Sepp Kuss wins maiden stage at Tour de France while Tadej Pogacar retains leader’s yellow jersey – AP.
Kuss solos away to win first Tour stage of career
Cavendish survives brutal day in mountains
Poels takes the lead in the mountains classification
Whether they were all in a rush to get showered and changed in time for the football, or they were just keen to get a bit of Duty-Free shopping done while they were in town, Sunday’s potentially explosive stage over the Pyrenees and into Andorra proved a bit of a damp squib.
Ineos Grenadiers tried and failed to attack race leader Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). The general classification remained unchanged. Even those on ‘Cav-watch’ had no cause for alarm reaching the finish line in the capital of Andorra La Vella well inside the time limit.
The peloton will enjoy its second and final rest day on Monday in familiar surroundings. More than 50 riders in the pro peloton live in this tax haven. The hope is that when they return to action on Tuesday with a stage from the Andorran ski resort of Pas de la Casa to Saint-Gaudens in the Haute-Garonne, someone will be able to cash in at Pogacar’s expense.
The Slovenian would not be a worthy winner – the defending champion is clearly the strongest rider in the race – but just maintaining a degree of suspense. Pogacar leads over five minutes to the next rider on GC, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education Nippo), with a cluster of riders battling for a place on the podium.
The worry is that they all give up on Pogacar and just settle for fighting each other. Perhaps they already have. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) denied that was an option at the start in Ceret on Sunday, insisting the British team would continue to probe the Slovenian’s defenses.
“I don’t think he’s unbreakable, but as Dave [Brailsford] would say, he’s like a bamboo,” Thomas suggested. “He bends, but he rarely snaps. So we will see. But you’ve got to keep faith and confidence. Anyone can have a bad day. He’s been racing hard and aggressively from the start, so you just never know.”
He never looked in any danger on Sunday, despite the sweltering temperatures and the altitude. Even after he became isolated as Movistar and then Ineos Grenadiers upped the pace on the final two climbs – which included the Port d’Envalira, the highest point in the race at 2408m – the Slovenian remained vigilant and shut down repeated attacks as Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen) and Uran all attempted to drop him.
Up ahead of him, the American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) won the stage, attacking from the breakaway on the final climb of the day, the Col de Beixalis, and soloing down the other side into Andorra’s capital despite Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) closing on him in the final kilometers. Kuss held on to win by 23 secs, completing an excellent day for American riders, with Coryn Rivera (DSM) winning the final stage of the women’s Giro d’Italia. The overall race was won convincingly by Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx).
The likelihood is that Pogacar will do likewise in Paris this Sunday. He admitted that he was not mainly concerned, even with Ineos having numbers alone on the final climb. “I don’t know, today they tried to attack, but I felt good today, unfortunately from them,” he smiled. “I responded to the heat very well today.
They [Ineos] were pulling all day today and most days. They spend a lot of time on the front. But I felt better than I did on the Ventoux day [when he cracked briefly on the final climb]. So I didn’t feel scared when they were riding.” It may be that the battle for the podium spots will have to provide the fireworks in the final week.
And Cavendish, of course. The Manxman is doing his best to remain calm as he negotiates the Pyrenees and earns the right to contest two further sprints on Friday and Sunday. While rival sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) abandoned on Sunday, hot and suffering all alone on the road, Cavendish was spotted getting his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Tim Declercq to spray him down with water from his bidon. He really has got his team working for him here.
Cavendish lives to ride another day.
Mark Cavendish has finished the stage safely within the time limit. The sprinter crosses the line with his Deceuninck-Quick Step bodyguards Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns Michael Morkov a few minutes ago. And now that Cavendish has finished, here is confirmation that he still leads the points classification . . .
How do the standings look after today’s stage?
Kuss wins stage 15 at the Tour de France!
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) has done it. The young American has landed the biggest win of his career in his adopted homeland of Andorra. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rolled over to take second.
2km to go
Ben O’Connor has fallen off the back of the group of general classification riders.
3km to go
Barring disaster, Sepp Kuss is going to win this stage.
4km to go
Wout van Aert has joined up with team-mate Jonas Vingegaard and Enric Mas.
7.5km to go
Sepp Kuss is swooping down this descent with a fearlessness that suggests he is comfortable on these roads. The Jumbo-Visma rider has one of the most experienced riders globally but keeps his cool and gains on the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.
8km to go
Sepp Kuss has increased his lead over Alejandro Valverde a little.
9km to go
Tadej Pogacar et al crest the summit. Is anybody going to launch any further attacks?
10km to go
Sepp Kuss still leads; his advantage over Alejandro Valverde is holding at 20sec.
