Froome Climbs to Victory in Stage 15 of Tour de France
Chris Froome (Sky) has won on Mont Ventoux. The Sky man surged away from Nairo Quintana (Movistar) with 1.2 km left to win Stage 15, a 242-km ride from Givors to Mont Ventoux, in 5:48:45. Quintana finished second at 0:29, and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finished third at 1:29. Froome has extended his overall lead in the Tour de France.
After a number of abortive sallies, 10 men escaped at 30 km. They were Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Leopard), Pierrick Fedrigo and Jeremy Roy (both from Francaise des Jeux), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Julien El Fares (Sojasun). Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attempted to bridge up to the move, as did Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis). At 52 km, the break led Burghardt and Rolland by 1:08 and Astarloza and Le Mevel by 1:30, with the peloton at 4:05.
Eventually, Le Mevel and Astarloza gave up and drifted back to the bunch. The break pressed on and forged a 7:05 lead by 70 km. Europcar went to the front and began to press the pace. Ahead, Rolland got to within 0:15 of the break, but the Frenchman was unable to join the escapees. The peloton reeled in Rolland and Burghardt at 103 km, at which point the bunch trailed the break by 5:05. At 125 km, El Fares dropped out of the break, and the bunch eventually absorbed him.
At the feedzone, the bunch trailed the break by 4:35. At 149 km, Movistar took over at the front and kept the gap between 3:30 and 4:00. During the approach to Mont Ventoux, Euskaltel-Euskadi took command and upped the pace. With 29 km to go, the break led the bunch by 3:00. Sky joined the Spanish squad at the front.
With 25 km remaining, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked his companions. He led them by 0:20 and the Sky-led peloton by 1:45 with 20 km left. At the base of the climb, Rolland was dropped. With 14 km left, Nieve attacked. Quintana countered and took the lead. With 13 km to go, the yellow jersey group was on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux. It consisted of Froome, Peter Kennaugh, and Richie Porte (all from Sky); Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Belisol); Cadel Evans and Steve Morabito (both from BMC); Maxime Monfort (Radio-Shack-Leopard); Jakob Fuglsang (Astana); Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale); Alberto Contador, Michael Rogers, Roman Kreuziger, and Jesus Hernandez (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff); Joaquin Rodriguez and Daniel Moreno (both from Katusha); Alejandro Valverde (Movistar); Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step); Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema, and Laurens Ten Dam (all from Belkin); and Daniel Martin and Andrew Talansky (both from Garmin-Sharp).
Sky’s pacemaking devastated the yellow jersey group. With eight km left, only Contador accompanied Froome and Porte. Ahead, Quintana dropped Nieve with 7.5 km to go.
Froome attacked and dropped Contador. The Briton overtook Nieve and Quintana. The latter clawed his way to Froome’s wheel. With five km left, the pair led Contador and Nieve by 0:30.
Froome attacked Quintana several times. With 1.2 km remaining, the Briton got clear of the Colombian. Behind, Rodriguez attacked his group in an attempt to gain some time on his companions. He finished in the same time as Nieve.
Sir Dave Brailsford, Sky’s general manager, said that the stage went according to plan. "From this morning, obviously, we were concerned about the break, who was going to be in there and how that performed," he said. "That was the first part of the race. Europcar decided to chase, which made it more interesting and then Movistar decided to ride in order to try and win the stage. But our plan was always the same in that we wanted to get Froomey, Richie, and Pete into the ideal situation at the foot of the climb as fresh as possible. That was the job of everyone else, and they did that perfectly.
"Chris was trying to put as much time as possible into his adversaries. He was thinking about the GC and time gap with the rest day tomorrow. Today was always earmarked for us as a day where we could gain time. When you’ve got the form that he’s got at the minute and he’s going well – when you’ve got your self-belief systems in place, that’s what sport is all about.”
In the overall, Froome leads Bauke Mollema (Belkin) by 4:14 and Contador by 4:25. Tomorrow will be the Tour’s second rest day. Stage 16 will be a hilly, 168-km ride from Vaison-La Romaine to Gap. It will feature three Category 2 climbs, the last of which will peak 12 km from the finish. A breakaway on the last climb will probably take the stage, and GC contenders must be alert to avoid having time taken from them. Who will win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!