Julian Alaphilippe is still in possession of the yellow jersey at the 2019 Tour de France as the competition heads to Stage 15 for what's set to be another challenging day for the riders.
Alaphilippe outlined his credentials on Saturday, when he finished second behind Thibaut Pinot in Stage 14, which climaxed at the treacherous Col du Tourmalet. In doing so, the Frenchman extended his lead over defending champion Geraint Thomas to more than two minutes.
Stage 15, a 185-kilometre ride from Limoux to Prat d'Albis, is set to be another tough day in the saddle given the peloton will encounter three first-category climbs, including a summit finish.
With a rest day on Monday, expect the general classification contenders to pour everything into Stage 15. Here are the key details for Sunday's action.
Date: Sunday, July 21
Time: 11:10 a.m. (GMT), 6:10 a.m. (ET)
TV Info: ITV 4 (UK), Eurosport 1 (UK), NBC Sports (U.S.)
Felix Lowe shared the overall standings following Stage 14, with Alaphilippe comfortably clear of the 2018 winner:
The competition Twitter account provided highlights from Saturday's thrilling stage:
Tour de France™ @LeTour
⛰💚 Tim Wellens and Peter Sagan doing the job to secure their jersey. 💪 Warren Barguil on the attack 🇫🇷 The masterpiece of Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe with Geraint Thomas losing time. ⏪ Tune in for Stage 14 of the #TDF2019 summarized in 1'. Enjoy ! https://t.co/f3Vx7l0pe3
Ahead of the individual time trial on Friday, few considered Alaphilippe to be a genuine contender for success despite his brilliant start to the 2019 edition and pedigree for winning stages. A couple of days on, perceptions have shifted.
After producing a stunning time trial on Friday, he showed he can climb with the best mountain men in the race on Saturday, finishing second to Pinot on a gruelling day.
Neal Rogers praised the manner in which the leader has handled the race, as the Tour edges closer to its third week:
Meanwhile, cycling journalist Daniel Friebe summed up the improvements Alaphilippe made in his climbing and outlined the challenges he still has to face if he's to ride into Paris in yellow:
At this stage, Pinot appears to be as good a bet as any to chop down the gap to his compatriot, albeit he's more than three minutes behind Alaphilippe.
On Stage 14, he looked the most comfortable of the general classification contenders on the final climb, while he was also able to surge away from the leading group late on. He will see the ascents on Sunday, as well another steep finish, as a chance to make up more ground.
Thomas will also be looking to bounce back after he was left behind by the two Frenchman on the Tourmalet, not to mention his Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal. Matt Dickinson of the Times said the Welshman was deflated with his display on Stage 14:
Matt Dickinson @DickinsonTimes
V mixed greeting for Macron at top of Tourmalet. Inevitably a lot of love for stage winner Pinot and (increased) leader Alaphilippe. Thomas says felt weak from start. Didn’t sound resigned but def v deflated, as if not sure what’s wrong. One surprise after another in this Tour
Twitter account La Flamme Rouge thinks a change in strategy may be needed if Ineos are to have a winner:
With the next hugely strenuous day for the peloton set to come on Friday, when they take on the Galibier, expect a number of attacks from the big names on the trio of Category 1 climbs.
Alaphilippe will be under major pressure as a result. Following on from two hugely strenuous days, if he can maintain his lead over Thomas come Sunday evening, he will surely be the favourite for glory despite the amount of racing still to be done in the 2019 Tour.