Tour de France 2021: Stage 15 – Sepp Kuss takes flight in Andorra on a day of Jumbo gambles

Stage 15 was the start of the Pyrenees leg of this year’s Tour de France and the GC guys needed to do some attacking. Not necessarily to put Tadej Pogacar under pressure, but to separate themselves in the top 5. At the end of the day, the only team to have done something different was Jumbo-Visma, who pushed all the chips to the middle of the table and came away an exhilarating stage win for Sepp Kuss, some pox points and most combative rider for Wout van Aert and Jonas Vingegaard holding his own in the yellow jersey group and getting back onto the virtual GC podium. Did anyone gain any time on Pogacar? Did they hell …

Jumbo gambles big

What was the Jumbo plan? They leave their fourth placed rider Jonas Vingegaard – the man that showed his strength against Pogacar on Ventoux – with only one team in the peloton and the rest of them go up the road in the 30-man break of the day. Madness, it was cried!

Some had faith, however.

It didn’t quite work out that way, but kinda. So, on the final climb, the 30-man break was breaking up. Sepp Kuss went off the front in an audacious attack and Wout van Aert went out the back, not so audaciously. With Movistar and Ineos banding together to either start the chase for a stage win or attempting to break either their rivals or Pogacar or all three alternatives, would WvA wait for Vingegaard and help him to the finish? Yes. He would.

Meanwhile, Kuss quickly made a gap of about 15sec and, although chased the whole descent to the finish by Alejandro Valverde, he was never caught (and not really ever in any danger of being caught).

As he rode into the final few hundred metres, he had time to sit up, smile at the spectators and take off his sunnies and throw them to the crowd, like a bride throws her bouquet.

Translation: “To be honest, I really suffered at the start of the Tour. Today, I knew that the race was ending at home, my girlfriend was on the last climb to encourage me. My parents at home, I know that ‘they encouraged me. “

Now for the yellow jersey group!

As expected, Ineos (helped by Movistar) decided to rabble rouse on the final climb … Kuss was already away and it was Richie Porte with three Movistar riders who started the attritional riding. At that point, the group included Wilco Kelderman, Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar, Rigoberto Uran, Richard Carapaz and Guillaume Martin.

Castroviejo and Van Baarle had been in the break but soon dropped back to help lil Richie and Geraint Thomas drill it on the climb.

By the time they got over the final climb and were on the descent, Guillaume Martin fell behind and due to some strong headwinds on that descent, there was no getting back. Whereas on Stage 14, he jumped from 8th to 2nd on GC, today, he fell back down to 9th by the end of the stage. That said, I suspect Martin would have fallen out of the top 5 on his own later in the week, so did Ineos have a better plan?

As this film will tell you, Richard Carapaz just couldn’t get away from that tiny group. But Jonas Vingegaard looked strong, attacking a number of times. Sepp Kuss said in his post-stage interview, they’re all in for Vingegaard now.

Whether it was driving the break, sprinting for the pox points, then leading the way down the final climb descent with Vingegaard on his wheel, Wout van Aert was pretty busy today. And it won him most combative of the stage.

Jumbo-Visma seemed to get a lot more out of their wild gamble (could we call it ‘a new way of racing’?) than Ineos’ tried and true tempo riding to no real gain. I wonder if anyone in the Ineos team car might look at that performance and wonder if they could maybe try this at some point this week.

At the end of all that effort, Uran and Vingegaard moved up into 2nd and 3rd respectively, due to Martin losing so much time on the descent. But Uran, Vingegaard, Ben O’Connor, Carapaz and Kelderman did not gain any time on each other or on Pogacar. Not one single second.


And what did Pog want for the rest day?

Pox stand-off

It seems to be a four-horse race for the Paris polka-dots. Yesterday, it was a three-horse race: Wout Poels, Michael Woods, Nairo Quintana. Today, Wout van Aert threw his hat into the ring (as we saw above). And the jersey changed shoulders again – this time, Poels got it back. With the green jersey sewn up (other than time cuts), the yellow and white taken by the same guy, it’s up to the pox to give us some adrenaline in the jersey fights.


The time cuts

This has been a much more important part of fans’ stage viewing, as it’s the Cav Watch most days. But there were a few casualties, both within the race and at the end after the time cut. Nacer Bouhanni left the race about halfway through the race after being followed by a menacing broomwagon.

The Last Word


Stage 15 Top 5

1 Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) 5:12:06

2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:23

3 Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) +1:15

4 Ion Izagirre (Astana Premier Tech) same time

5 Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo) s/t

General Classification Top 10

1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 62:07:18

2 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) +5:18

3 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

4 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:33

5 Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën Team)  +5:58

6 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe)+6:16

7 Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) +7:01

8 Enric Mas (Movistar Team) +7:11

9 Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) +7:58

10 Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) +10:59

All the jerseys

Leaders jersey: Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Points jersey: Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step)

KOM jersey: Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation)

Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

Most combative rider : Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

For full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Official Tour de France website is here

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