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Having rejoined the Pole on the final descent, Pantano easily beat Majka in a 2-rider sprint to win stage 15 of the Tour de France; Sky controlled the peloton and Froome retained the lead but van Garderen lost more than a minute

Photo: A.S.O.

ALEXIS VUILLERMOZ

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CHRIS FROOME

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IAM CYCLING

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JARLINSON PANTANO

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RAFAL MAJKA

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TEAM SKY

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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17.07.2016 @ 18:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jarlinson Pantano took the first ever Tour de France stage victory for IAM when he came out on top in a very hard stage 15 in the Jura Mountains. Having joined a 30-rider break in the beginning, he made it back to lone leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) on the final descent and easily beat the Pole in the sprint, with Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) completing the podium. Sky controlled the attacks from Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and so Chris Froome (Sky) retained the lead on a day when Tejay van Garderen (BMC) lost 1.28 and slipped to 8th in the GC.

 

At the Tour de Suisse, IAM went into their home race with the plan to finish on the podium with Mathias Frank. However, the captain fell ill but luckily Jarlinson Pantano saved the race for them by winning the final stage and finishing fourth overall.

 

Pantano has turned into a big of a saving angel for the Swiss team which is set to fold at the end of the year. At the Tour de France, the team was hoping for a top 10 finish with Mathias Frank but yesterday the Swiss left the race due to illness. Today Pantano bounced back by taking his first grand tour win in the hilly stage 15 in the Jura Mountains.

 

Pantano was attentive in the hectic opening phase and he made it into a 30-rider group that escaped in the beginning. He has teammates Stef Clement and Jerome Coppel at his side and they helped to increase the advantage. In the end, he rode extremely well, losing a bit of ground on the climbs but using his great descending skills to get back before beating Rafal Majka in a 2-rider sprint.

 

The GC battle ended as a bit of a disappointment. Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet all tried to attack but Sky kept everything firmly under control. A very strong Wout Poels brought everyone back and the only major change was the fact that Tejay van Garderen was dropped in the finale, slipping from 6th to 8th in the standings.

 

After a fast start, Nelson Oliveira, Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali, Tanel Kangert (Astana), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Domenico Pozzovivo, Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek), Stef Clement, Jerome Coppel, Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Pierre Rolland, Dylan Van Baarle, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Sebastien Reichenbach, Steve Morabito (FDJ), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Alberto Losada, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek, Tsgabu Grmay, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Romain Sicard, Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Ruben Plaza (Orica-BikeExchange) got clear in the day’s early break and they had an advantage of more than 7 minutes when they approached the Grand Colombier, the hardest climb on the course. As they hit an uncategorized ascent, Van Baarle attacked and he managed to build an advantage of 15 seconds before Dumoulin bridged the gap. The Dutchman quickly dropped his compatriot and soloed towards the top of the climb.

 

Nibali sensed the danger and took off in pursuit of Dumoulin who now had an advantage of 20 seconds. He quickly passed Van Baarle while lots of riders tried to attack further back. Pantano and Pozzovivo joined him on the descent  towards the bottom of the Grand Colombier.

 

The three chasers joined Dumoulin two kilometres from the bottom of the climb. They hit the mountain with an advantage of 10-15 seconds over the chasers and 8.50 over the peloton.

 

Morabito worked hard for Reichenbach and so the elimination started immediately. Van Baarle, Coppel, Losada and Polanc were the first to get dropped and later Grmay, Slagter, Plaza, Clement, Sicard and Zubeldia also lost contact.

 

Morabito brought the four leaders back and then fell off alongside Bennett. Navarro made an immediate counterattack but faled to get clear. He tried another two times but had no lock.

 

Navarro’s many attacks whittled the front group down to just Vuillermoz, Zakarin, Reichenbach, Majka, Pantano, Navarro and Durasek while Nibali almost exploded. The Italian was passed by several riders and Dumoulin also lost ground. Meanwhile, Pozzovivo and Pauwels tried to make it back to the leaders.

 

While Reichenbach urged the front group to cooperate, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard led (Sky) the peloton onto the climb and they immediately sent the sprinters out the back door as a big gruppetto was formed. Thomas De Gendt was also distanced again.

