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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 12, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do? - Pablo Picasso

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Tour de France stage fifteen reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Stage winner Sepp Kuss's Jumbo-Visma team posted this report:

Sepp Kuss has won the fifteenth stage of the Tour de France. The rider of Team Jumbo-Visma escaped on the final climb from the break of the day, which also included Wout van Aert and Steven Kruijswijk. In his hometown, the American rode solo to his first win of the season.

Sepp kuss

Sepp Kuss wins his first Tour de France stage. Photo: ASO/Pauline Ballet

Van Aert, Kruijswijk and Kuss represented Team Jumbo-Visma in the large leading group, while Vingegaard was assisted by Mike Teunissen in the reduced peloton. Vingegaard was again very strong and moved up a place in the rankings.

Van Aert did an excellent job for Kuss in the descent of the Port d’Envalira. On the final climb Kuss attacked. Alejandro Valverde continued to put pressure on the descent towards the finish, but couldn’t prevent the American from taking the win.

In the descent of the final climb, Van Aert waited for Vingegaard to cross the finish line in Andorra la Vella together with the majority of the general classification riders. Van Aert was also allowed to take the podium after the finish, just like his American teammate. The champion of Belgium received the ‘prix de la combativité’.

Kuss had a hard time getting his mind around the fact that he had won his first Tour stage. “It’s really unbelievable. I can’t describe it. I was really suffering this Tour. Today the stage finished in my hometown and therefore I was very motivated to go for the stage win. Finally I found my good legs and I could finish the job. My friend and her family stood on the final climb to cheer me on. I know the last climb a bit, but haven’t ridden it often. It’s a very tough climb. My team did a fantastic job today. Wout was ahead of me in the whole valley. If a champion like that works for me, then I have to finish it off too. I’m really happy that I won here.”

Kruijswijk was pleased with the team tactics. “We wanted to go for the stage win today, but also protect Jonas. If we made sure we were in front of Jonas, we could always wait. In the end it all fell into place. The ride over the Ventoux and this stage victory ensure a high morale in the team. It says something that, despite the fact that we are only racing with five people, we can still race like this. We’re in good shape. It is a pity that we didn’t succeed in our main goal with Primoz, but we got back on track.”

Here's the report from second-place Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar:

Almost nine years after his last stage victory to date in the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) again offered cycling fans a big show of class and grit on Andorran soil, seeking, at the first Pyrenean stage of the ‘Grande Boucle -191km and four categorized climbs-, for the success the Telefónica-backed squad has long deserved.

The Spaniard chose the right move to go into the breakaway, a 23-rider split which found permission from race leader Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates and all GC-involved squads. He later followed the right wheels at the appropriate moments, keeping splits in check at the top of the climbs and waiting for the last ascent, Beixalis (Cat-1), to deploy all of his strength. And he was the last man to stay with the unstoppable Sepp Kuss (TJV), who put about twenty seconds on the Spaniard at the hardest part of the climb and held him off through the end.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde finishes second. Sirotti photo

‘Bala’ thus crossed the finish line in 2nd place, leaving, in any case, an excellent impression heading into his big 2021 goal, the Tokyo Olympics, now only 13 days away. Behind, Enric Mas remained at all times -not without suffering, just like everybody!- alongside the other GC contenders and climbs onto 8th place overall, overtaking an exhausted Guillaume Martin (COF) right before the second rest day.

“We had a little bit more freedom today, we could go into the breakaway and that’s what I tried to do. Once into that move, the goal was to win – but it’s always difficult to finish it off into a group like that. Happy to finish second, but it would have had a better taste to take this one. The attack by Kuss was too hard, and bridging back with those 15-20″ was so, so difficult. He knows Beixalis perfectly, both the climb and the descent, and did it perfectly. I’ve seen myself taking a couple turns into the downhill in not the safest way and thought to myself: ‘Man, it’s good to win, but it’s more important not to crash.’ And it’s not about what’s coming up in my schedule – it was just that I didn’t want to crash. At a descent like that one, you can really hurt yourself.

“I’m happy to see Enric still doing well – there’s still all Pyrenees left in this race. I think we’re doing well as a team, after the bad luck we had with Soler crashing on day one. On a personal standpoint, we’ve got to be happy with my race so far. It was awful when I had to drop back from that breakaway, when we had almost four minutes, and not be able to contest it because I was suffering with the cold, rainy conditions – but that’s cycling. We’ll keep on fighting, the whole team, to make our fans happy!”

Wout Poels' Bahrain Victorious team posted this report:

Wout Poels put in another impressive performance from the breakaway to move back into the lead in the climber’s classification and round off the podium, finishing in Andorra.

Wout Poels

Wout Poels (far left) finishes third. Sirotti photo

With the Yellow Jersey resting firmly on the shoulders of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), the fight for the Polka Dot Jersey is front and centre of the Tour de France. The fifteenth stage had four classified climbs ahead of the finish in Andorra. Poels managed to claim 25 points and gain a lead of 8 points to his closest rival Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up).

