. Cometh the slowing, cometh Mitchelton Scott’s Adam Yates.
Tom Dumoulin snuffed the Yates move out and kept the tempo fierce enough that no one else tried, it would have been tactical suicide to attempt it.
Into the last 500m and 12 riders were heading for a climbers sprint. I didn’t expect this…
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) launched with 350m to go, Roglic, Pogacar and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) responded and these four went clear of the rest. Richie attacked AGAIN and for one spellbinding moment I thought he had it until Pogacar spun it up and sailed over the line to grab his second victory. Roglic claimed second with Porte in third.
The GC is turned upside down. Bernal tumbles from 3rd to 13th. Quintana down to 9th.
“After arriving at the Grand Colombier, Nairo Quintana is 9th in the general classification. Difficult day following his fall on Friday. Warren Barguil was with Nairo to accompany and help him, all day.”
Roglic remains in yellow and looks all set to remain there with the team performing like clockwork.
Pogacar is only 40secs in arrears, but that is a lot when the two Slovenians are so closely matched. We all know what the younger Slovenian is capable of. Is it too much to ask – especially when he will operating solo in the finales?
I suspect the most intense battle will be for the third step of the podium in Paris. Who knows, maybe Porte will hold on. He’s riding with such passion – chapeau to another performance I did not expect.
The Final Word
Stage 14 Top 5
1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 04:34:13
2 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) same time
3 Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) +0:05
4 Miguel Agel Lopez (Astana) +0:08
5 Enric Mas (Movistar) +0:15
GC Top 10
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 65:37:07
2 Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Emirates) +0:40
3 Rigoberto Uran (EF ProCycling) +1:34
4 Migel Angel Lopez (Astana) +1:45
5 Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +2:03
6 Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) +2:06
7 Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) +2:16
8 Enric Mas (Movistar) +3:15
9 Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) +5:08
10 Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) +5:12
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
King of the Mountains Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R la Mondiale)
Best Young Rider Tadej Pogacar (UAE)
Most Combative of the Stage: Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)
For full race reviews, go to cyclingnews.
Official race website: Le Tour
Header image: © GETTY/ Velo / Pool