 

Pauwels, Pozzovivo, Huzarski, Oliveira, Morabito and Alaphilippe rejoined the leaders and Morabito went straight to the front to wprk for Reichenbach. At this point, Rolland had already lost 30 seconds while Nibali was more than a minute behind.

 

Kiryienka took over the pace-setting in the peloton and sent more riders out the back door, including Peter Sagan. Wilco Kelderman and Rui Costa also lost contact.

 

Five kilometres from the top, Zakarin attacked and only Majka could follow. Morabito, Huzarski and Oliveira were distanced but the latter two made it back.

 

Majka and Zakarin worked well together to hit the final 50km with an advantage of 15 seconds. They continued to increase the gap as they approached the summit.

 

Kiryienka whittled the group down to 30 riders before Astana kicked into action. Diego Rosa hit the front and increased the pace significantly. He made the peloton explode and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) was the first big name to lose contact.

 

One kilometre from the top, Majka and Zakarin were already one minute ahead of the chase group which had dropped Navarro, Huzarski and Olievira. The Spaniard made it back though.

 

Alaphilippe made a big attack and Vuillermoz could only follow for a few metres before he fell behind. Further back, the group exploded as Navarro, Pozzovivo, Durasek and Pauwels fell behind.

 

Majka was the first rider at the top followed by Zakarin while Alaphilippe followed just 30 seconds later. Pantano made the junction with the Frenchman and the upper slopes of the descent.

 

Rosa whittled the group down to a select group of GC contenders and as they approached the top, the fast pace took its toll for Sergio Henao (Sky) who fell behind. Only Froome, Poels, Nieve, Thomas, Quintana, Valverde, Aru, Rosa, Kreuziger, Bardet, ollema, Porte, van Garderen, Rodriguez, Meintjes, Martin and Yates were left as they approached the top where the passed Van Baarle and Coppel. They crested the summit 7.45 behind the leader.s Rolland was 1.30 behind and Nibali at 6.11.

 

Alaphillippe and Pantano joined Majka and Zakarin on the descent and the quartet hit the final 35km with and advantage of 25 seconds over Reichenbach and Pauwels who were behind Vuillermoz. However, they lost ground as Alaphilippe went full gas in the downhill section. Further back, Rosa continued to ride hard, bringing his teammate Nibali back in the process.

 

While Zakarin was dropped, Alaphilippe rode away from Majka and Pantano but he took too many risks. The Frenchman hit the deck hard and even though he quickly got back on his bike, he found himself far back.

 

Pantano and Majke were the first to hit flat roads. Zakarin was caught by Vuillermoz, Reichenbach and Pauwels but they were now 45 seconds behind the leaders.

 

Alaphilippe made it back to a big group with the likes Pozzovivo, Rolland, Oliveira, Slagter, Morabito, Huzarski and Navarro and even tried to sprint past but he soon fell back. The group was 1.35 behind with 26km to go. Further back, Nibali had been caught by the peloton and led the group down the descent.

 

The front group crossed the line for the first time with an advantage of 50 seconds over the four chasers and 1.25 over the Alahilippe group. Nibali led his teammates Kangert, Rosa, Aru and the rest of the peloton across the line 7 minutes behind the leaders. Unfortunately, Thomas had punctured out of the group and found himself far back.

 

Right after the finish, the riders hit the final climb. While Zakarin went full gas in an attempt to make it back and Majka rode hard to try to distance Pantano, Nibali led the peloton onto the ascent and then Kangert set the pace on the lower slopes.

 

Alaphilippe and Huzarski attacked from the big group and were joined by Rolland and Durasek on the lower slopes. They rode faster than the first two groups and had reduced the gap to 50 seconds with 20km to go. Majka dropped Pantano but the Colombian made it back 5km from the top.

 

Rosa took over the pace-setting in the peloton and then Aru made his big attack. No one responded before Valverde bridged across. That forced Poels to up the pace and the Dutchman kept the duo firmly under control.

