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19 July 2015 - 16:07

Status quo as stage 15 ends in bunch sprint

"It’s always a big fight for a breakaway, but the surprise today was that they brought it back.”

The Tour de France organisation claimed stage 15 a sprint stage, but with the lumpy start followed by a stiff 8-kilometer category two climb later in the day, it was touch and go if the sprinters would arrive at the finish of the 183-kilometer race.

A strong nine-man breakaway escaped in the early hills causing a fast and furious pace that did not relent until they were brought back with more than 40 kilometers remaining.

Gregory Rast described the hard start to Sunday’s stage: “Thankfully I felt good in the start because after 9kms there was the first mountain sprint. It was hard, of course, and a big group went. From then on Katusha was pulling full gas, and we were just hanging on.”

When the first breakaway escaped, its numbers were too great for full cooperation and too risky for the peloton to let go; an immediate counter attack carved out nine strong and threatening riders that, if given the freedom to roam, would easily arrive at the finish to contest the win.

It may be the most overused cliché in sport, but taking it ‘day by day’ takes on a deeper and more significant meaning in a three-week race like the Tour.

But with time running out and too many teams still hungry for a victory, Katusha began to chase. They did not let the move gain more than a few minutes and by the start of the category two climb the gap to the breakaway had been reduced to around 90 seconds; shortly after the descent it was nullified.

In the end, stage 15 ended with the projected bunch sprint. 

Trek Factory Racing lost a few men early with the grueling opening, but the rest of the team rallied around Bauke Mollema to ensure the team’s leader arrived safe and sound to the finish.

In the chaotic sprint, André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) staked out his third victory, proving he is the fastest in bunch sprints in this year’s Tour.

“Unfortunately Markel [Irizar] was not able to hang on, but for the rest of us we stayed in the front to protect Bauke. The finale was hectic in the city, but we kept him in the front and all was okay today,” continued Rast.  

We then asked Rast about his thoughts for tomorrow’s stage.

“Tomorrow?” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Tomorrow is a rest day right?”

When he was told that it wasn’t, he was surprised. “Ah no?” 

Laughter erupted.

In typical ‘Rasty’ style he may have been joking, but it is not alarming that a domestique rider would not know - in a race the magnitude of the Tour de France, with stage after stage of suffering that seems endless, looking beyond a single day can be demoralizing. 

It may be the most overused cliché in sport, but taking it ‘day by day’ takes on a deeper and more significant meaning in a three-week race like the Tour.

Then Rast continued, “Tomorrow is going to be the same as today. I think it’s quite a hard start also, and it will be a fight to survive and stay in the main group.  It’s always a big fight for a breakaway, but the surprise today was that they brought it back.”

 

 

Tour de France

1
Chris Froome
Team Sky
2
Nairo Quintana
Movistar
+1'12"
3
Alejandro Valverde
Movistar
+5'25"
7
Trek Factory Racing
+15'14"
27
Trek Factory Racing
+1:33'21"
62
Trek Factory Racing
+2:36'50"
93
Trek Factory Racing
+3:19'44"
102
Trek Factory Racing
+3:29'00"
124
Trek Factory Racing
+3:56'49"
148
Trek Factory Racing
+4:21'31"

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