GC fight sees attack flow over Andorran mountains

Stage 15 of the Tour de France crested the highest point above sea level to date at the race, and had the brutally steep slopes of the Col de Beixalis in the finale but it was arguably a descent that had the largest effect as Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) fell from second to ninth on the general classification.

After a day of high-altitude climbing and a lot of attacking, it was surprisingly mostly a status quo finish for many of the general classification contenders in Andorra, with most of the top 10 finishing in the same group.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) lost 29 seconds to his main rivals inside the top 10 after being dropped on the last ascent, but thanks to Martin’s descent, the Astana leader was able to move up a place to seventh on the overall, though his time buffer to Enric Mas (Movistar) has been slashed.

The stage was going relatively sedately in the peloton, with the breakaway established early and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) leading the main bunch through the first half of the stage. The battle for the general classification really ignited between the main overall contenders on the slopes of the Port d'Envalira, as the race soared above 2,000 metres.

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INEOS Grenadiers went to the front with Richie Porte and lifted the pace, with Movistar lending assistance. Porte handed off to Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski who reduced the yellow jersey group to just a handful of names that included race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers), Enric Mas, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo), Australian Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen), Lutsenko, Martin, Wilco Kelderman (BORA-hansgrohe), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange), Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo), and Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux).

Martin was then dropped on the descent, unzipped jersey as he tried to make the junction with the peloton alongside Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-QuickStep), getting very close at one stage before slipping away and conceding minutes. 

As the peloton reached the foot of the Col de Beixalis, it was Carapaz who attacked first after all of the work his team had put into the earlier phase of the stage. Only Pogačar and Vingegaard could follow the initial acceleration but it wasn’t long before Urán, Mas and then the others rejoined as the road rose to around a 13 per cent gradient.

O’Connor was riding a yo-yo race, dropped by surges in pace then making his own attacks whenever the pace slowed. He was again distanced as Vingegaard, Pogačar, Carapaz, Urán, and Mas proved themselves to be the strongest riders on the climb towards the summit fighting alongside Kelderman to make it back.



The BORA-hansgrohe rider was able to regain contact before the descent, while O'Connor descended well to come way back to the group that was led home by Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) who had dropped back from the breakaway to help Vingegaard put time into Martin and Lutsenko.

The group of general classification contenders finished four minutes and 51 seconds behind stage-winner Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), the premier climber actually gaining time on the ascent to the surging then stopping pace of the yellow jersey group.



Lutsenko trailed into the finish alongside Bilbao at five minutes and 22 seconds in arrears with Martin eventually crossing the line in 33rd place at 8:45 and falling to ninth overall. 

Pogačar increased his lead with Martin dropping off, his advantage is back out to over five minutes on the general classification to Uran. The race leader didn't look in difficulty in covering any of the moves and looks assured at present. Two summit finishes, a medium mountain stage, a time trial and two sprint days are what remains between Pogačar and his yellow jersey defence at the Tour de France.

The Tour de France has a rest day tomorrow, but will recommence with a medium mountains stage from Pas de le Case to Saint Gaudens. Watch the race on Tuesday from 2030 AEST on SBS and SBS OnDemand with the race action starting on the SKODA Tour Tracker at 2055 AEST.


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4 min read
Published 12 July 2021 at 5:09am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS