Stage 15: Laissac-Sévérac l'Église to Le Puy-en-Velay(189.5 kms)
They called it a medium mountain day, but does this look like a medium mountain to you?
I also believe in terms of “jobs”, no matter how beautiful the office is, cycling is the hardest thing to do professionally. No money whatsoever and unparalleled hardwork.
The day started off with Polka Dot jersey holder Warren Barguil(Sunweb) attacking, trying to consolidate his 60 point lead.
The 1st breakaway included Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Robert Kiserlovski and Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Giampaolo Caruso (BMC), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Marcus Burghardt (Boar-Hansgrohe), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Soudal), Angel Luis Maté (Cofidis).
But it was very unstable with riders moving up and down and it took almost 10 kms for the peloton to let the riders in the front go.
On the 1st climb of the day at Montée de Naves d'Aubrac, Sieberg, Martin and Burghardt got dropped as Barguil forged on, riding in superb form. From the peloton, Bauke Mollema(Trek Segafredo) attacked to join the breakaway.
Barguil took the 1st mountain of the day, consolidating his lead in the KOM competition.
A group formed in between the front runners and the peloton, timed with a deficit of 2 minutes, including: Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche (BMC), Kristjian Durasek and Diego Ulissi (UAE), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha), Tiejs Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews and Simon Geschke (Sunweb), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Romain Hardy and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
The Peloton was at 3 minutes behind.
Van Baarle and Grmay rejoined Barguil, Caruso and Pauwels at the front, with Barguil taking the 2nd climb at Côte de Vieurals.
At 60k, the group led by Michael Matthews joined the front 5, 28 riders were in the lead: Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Damiano Caruso, Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche (BMC), Kristjian Durasek and Diego Ulissi (UAE), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Tony Martin, Robert Kiserlovski, Maurits Lammertink (Katusha), Tiejs Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews, Warren Barguil and Simon Geschke (Sunweb), Luis Angel Maté and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lilian Calmejane and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Romain Hardy and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
Peloton was at 4.15 behind. This meant there was a very real possibility that the Tour might see its 1st start to finish breakaway.
The Tour passed the Aubrac region, a very scenic one in the centre-south of France, which TV commentator Brian Smith described as “like Scotland”
Team Sky drove the Peloton, which was at 5:15 behind the break. Michael Matthews took the intermediate sprint reducing his deficit to Marcel Kittel in the green jersey competition to 79 points.
At 70k to go it was a huge 7 minute gap, and very soon World TT champion, Tony Martin (Katusha) went solo. He was apparently frustrated going “slow” (50 kmph is slow) and went riding at 70+ kmph.
With 50k to go, Martin’s lead over the Peloton was over 9 minutes and for a minute I thought Martin will take the stage. Then I remembered the mountain in the middle.
And then Jonathan Vaughters(Lance’s US Postal teammate who ironically runs a “Doping free” team, and is the manager for Cannondale Drapac) reminded us that “Tony Martin won the KOM as a youngster in Paris Nice!”
So, would Martin win today?
9 minutes back, in Romain Bardet’s team(Ag2R Lamondiale, 3rd overall) put the hammer down in the downhill leading to the col de Peyra Taillade.
The peloton was split up. Chris Froome somehow got a mechanical the moment the attack happened.
It felt ill timed, almost like Froome saying, “Hey, why are you attacking? I don’t want to ride, so I’ll stop and you have to stop behind me!”.
But this time the Peloton didn’t stop, Froome changed his tyre and with the help of Sergio Henao started chasing the peloton.
Up ahead, Tony Martin started cracking up the hill while Barguil started gaining on him. In the 2nd group Pierre-Luc Perichon was zig zagging up the hill, which was a laugh riot. It was fun to see a pro rider behave like a human.
Froome was 40 seconds adrift, when his last man Nieve dropped and he had to go solo. What happened next was quite terrible, Froome was being booed by French crowds which was very very unpleasant to watch.
Meanwhile, Quintana who had dropped from the Peloton fell even behind Froome. He really is having a bad tour. I mean, he atleast wins by wheel sucking but this time around his not even able to suck wheels, his vacuum cleaner I guess was wiped away by Tom Dumoulin’s toilet paper at the Giro (If you know what I mean )
I mean, the guy is putting in the work. He is working hard. And he was catching the peloton on his own. Mikel Landa, who was in the Peloton, dropped back and helped Froome rejoin the peloton.
I learnt that a Basque region rapper has created a song “Free Landa”. So much drama in the tour. How can you not be romantic about cycling?
Meanwhile, Barguil took the Cat 1 Peyra Taillade and I don’t think anyone can beat him in the KOM competition. He is in fantastic form!
Soon after Froomey joined, at 31.8k to go Bardet attacked, Rigoberto Uran(Cannondale Drapac, 4th overall) followed. As the commentators kept reminding, the Tour has never been this close in the history, with the 1st 4 guys separated by 29 seconds.
Froomey stayed with the group, showing absolute masterclass. Meanwhile, up ahead on the road Mollema attacked and went in the lead with 27km to go, chased down by Caruso, Ulissi, Pinot, Pauwels, Benoot, Gallopin, Barguil and Roglic.
Roglic attacked in the final categorised climb, Cat 4 côte de St-Vidal behind Mollema. Barguil accompanied him. But Mollema was determined, taking the mountain.
4 riders started chasing Mollema on the downhill into the headwind: Barguil, Roglic, Ulissi and Gallopin.
White Jersey Adam Yates(Orica Scott), Louis Meintjes(UAE) attacked from the Yellow jersey group but they were both caught.
With 5k go Mollema had a 11 second advantage over Diego Ulissi. Meanwhile 5.5k behind, in the Peloton, Dan Martin (Quickstep Floors, 6th overall) attacked and moved 12 second infront of the main group.
Mollema kept a narrow lead of 10 seconds with 2k to go and hammered down.
And his hardwork paid off:
Bauke Mollema brought Trek Segafredo the 1st win of the 2017 Tour De France and the 1st win by an all day breakaway.
Dan Martin who had attacked gained 12 seconds in the General classification which helped him move into 5th. As the finish line approached even Chris Froome was seen sprinting fighting for every second.
Jersey wearers after Stage 15:
And tomorrow is a rest day!
See you all on Tuesday! Thanks for reading!