Kristoff Wins Stage 15 of Tour de France
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has snared his second stage win of the 2014 Tour de France. The Norwegian powered across the finish line to take Stage 15, a rolling, 222-km run from Tallard to Nimes in 4:56:43. Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) finished second, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finished third. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the maillot jaune.
Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) made the race. The pair jumped clear at the start and forged a lead of 8:50 at 26 km. Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol, and Katusha went to the front and pegged the lead at six minutes. It remained there until Omega Pharma-Quick Step began to chase with 70 km left as rain clouds formed.
Crosswinds split the peloton into echelons. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Richie Porte (Sky) were among the riders who were dropped. With 66 km left, the bunch trailed the break by 2:00. As the field approached the last 50 km, rain began to fall.
With 23 km to go, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked, but Giant-Shimano brought him back. The skies cleared, and the sprint was contested in sunshine.
With five km left, Elmiger and Bauer led the field by less than half a minute. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) jumped clear, and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) joined him. The bunch reeled in the pair, and Martin tried again. Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) countered but punctured, leaving the world time trial champion between bunch and break.
The break reached the one-km banner 0:14 ahead of the field. Bauer passed Elmiger with 400 m left, but the bunch caught the New Zealander in the last 200 m. Kristoff powered into the lead and made winning look easy. He crossed the finish line more than a bike length ahead of Haussler.
Kristoff’s victory was a product of determination, particularly in view of the strength of the break members. “The break was super today,” the Olympic bronze medalist said. “During the stage I was sure we would catch them but in the last km I was really unsure about it. Those guys did a great race, big respect for them. When we entered the final km I saw the break was still very far and I realized we would catch them with only 200 m to go. All the best sprinters--Greipel, Sagan, and Kittel--were still in front and it was a hard sprint. I had a good position and I gave my best to win. Maybe I had more energy than others after the mountains. I did not feel well during the stage because I was tired from the mountains, but I decided to fight until the end. This is a perfect race so far for me and I’m glad to bring one more victory to my team Katusha. They support me and trust in me.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 4:37 and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by 4:47. Tomorrow will be the Tour’s second rest day. Riders will recharge their batteries, formulate strategy for the coming week, and prepare to tackle the Pyrenees. The first Pyrenean stage will be Stage 16, a 237.5-km ride from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon. The race’s longest stage will feature five categorized climbs, the hardest of which will be the hors categorie Port de Bales, which will summit 21 km from the finish. The GC contenders should finish together. Who will win the stage? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!