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David L. Stanley

2015 Tour de France: July 19
Stage 15 reviewed and assessed

Back to Commentary index page | 2015 Tour de France

David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.

STAGE 15, 19 July, Sunday: Mende to Valence, 113 MI/183 km
In which the sprinters finally get their chance…

Valence, in the Rhone River Valley, is renowned for two gastronomic items. First, there is La Suisse. The Suisse is a shortbread pastry shaped like a man. It is flavored with orange blossom and contains powdered almonds. It is decorated, with small pieces of candied orange peel, as if it were a member of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. It was originally created to honor Pope Pius VI, who died in Valence in 1799. It is eaten during the Easter holidays and is quite delicious. Bon appétit!
Secondly, this is home to the wines of the Rhone. There are far too many wines to describe, and sadly, far too many wines to taste. Suffice to say, if I was limited to the wines of only one part of the world, I would happily drink nothing but the vins du Rhône until my death.

Today’s stage starts with a climb. Straightaway, it’s 5 km at 5% up the Badaroux. I suspect that there will be attacks from Kilometer Zero. The 2nd category Col de l’Escrinet peaks 126 km away. There will certainly be a group of men brave enough to tackle the predicted 90F/32C day, with the faint hope that they can hold off the chase of the sprinters’ teams over the last 60 km of the day. Carpe Velò.

Let’s cut to the chase.

38 MI/60 km to go: A break with serious players has been clear since early in the day: Lars Bak, Kwiatkowski, Sagan, Michael Rogers, Thibout Pinot, Ryder Hesjedal. They hit the last climb, the L’Escrinet (8 km @ 6%), 1:36 ahead of the Katusha-led peloton.  

A large autobus (30+ riders) with Cavendish, Teklehaimanot, Tyler Farrar, a battered and bandaged J-C Peraud, and Simon Yates amongst them, trails by 9:00.

The autobus, or laughing group, or grupetto, will lose huge gobs of time on the climb.

The peloton will certainly suck up the break on the run across to Valence. Speeds will pick up. The autobus will be in real danger of missing the time cut unless they seriously bomb the descent and find some TTT-style organization on the 30 km to the finish.

28 MI/45 km to go: Matteo Trentin (Etixx) has escaped on the descent from the group. He has 00:17 seconds. Dumb move, except for the TV time. If he’s not caught in a few miles by the break, he’ll assuredly be caught by the main peloton. The main peloton has 1:11 to make up before the finale. The autobus is at 12:30 as the crest the climb. That’s a danger zone. Today is regarded as a Category 1 stage; a stage that offers ‘no particular difficulty.’ That means the riders in the bus must finish within 12% of the leaders.  That time gap will be around 20:00. The race jury has some leeway; exceptional heat, a large crash, or a very large autobus may earn the group some sympathy.

20 MI/31 km to go: Ryder Hesjedal (C’dale-Garmin) and Trentin are 20 seconds ahead. The remainder of break has been absorbed by the peloton. The autobus is at 13:00.

15 MI/24 km to go:

And we’re all as one.

The Tactics. The peloton will continue to move at a brisk pace:

1) Teams will protect their sprinters by eliminating the chance of attacks.

2) High speeds in the peloton work to eliminate the sprinters in the autobus via the time cut.

FYI- At wheel level, the temperature is 96F/35C. Hot. Chaud. Caliente. Caldo.

10 MI/16 km to go: The autobus is organized. Mark Renshaw, for Cav, is taking some darn hard pulls. Still, he keeps looking over his shoulder. He wants to make up time, but he doesn’t want to drop guys. The peloton is 12:12 ahead. The busmen have about 14 miles to go, with about 10 minutes to burn. They’ll make the cut.

6.2 MI/10 km to go: At the moment, all the GC guys are well-protected right at the front. 6 BMC men lead for TVG at speed, helped by SKY. The autobus is at 12:20.

4 MI/ 7 km to go: The GC teams still lead, but around 3 km (where the final time is taken) to go, they’ll cede control to the sprinters’ teams. The 'bus is at 12:30. They got this.

