Andre Greipel finished off another bunch sprint on Sunday, winning Stage 15 of the Tour de France to grab his third stage of this year's Tour. The German has equaled his personal best from 2012 with the result, but he still chases Peter Sagan in the points standings.
None of the favourites for the general classification were ever troubled during a routine transition stage, and it looks like the battle for the yellow will be won or lost after Tuesday's rest day, with four stages in the high mountains awaiting the peloton.
Here are the results for Stage 15:
|Stage 15 Results|
|1||Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||3:56:35|
|2||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||Same Time|
|3||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||Same Time|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||Same Time|
|5||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka||Same Time|
|6||Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||Same Time|
|7||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Same Time|
|8||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Same Time|
|9||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Same Time|
|10||Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement||Same Time|
Before the start of Sunday's stage, Team Sky warmed up surrounded by police officers in response to an incident in which a fan threw urine at race leader Chris Froome, via BBC Sport. Channel 7's Sam Lane shared this image:
The bulk of the climbs of Stage 15 were situated in the first half of the course, and as expected, plenty of the sprinters had trouble keeping up. Mark Cavendish was one of the first victims of the high pace and steady climbing, immediately losing significant ground on the peloton.
Before the start of the stage, Alexander Kristoff told Eurosport's Laura Meseguer he hoped the hard work for Alberto Contador would start to take its toll on points leader Sagan. The three-time green jersey winner responded by jumping with the early break of 27 riders, grabbing all 20 points at the intermediate sprint in the process:
Their break lasted remarkably long, with the peloton seemingly disinterested in chasing, but once the leaders were caught, the pace was pushed way up. With 10 kilometers left, the sprint trains took over, with BMC in particular putting in a fantastic shift.
Michal Kwiatkowski tried to surprise the peloton with a late jump, but the pace seemed far too high for something like that to work. Zdenek Stybar tried as well, but there was no escaping the sprinters. Greipel just managed to hold off John Degenkolb and Kristoff, with the unfortunate Sagan finishing fourth. The Slovak remains in the green but is still waiting for his first stage win.
Greipel has had nothing but praise for his teammates all Tour long, and that didn't change on Sunday, via Sky Sports' live blog of the stage:
The key factor today was suffering from kilometre zero until the end. The team supported me from the start, kept me out of the wind, tried to keep me in the front group and it worked quite well. It was quite hard to stay with the bunch today, and we made it perfect to keep me in a good position for the sprint. I went the last 250 metres full-gas and kept it to the line. I am proud of my team and myself.
Here's a look at the current standings:
|General Classification (Yellow Jersey)|
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||59:58:54|
|2||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||0:03:10|
|3||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:03:32|
|4||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:04:02|
|5||Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:04:23|
|6||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||0:04:54|
|7||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||0:06:23|
|8||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:08:17|
|9||Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal||0:08:23|
|10||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing||0:08:53|
|Points Standings (Green Jersey)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||360|
|2||Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||316|
|3||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||264|
|4||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx-Quick-Step||192|
|5||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar||122|
|6||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||112|
|7||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||109|
|8||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-Quick-Step||78|
|9||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||77|
|10||Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal||76|
|Mountain Classification (Polka-Dot Jersey)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||61|
|2||Joachim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||52|
|3||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||41|
|4||Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky||40|
|5||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||38|
|6||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||32|
|7||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||32|
|8||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||32|
|9||Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka||28|
|10||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||28|
Monday's stage will be the final stage before the rest day in Gap, and while it looks to be a traditional transition stage, the riders will have to be careful. The descent of the Col de Manse is one of the most feared in France and has been the site of plenty of horrific crashes.
Joseba Beloki's career all but came to an end on the road to Gap in 2003 in one of the more famous crashes in Tour history, so the riders know what they'll have to be careful of.