IAM Cycling's Jarlinson Pantano beat Tinkoff's Rafal Majka in a two-man sprint to win Stage 15 of the 2016 Tour de France on Sunday, while Team Sky's Chris Froome defended his lead in the overall standings in the background.
Pantano caught Majka in the final kilometers, using his superb descending skills. He finished the job in the sprint, winning his first-ever Tour stage.
Here's a look at the stage results, per the Inner Ring:
The current standings, via Sky Sports Cycling:
The stage toward Bourg-en-Bresse represented the perfect opportunity for a long break to finish the job, featuring a whole host of categorised climbs and a late descent. The general classification contenders were expected to show themselves but not push all the way, with tougher stages in the high mountains on the horizon.
Tinkoff shared the stage profile for Sunday's ride:
A whole host of star riders attacked on the first climb, and a leading group of 28 eventually developed, including the likes of Astana's Vincenzo Nibali and Giant-Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin. Majka also made the jump, along with AG2R's Alexis Vuillermoz.
In the peloton, Team Sky kept a close eye on the break, as some of the leaders were positioned quite well in the general classification. The break never came close to impacting the battle for the yellow jersey, however, and instead it turned into an exciting race for the stage win.
Majka took the lead in the mountain classification on the second climb of the day, before Cannondale-Drapac's Dylan van Baarle launched a surprise attack that forced Nibali and Majka to chase.
In the background, Julian Alaphilippe's poor luck continued, as the Etixx-Quick-Step man took a nasty tumble, per Neal Rogers of CyclingTips:
Dumoulin tried his luck solo, but the Dutchman didn't get far. Majka had better luck, finding a strong partner in Pantano and pushing for a quick 50-second lead.
In the background, Astana's Fabio Aru and Movistar's Alejandro Valverde attacked, but Team Sky controlled the pace and didn't give them much of a gap to work with.
Majka dropped Pantano with several kilometers of climbing still ahead, and cycling writer Mihai Cazacu thought he needed to put some distance between himself and the Colombian before the top of the climb:
AG2R's Romain Bardet launched a strong attack from the peloton, as BMC's Tejay van Garderen struggled and was dropped. Sky kept a close eye on Bardet, knowing the Frenchman is an able descender.
At the front, Majka nearly crashed after overshooting a corner, and Pantano closed the gap in a hurry. Rogers was impressed:
Pantano and Majka bluffed in the final kilometers with chasers nearing fast, and the Pole jumped too early, allowing Pantano to catch his wheel and reclaim the lead. Per Cycling News' Stephen Farrand, the winner was overjoyed:
It’s an incredible day for me. I came to the Tour de France thinking I’d try to win a stage but to do it is difficult to believe. I’d hope to do it but this is incredible.
I want to thank my IAM teammates who did a great job for me in the attack. I also want to thank my family, especially my wife, who have always supported me. This is a special day for me.
Further back, the favourites mostly finished as part of the same group, which was a perfect scenario for Froome. Van Garderen did lose time, finishing over a minute after his rivals.
Monday's stage toward Bern will be the last before the second rest day, and a late cobbled climb shortly before the finish line should suit local favourite and cycling legend Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo.
He is racing in his last Tour and will be hailed upon arrival no matter what. But the stage profile suits him, and one last win isn't out of the question.