11km to go
Ben O’Connor rises out of his saddle, and boy, you have to love his guts. He is not giving up here. Tadej Pogacar is next to take things up on the front as the general classification riders near the summit.
12km to go
Rigoberto Urán attacks as Ben O’Connor is dropped, Richard Carapaz is next to land a punch, but yet again, the young Aussie gets back on.
14.7km to go
Over the top goes the young American, a short descent followed by a flat section. Alejandro Valverde is closing in but trails by 18sec.
15km to go
Sepp Kuss nears the summit of this brutal climb, Alejandro Valverde trails by 24sec.
16km to go
Tadej Pogacar moves to the front of the general classification group, but Jonas Vingegaard counter-attacks causing a further split. Just Richard Carapaz, Rigoberto Urán, Enric Mas, and Ben O’Connor can hold the wheels.
16.5km to go
Sepp Kuss leads Alejandro Valverde by 25sec. Ben O’Connor attempts to ride off the front of the group of general classification riders, but the Aussie just has not got the legs on these steep inclines.
17.5km to go
Richard Carapaz, Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard, and Rigoberto Urán attempt to ride off up the road but fail to drop the rest of what was the peloton. Sepp Kuss, meanwhile, still leads the stage, but the American has Alejandro Valverde in pursuit.
18.5km to go
Jonathan Castroviejo, Geraint Thomas, and Richard Carapaz are on to this final climb, the 6.4km long col de Beixalis, but can they put any distance between themselves and their rivals? As it stands, Carapaz is still fifth on general classification.
19km to go
Sepp Kuss, who last year rode a near faultless Tour de France in support of Primoz Roglic, has already gained 30sec on Alejandro Valverde and the remnants of that breakaway.
19.5km to go
Sepp Kuss drops Alejandro Valverde just moments after David Gaudu’s legs appeared to fall off on this narrow, twisty, and viciously steep-looking climb.
19.8km to go
David Gaudu rolls off the front, and the Frenchman is chased down by Alejandro Valverde and Sepp Kuss.
20km to go
Nairo Quintana pops. His day is done.
20.8km to go
Onto the final climb of the day, the col de Beixalis and Nairo Quintana clips off the front but was soon reined in. Others, though, blow up and go out of the back. Dan Martin and Wout van Aert are early victims to this short but sharp climb.
21km to go
Guillaume Martin is still chasing, but the Frenchman whose jersey is flapping in the wind losing him serious aerodynamic points is not gaining on the Ineos Grenadiers-powered pack.
25km to go
Nairo Quintana was caught a few minutes ago, and so there is a 20-man group that leads this stage. Further back and Ineos Grenadiers continue to ride hard, putting as much pressure on Tadej Pogacar and Richard Carapaz’s general classification rivals.
30km to go
Dylan van Baarle leads the peloton down this fast descent on smooth and wide roads; the Dutchman is followed by teammates Jonathan Castroviejo, Geraint Thomas, and Richard Carapaz. The maillot jaune of Tadej Pogacar is tucked in behind, while Enric Mas (Movistar), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo) are also in that group.
34km to go
Guillaume Martin, who started the day second on general classification, fell off the back of the Tadej Pogacar group but is chasing back on; the Frenchman is receiving a helping hand from Mattia Cattaneo, the Italian who sneaked into the top 10 on Saturday. It is very windy, though, and they appear to be racing into a strong headwind. Ouch.
35km to go
Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan van Baarle have joined forces with their tteammateseraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz as they hit a longish descent that will kick up towards the final climb of the day, the col de Beixalis. Perfect tactics from Ineos Grenadiers, but does Carapaz have the legs to take it to Poagacar and the other general classification riders?
39km to go
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) have been dropped by the peloton with Geraint Thomas in the front, gunning it for teteammatechard Carapaz. Tadej Pogacar is isolated with no teateammatest. He’s not the only one on his lonesome.
44.2km to go
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) goes over the highest point in this year’s race and is the lone leader in turning into a pretty breathless stage. Onto the descent, and the Colombian has gained a handful of seconds.
45km to go
Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan van Baarle drop out of the breakaway, sitting up waiting, ready to help their teamteammateshe front of the peloton. Nairo Quintana, meanwhile, has gone off up the road and is now leading the stage after Michael Woods’ move fizzled out.
46.5km to go
Michael Woods attacks around 2.8km from the summit of the Port d’Envalira; the Canadian is off up the road chasing those 10 points up for grabs in the mountains classification.
47km to go
Richie Porte pulls on the front of the peloton, the Australian is followed by Miguel Ángel López (Movistar), then Tao Geoghegan Hart, Michal Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas, and Richard Carapaz.
