First modification: 07/11/2021 – 20:59
The fifteenth stage of the Pyrenees offered a spectacle in three dimensions: the stage victory, the general and the mountain jersey. The American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo Visma) won alone in Andorra la Vieja in front of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Wout Poels wears the mountain shirt. Colombian Rigoberto Urán regained second place overall behind Tadej Pogacar. Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz was fourth.
In the 70s the expression “total football” appeared to describe the style of play of the teams trained by the Dutch Rinus Michel (Ajax Amsterdam, FC Barcelona and the Netherlands team) in which all the players participated in the attack. . The 2021 Tour could be classified as “total cycling” since in each fraction the riders show offensive cycling. Today’s stage that took the peloton to more than 2,400 meters high was a new illustration. In this style the Jumbo Visma, despite having lost its leader Primoz Roglic in stage 9, confirms to be one of the strongest teams in the peloton.
21% of the squad on the run
As expected, many runners fled to seek a prestigious victory or accumulate points for the mountain classification. Or for both. So during the first 30 kilometers many runners left the peloton alone or in small groups.
And today the doors were wide open for adventurers. 32 runners made up the largest escape on this Tour, meaning that 21% of the 149 runners were on the run. They represented 20 of the 23 teams present in the race. UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin Fenix and Intermarché Wanty Gobert were the only ones without riders in front. Among the adventurers of the day, great figures of the peloton were noted such as the world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck Quick Step), the dean Alejandro Valverde and his 41 years (Movistar), or the Belgian phenomenon Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) with his teammates Sepp Kuss and Steven Kruijswijk. Also ahead were the candidates for the King of the Mountain jersey such as Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) and the Colombian Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic).
No rider posed a threat to the top ten overall as the best-placed rider was the Frenchman Aurélien Paret-Peintre (13th to 24’44). So quickly this group took an advantage of more than 9 minutes over the peloton.
Quintana lost the battle of the mountain
The first battle of the day was for the mountain awards and the red polka dot jersey. In the first two ports, Montée de Mont-Louis and Col de Puymorens, both second-rate, the dispute was between Wout Poels, Michael Woods and Wout Van Aert. Poels passed first on the Montée de Mont-Louis and Van Aert on the Col de Puymorens. Nairo Quintana couldn’t fight the speed and power of these riders on these not-so-steep passes. But at the next stop, Port d’Envalira, which ended at 2,408 meters, no one could follow Nairo Quintana. A natural height for the Colombian who was born in the central city of Tunja at 2,801 meters above sea level. He attacked a kilometer from the top and passed over the top 15 seconds apart over Wout Van Aert and Wout Poels.
Kuss was the strongest to win the stage
A group of 16 runners reached Nairo Quintana on the long descent to Encamp and the start of the last difficulty of the day, Col de Beixalis (first category. 6.4 km at 8.5%). In the first meters of this climb, Nairo Quintana launched another attack that reduced the group to about six runners. But when the American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo Visma) attacked 20 kilometers from the finish, his rivals could not keep up. Alejandro Valverde went out with Kuss for a few meters, but had to let him go alone. The American crossed the Col de Beixalis with 20 seconds over the Spanish and knew how to maintain this difference until the arrival in Andorra la Vieja. It is the second stage victory of the Jumbo Visma on this Tour after the victory of Wout van Aert at the Ventoux.
Nairo Quintana, sixth at the finish line, could not rival Wout Poels, who finished third on the stage, again accumulating points to become the new king of the mountain. The Dutchman from Bahrain Victorious leads the mountain standings with 74 points, followed by Woods (66 points), Quintana and Van Aert (both with 64 points).
The Ineos de Carapaz on the offensive
The first tactical movements of the fight for the general classification began in the climb of Mont-Louis when the Movistar teams of Enric Mas (ninth overall), and especially Ineos Grenadiers of Richard Carapaz (fifth), began to increase the pace in the head of the platoon. This acceleration continued until Port d’Envalira isolated Tadej Pocagar and reduced the peloton to the group of favorites. They divided in two the difference with the escape that at the top of Port d’Envalira was 5’26.
All of Pogacar’s rivals tried to attack him
Ineos also had two men on the run: Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan Van Baarle, who waited for Richard Carapaz to continue imposing their pace on the last climb, Col de Beixalis. Everything indicated that the Ecuadorian was preparing an attack. The only one injured was Guillaume Martin, the French runner from Cofidis who had risen to second place yesterday, lost almost 4 minutes over his rivals today. This promotion was a battle of all against Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and of all against all for the podium. Richard Carapaz was the first to launch the offense with a strong attack.
Then Ben O’connor (AG2R Citröen), the winner of Tignes and sixth overall, attacked. Then Jonas Vingegaard (fourth overall) attacked, over and over again. Until finally Rigoberto Urán attacked. But Tadej Pogacar was never off the hook and always calmly closed the gaps. The leader showed his ability to defend his position and his pride by passing on top in front of all his rivals who continue to fight for the podium.
Urán and Carapaz continue in the fight for the podium
With the exception of Martin, the first eight riders of the general classification arrived together in Andorra 4’51 after Kuss. In the general the only change is that Guillaume Martin falls to ninth place. In this way, Rigoberto Urán returns to second place at 5’18 behind Tadej Pogacar, followed by Jonas Vingegaard at 5’33 and Richard Carapaz at 5’34. They are followed by Ben O’connor at 5’58, Wilco Kelderman at 6’16 (Bora Hansgrohe), Alexey Lutsenko at 7’01 (Astana Primer Tech) and Enric Más at 7’11 (Movistar).
After this epic battle, the runners will enjoy the second rest day tomorrow. Before resuming the race on Tuesday for the third and final week with stage 16 between Pas de la Case and Saint-Gaudens. A rugged 169 km route with four mountain prizes with Col de la Core as the main difficulty of the day (13.1 kilometers of ascent at 6.6% (first category).