Julian Alaphilippe is fighting to keep hold of his yellow jersey at the 2019 Tour de France, with the Frenchman set to embark upon the final stretch of this year's competition following Monday's rest day.
Le Tour resumes with Stage 16 on Tuesday, and some have anticipated the mountain stages will pose the true test as to whether Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider Alaphilippe is champion material.
Simon Yates breezed clear to win Stage 15 on Sunday—his second win in four stages—and Alaphilippe lost ground to Team Ineos star Geraint Thomas after he could only finish 11th.
Six stages sit between him and a special home victory in Paris on Sunday, July 28, when Alaphilippe could become the first Frenchman to win the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
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Here's how the general classification looks heading into Stage 16, per Velon CC:
Remaining Stage Schedule (Stage Number)
(16) Tuesday, July 23: Nimes - Nimes
(17) Wednesday, July 24: Pont du Gard - Cap
(18) Thursday, July 25: Embrun - Valloire
(19) Friday, July 26: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne i Tignes
(20) Saturday, July 27: Albertville - Val Thorens
(21) Sunday, July 28: Rambouillet - Paris
Visit the official Tour website for more route information.
Yates' victory on Sunday helped Thomas cut around 30 seconds off the lead following a wet ride to Prat d'Albis. After Alaphilippe and Thibau Pinot notched successive French wins in Stages 13 and 14, Yates showed tremendous stamina to cross the line ahead of any competition:
The Mitchelton-Scott man helped force the pace ahead of the peloton, and it may be that we're starting to see Alaphilippe's lasting power at the front diminish following a string of strong rides.
Pinot is the only other Frenchman to win a stage on this year's Tour so far, having finished strongly to clinch victory when the mountain stages resumed on Saturday.
He followed that with an impressive sprint to take second behind Yates in Stage 15. Pinot and third-place finisher Mikel Landa were 33 seconds behind Yates, and the home favourite's sprint finishes have looked like a major strength of late, per LeTourData:
Cycling writer Neal Rogers remarked upon Pinot's resurgence since crosswinds on Stage 10 scattered the peloton and damaged some Tour campaigns far more than others:
Pinot also made up ground in the mountains classification thanks to his Stage 15 display and is now second behind Tim Wellens in the hunt for the polka dot jersey (14 points).
Thomas has recovered after a disastrous end to Stage 14 left him chasing Alaphilippe, and he spoke positively after cutting the gap back to one minute, 35 seconds on Sunday, via ITV Cycling:
Stage 16 will see riders race around a flat loop located in Nimes, promising to throw up a few surprises as the Tour focus turns to speed before the final, decisive slate of mountain stages.