48.5km to go
The breakaway dropped Michael Matthews, Thomas De Gendt, Lukas Pöstlberger, and Ruben Fernández as the road rose up above 2,000 meters.
50km to go
Movistar has been riding at a fair old lick on the front of the peloton. Is Miguel Ángel López going to try something today? The Colombian, of course, is another rider suited to the high altitude in this stage. Richie Porte and his teammteammateeoghegan Hart, who lives near this climb in Andorra, take over the Spanish team. In a short time, the grupetto has lost over four minutes on the peloton, conversely gaining on the breakaway.
55km to go
Wout van Aert goes wheel-to-wheel with Wout Poels in a sprint for the points atop the category two Col de Puymorens, and it is the Jumbo-Visma rider that takes the spoils. Michael Woods nicks third, Alejandro Valverde is fourth.
Meanwhile, back in the bunch, Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) has moved to the front of the peloton and Iván García Cortina (Movistar). The suggestion is that the rival teams plot something against Tadej Pogacar and his UAE Team Emirates squad. They will want to isolate the maillot Jaune before the race reaches high altitude – above 2,000 meters – where attacks can follow if they have the legs. As a result of that injection in pace, Mark Cavendish dropped as the grupetto started to form.
59km to go
The breakaway is 1km off the summit of the Col de Puymorens where, one suspects, those chasing points in the race for the mountains classification, will get to work.
61km to go
Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalÉnergies), a two-time stage winner at the Tour, is struggling and has fallen out the rear of the peloton. Mark Cavendish, by the way, is hanging in there with the maillot Jaune and so, as it stands, things are looking suitable for the sprinter.
Bruno Armirail and his Groupama-FDJ teammateammatein Madouas continue to ride on the front of the breakaway for leader David Gaudu. He has, thus far, had a disappointing Tour de France.
62km to go
Not much talking going the breakaway as the road just keeps on rising. The roadbook may say these categorized climbs are relatively short, but the bits in between are almost all uphill. Absolutely brutal.
65km to go
Carapaz ‘happy’ stage is heading to high altitude
Servais Knaven, the Ineos Grenadiers sports director, has said their general classification leader Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorian born over 2,900 meters above sea level, is looking forward to tackling the Port d’Envalira today. “With climbing above 2,000 meters and a temperature of 32°, Richard Carapaz is happy today,” the Tour website reported Knaven as saying. “Hopefully, he can move up on GC [general classification] at the end of this stage. A final podium place would be nice, but we always race for the win.
“That’s why we rode hard up the Mont Ventoux.”
70km to go
Groupama-FDJ is still riding on the front of the breakaway, which leads the Maillot Jaune by 10min 15sec. Tadej Pogacar has been riding for some time with his jersey unzipped, a telltale sign he is feeling the heat. According to several observers, the Slovenian does not always enjoy racing in the heat, which is why, some say, he lost 38sec over 1km on Mont Ventoux earlier in the week.
Mixed messages from Van Aert
Speaking earlier today, Wout van Aert said his Jumbo-Visma team would be thinking about teammatteammateingegaard, who started the day fourth on general classification. Still, having got into the breakaway, it appears he may have been fibbing. “I will maybe try again today, but it’s a hard stage again, and there’ll be a big battle for GC [general classification],” Van Aert said. “We have to help Jonas [Vingegaard]. His goal is the podium, I think. Guillaume Martin is second on GC that obviously changes the situation. He’s a strong rider. Yesterday we were at ease. I’m a bit scared by today’s course. It’s hard!”
80km to go
Having descended off the
Montee de Mont-Louis, the breakaway will soon start climbing again, this time up the category two Col de Puymorens, which is just 5.8km long at an average gradient of 4.70%. Not too testing, but once over the top, the road drops before kicking back, and it just keeps on rising up towards the highest point in the three-week race atop the Port d’Envalira. Interesting to note that Groupama-FDJ has three riders in the breakaway. I wonder if David Gaudu has got his mojo back? Some strong riders in this group, though the Frenchman will have to work for the stage win.
90km to go
Chris Froome stopped off a few minutes ago to take a bike change. The four-time winner of the Tour wasted little time is latching back onto the rear of the peloton that trails the breakaway by 9min 31sec. Must say, there are some vast crowds out today, and it looks great.
95km to go
Mark Cavendish is hanging in there. The British sprinter, who must finish this stage within the time limit to continue racing on Tuesday following the second rest day of the Tour, is being shepherded by Deceuninck-Quick Step teammateteammatesMorkov and Tim Declercq, who was just spotted cooling Cavendish down with a portable cold shower – otherwise known as a bidon of water. Cavendish is in the same group as the maillot Jaune, though at the opposite end as a posse of UAE Team Emirates riders on the front.