Wout Poels: “I’m really happy to be back in the jersey and also finishing on the podium for the stage. I think it was a super good day with three guys in the front, keeping us in the fight for the team GC. It was hard with Wout Van Aert in the sprints for the points, but I managed to beat him one time and took good points on the last KOM to move into the jersey. We take it day by day, but I’ll rest up tomorrow for more battles on the mountains for the jersey.”

Here's the report from Julian Alaphilippe's Team Deceuninck-Quick Step:

Week two of the race came to a conclusion with a challenging day in the Pyrenees, which had the riders go over the Port d’Envalira – the highest point of this edition – on their way to Andorra-la-Vella, which returned as stage finish for the first time since 1964, when Julio Jimenez took the spoils following an impressive mountain ride.

On Sunday afternoon, a huge breakaway was in the spotlight, 32 riders booking a place in the leading group soon after the start in Céret, including Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe and Davide Ballerini. The Italian, victorious at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this season, did a splendid job in the service of the World Champion, working for him on the climbs and helping the escapees drive their advantage to ten minutes.

First cracks in the groups began appearing close to the top of the Envalira, but the chasers closed the gap on the long descent to Col de Beixalis, where riders were spat out the back at a fast rate following a series of attacks. Five kilometers from the top, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) kicked clear and took the victory after holding off the chasers on the roads to Andorra-la-Vella, including a small group that came home some two minutes later and from where Julian finished 12th.

Dan Martin

Julian Alaphilippe (back, on the right in Rainbow Jersey) finished with the group led in by Dan Martin. Sirotti photo

“I wanted to be in the front today and made it there, part of a strong break. Ballero did a great job for me today, he was incredible. I knew that last climb and was hoping for a good result, but my legs weren’t that strong and I lacked the energy to follow when the attacks began coming, which is normal after two hard weeks. Now I am looking forward to the rest day and to get some recovery for the final stages of the race”, said Julian.

Mark Cavendish beat again the time limit with the help of his teammates Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Michael Mørkøv, retaining the green jersey which he will carry into the final week of the race: “We knew it was going to be difficult. I was focused on just pushing and holding on, and was so lucky to have three guys with me. There was a lot of suffering and I was completely empty on the last climb, but we knew we were inside the time limit and we took it a bit easy. I’m glad this is over and I’m happy everyone is safe and well. I’m looking forward to Monday and then to the third week”, explained the Manxman.

Wilco Kelderman's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Ahead of the Tour de France’s second and final rest day, the riders could ride hard today and try to restock their energy reserves tomorrow, or save all their strength for the decisive final week.

However, with four difficult climbs in the Pyrenees on the 191.3km parcours, the terrain would decide who had the legs to take the stage win or create some time gaps in the overall standings. The roads pointed skywards from the first kilometre, ultimately leading towards the Souvenir Henri Desgrange at 146km  – the highest point of this year’s edition of the race.

The attacking was relentless at the start of the day, and rather than one cohesive break going out, it was smaller, individual attacks that made up the day’s move, Lukas Postlberger one of those trying to get ahead. A big group eventually formed, with Lukas the representative of BORA-hansgrohe here, but the sheer size made it difficult to keep under control with their competing ambitions for the stage outcome, and while the gap between this escape group and the peloton hit almost nine minutes at its peak, there were multiple attacks and regroupings as the day went on.

In the yellow jersey group, Wilco Kelderman was supported by Emanuel Buchmann and Patrick Konrad, and as the race crossed into Andorra for the last 50km, Lukas dropped off the back of the breakaway as the GC riders started to put their tactics to the test. The overall contenders had destroyed what was left of the peloton to create a select group on the way to the final climb, the Col de Beixalis, with Lukas setting the pace downhill here in support of Wilco.

On the final climb, Wilco was still in the yellow jersey group and working to respond to the attacks on the very steep gradients, always making his way back even as this group was stretched to the limit. When the break took the stage, attention turned to the select GC group making its way down the mountain to Andorre-la-Vieille, this group passing some of the remnants of the break, and Wilco was showing no signs of being distanced. Crossing the line all together, it was back into GC sixth for the Dutchman having ridden strong the entire stage.

Wout van Aert

Wilco Kelderman (back, on right) finished in the group with GC leader Tadej Pogacar. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It was definitely not going to be an easy stage but the high temperatures and a very strong pace, from start to finish, made it a particularly difficult one. My teammates put in a great effort to support me. Patrick and Emu were with me all the way to the top of the penultimate climb. Then it was Lukas that took over, as he had dropped from the breakaway and waited for me. So, until the start of the final climb, I was well-supported and afterwards, it was up to each rider's legs. I suffered a lot in the last climb and in some of the attacks I struggled to follow. Still, I kept riding at my own pace and always managed to bridge to the small GC group. I'm feeling quite well, I avoided any time losses and I'm optimistic about the third week of the Tour." – Wilco Kelderman

"After some very hard stages in the last few days, it was another very tough one. We tried to support Wilco as much as possible, always making sure he was well-positioned but also that he had enough water bottles and ice to cool down. The guys did a tremendous job. Lukas was in the breakaway and in the penultimate descent he waited for Wilco who gave his best. He had some minor problems but was always able to come back. It was a very hard stage but a good one, as we didn't lose any time in the GC, which was important." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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