3.1 MI/5 km to go: BMC still leads- hard to tell if they are riding for Tejay’s safety, or another van Avermaet win. I like Greipel’s chances a lot better.

1.8 MI/3 km to go: Stybar has attacked hard and has about 8 seconds. He’s got 3 minutes of work. Big ask.

1.2 MI/2 km to go: Lotto is chasing hard. Stybar is going well. Unlikely, but GO ZDENEK! Or Jit Zdenek! , for those who speak Czech.

RED KITE TIME: CAUGHT! The sprint teams’ trains sweep him off the road. Zdenek’s hand goes up to let everyone know he’s going slow.

Katusha leads it out for Kristoff.

There’s Greipel on him. It’s Degenkolb on Greipel.

That front group’s gotta be at 70 kph. They’re flying so fast that the air wash from their wheels is blowing paper waste on the road up into the air behind them.

Bryan Coquard is on Sagan. Coq breaks his chain, nearly bounces off Sagan’s wheel, he stays up. Wizard bike handler.

Greipel and DG head to head!

Kristoff and Sagan and EBH are just a jot behind.

A classic five-up sprint!

Bikes bouncing from side to side, riders yanking on the bars, back wheels skipping back and forth across the road.

Degenkolb’s head bobs like a woodpecker on Ritalin.

Grapes looks like a boxer working the speed bag.

Kristoff throws the bike towards the line. Looks like Greipel has it. He DOES!

Greipel!!! A German one-two with DG in second.

Andre Greipel wins stage 15

The finish order:

  1. The Great Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) 3:56:35          
  2. Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) s.t.
  3. Kristoff (Katusha) s.t.
  4. Sagan (Tinkoff) s.t.
  5. Boasson-Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) s.t.

The GC:

  1. The Froome 59:58:54                    
  2. Nairo @ 03:10
  3. TVG @ 03:32
  4. Valverde @ 04:02
  5. Contador @ 04:23

What Did We Learn Today?

1) These guys can cover a lot of terrain. Even with two serious climbs in today’s stage, plus a not-overwhelming chase across the mid-section of the stage, the peloton covered 113 miles in 3.93 hours. That’s an average speed of 28.75 mph. Average speed. Over 4 hours. In 90F+ heat.

2) The heat matters. Patrick O’Grady, the cycling bon vivant and cartoonist of Mad-Dog Media, shared this thought this morning on LiveUpdateGuy.com: It's not just the attacks, chases, climbs and descents that are taking a toll out there. The weather is playing a role, too. Your man Thibaut Pinot says he's been done to a turn by the heat. "I've come to realize these last few days that as soon as it gets hot, I quickly lose energy," Thibaut told the sporting press. "The heat is a mountain."

3) Greipel is the fastest man on two wheels in this year’s Tour peloton. Today’s stage was fair to all. What about Cavendish? If you can’t get over the climb with the group, you don’t get to sprint with the group. The road to Paris next week is flat. We’ll see if Cav is still competitive.

4) Look at the top ten finishers on the day:
That’s a truly international result. That’s good for the growth of bicycle racing.
Germany-2
Norway -2
France-2
Slovakia-1
Lithuania-1
Australia-1
Italy-1

Random Race Fact: The jerseys (yellow, green, white, polka dot) that each rider receives at the podium ceremony are just that: ceremonial. They feature a rear, full-length zipper for easy on, and a front-of-the-jersey team sponsor’s logo that is not interrupted. A full screen print van travels with the Tour, and the operator prints anywhere from 8-12 jerseys of each color each day. Many are autographed; given away to sponsors and/or auctioned for fund raising. Others are race-ready, front-zip for wear in the day’s stage.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan getting help from Bernard Hinault as he puts on a ceremonial green jersey

Join in the conversation. In a drag race, 300 yards from a dead stop, who is the fastest man in the peloton?

And please, no wagering.

Hit up the McGann Facebook page to make your case, and give McGann a LIKE.

On the Twitter, you can follow BikeRaceInfo here.

Stanley’s Twitter is here.  I tweet early, and often.

For great live text updates of the daily stages, don’t miss LiveUpdateGuy.com

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