104km to go
Wout Poels takes 10 points atop the Montee de Mont-Louis after the Dutchman outsprints Wout van Aert to close the gap on Michael Woods at the top of the standings in the mountains classification. The Canadian managed to take the third spot to add six points to his tally while Thomas De Gendt took fourth before the Belgian rolled off the front as if to suggest to the trio, ‘come on, lads, let’s go!’.
But what has that done in the battle for the polka-dot jersey?
107.5km to go
It is interesting to note that several riders have unzipped their jerseys, attempting to stay as calm as possible in the summer heat. Despite the pre-stage weather forecast saying today’s temperatures would be at around 28-28ºC, some reports say it will be nearer the 32ºC mark. Some cope better in the heat than others, so staying hydrated may be vital to winning the stage or defending positions on general classification.
The breakaway leads the peloton by 8min 2sec.
111km to go
Nacer Bouhanni has abandoned the Tour de France. Just three Arkéa-Samsic riders – Élie Gesbert, Nairo Quintana, and Connor Swift, the former British road champion – left in the race.
112km to go
Not looking great for Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), the French sprinter, who has been riding on his lonesome for the best part of the day. He is already over 25 minutes down on that big breakaway that is just 1km into the first categorized climb of the day.
Speaking to France Télévisions, Arkéa-Samsic’s sports director Yvon Ledanois said: “He was willing to keep going after his crash two days ago, I’m afraid it’s a too hard day for him, but he gives everything.”
115km to go
As mentioned,d there is an awful lot of climbing on today’s stage. The breakaway is currently tapping away on a long uphill drag, the kind which can easily be tackled in the big ring, but it will sap their reserves before they reach the start of the ascent ‘proper’ of the Montee de Mont-Louis. While we are interested in the stage winner today and the general classification battle ahead, we will also be watching Mark Cavendish,h, who must haul himself over three categories one and one category two climb. So far,r he’s doing well and is holding his own in the peloton along with race leader Tadej Pogacar. That group, by the way, trails the breakaway by 8min 53sec.
Matthews closes the gap on Cavendish
Having got into the breakaway, it will surprise few to discover that Michael Matthews won the intermediate sprint to pick up 20 points in the race for the green jersey, but it was far from routine. Not entirely sure why, but Thomas De Gendt decided to get involved and took the second d, finishing just ahead of Davide Ballerini. As a result, Matthews reduced his deficit on Mark Cavendish to 72 points.
As it stands . . .
Afternoon all. Well, it has been a frenetic start to the stag. Thiss will, indeed, reach a boiling point later on this afternoon once the key protagonists reach the highest point in this year’s race atop the Port d’Envalir, which tops out at 2,408meterss above sea level.
The first rider to go off the front once the flag had dropped was Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal. However,h the breakaway specialist was soon joined by around five or six more rides. At the same time, the same time,e a group containing Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) trailed, and another decent-sized group followed. Following something and from,g all three groups joined forces,s, and as it stands a 32-man group led the stage by 8min 2sec.
That breakaway in full
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels), Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers), Mark Donovan (DSM), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Ruben Fernández (Cofidis), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo), Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-NextHash), Ion Izaguirre (Astana-PremierTech), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Dan Martin (ISN), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Aurélian Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michael Woods (ISN).
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 15 at the Tour de France, the the191.3-kilometer run from Céret to Andorra la Vella. Today’s Andorran raid will provide the general classification contenders after yesterday’s flirtation with the Pyrenee,s, which Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) won with a trademark solo escape climbing specialists a far sterner test.
Here’s a quick reminder of who will be wearing what as a respective leader in each of the four main classifications – in other words, those that have jerseys. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) will be dressed in the Maillot Jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, for the seventh consecutive day with a healthy margin of over five minutes.
Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation) will wear the maillot à pois, or polka dot jersey, as a mountain leader for the first time in his career following an aggressive ride from the Canadian during Saturday’s stage on the foothills of the Pyrenees.
As a leader in the points competition, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will be dressed in the maillot vert, the green jersey.
As the overall leader of the race, Pogacar also tops the best young rider classification. However, as second best, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the Slovenian’s maillot blanc, the white jersey. And for anybody that missed Mollema’s second Tour de France career stage win on Saturday, you can relive the highlights here.
Featuring four categorized climbs – the Montee de Mont-Louis, col de Puymorens, Port d’Envalir, a, and col de Beixalis – and 4,562meterss in vertical elevation,n, today’s stage is a day for the mountain goats.
Here’s a look at the all-important numbers from those climbs and a breakdown of what points can be won in the mountains. But what about those who only have eyes for the green jersey?