 

With 18km to go, Majka dropped Pantano decisively and started to increase his advantage. Further back, Zakarin and Pauwels were dropped by Reichenback and Vuillermoz but he was still 40 seconds behind the lone Pole. The Alaphilippe group was losing ground.

 

Poels brought Aru and Valverde back and then set a fast pace that didn’t give any incentive to attack. The group now consisted of Poels, Nieve, Froome, Mollema, Porte, Bardet, Kreuziger, Valverde, Quintana, Rodriguez, Aru, Martin, Rosa, van Garderen, Yates and Meintjes and they had caught numerous escapees.

 

Reichenbach caught Pantano who led the Swiss over the top 22 seconds behind Majka. The Colombian left the Swiss behind as they hit the descent and Vuillermoz also made it back to the Swiss.

 

The ceasefire in the peloton was broken when Bardet attacked and again Poels just slowly upped the pace. Nonetheless, the Frenchman increased his advantage and the attack had the effect that van Garderen was dropped. Poels kept Bardet within shouting distance and then accelerated to bring him back just as they reached the top.

 

Majka almost went off the road on the descent, taking huge risks, but he had no chance to keep Pantano at bay. The Colombian made the junction moments before they hit the flat road. Pantano and Majka worked well together to keep Vuillermoz and Reichenbach at 20 seconds.

 

Nieve crashed out of the peloton on the descent but he was okay and quickly got back on his bike. Poels guided the group down the descent and easily responded when Bardet and Valverde tried to attack on the descent. As they hit the flat roads, Oliveira and Zubeldia were caught and they immediately started to ride on the front to distance van Garderen even further.

 

Majka and Pantano worked together until the hit the final kilometre where the Pole refused to come through. The Colombian set the pace until the Pole launched his sprint with 300m to go. He managed to come around but Pantano easily passed him and had plenty of time to celebrate the win. Due to the slow pace in the finale, Vuillermoz and Reichenbach got close and the Frenchman won the sprint for third just 6 seconds later. Alaphilippe beat Pauwels and Rolland in the sprint for fifth.

 

Zubeldia rode hard in the peloton almost all the way to the finish before Poels took over to lead the peloton across the line 3.07 behind Pantano. Van Garderen reached the finish with a loss of 1.28 and slipped from 6th to 8th in the standings.

 

Froome finished safely in 14th and to retained his advantage of 1.47 over Bauke Mollema (Trek). He should have an easier day tomorrow when the riders face a long, rolling stage to the Swiss capital of Bern. In the finale, there is a category 4 climb with 15.5km to go but the real challenge is the 600m climb of 6.5% that leads to the flamme rouge. From there, it is completely flat, making it a great day for classics riders and strong sprinters.

 

A brutal stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was back into the mountains for stage 15 which brought the riders over 160km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz. After 16.5km, the riders a steep category 1 climb and from there, the riders had no chance to recover. There were another three climbs in the first half before the riders hit the mighty Grand Colombier. In the end, there was a 23.5km finishing circuit that included the very steep category 1 climb of Lacets le Grand Colombier which summited 14km from the finish. After a technical descent, there were 10 flat kilometres along the Rhone River.

 

Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) who crashed yesterday was the only non-starter when the riders gathered under a sunny sky and there were some tense and nervous faces when they rolled through the neutral zone. There were no immediate attacks when the flag was dropped but after a few hundred metres, Tsgabu GrmaY (Lampre-Merida) launched the first attack. Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Peter Stetina (Trek) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) joined him and then De Gendt and Vermote surged clear.

 

 

Lots of attacks

A chase group with Sagan and Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) tried to bridge the gap to the two Belgians but when they made the junction, they had the rest of the peloton in tow. De Gendt rode a bit on the front before Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) launched an attack. De Gendt shut it down and as they rolled down a small descent, the peloton calmed down.

 

As they hit the next small climb, Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) took off. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Feillu and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) but the latter quickly sat up. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) closed the gap but as he had the rest of the peloton in tow, Gougeard attacked again. He failed to get clear and instead De Gendt and Arhur Vichot (FDJ) hit the front.

 

Gallopin gets clear

Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) got clear as they hit a small climb and from here Gallopin took off in a solo move.

 

Gallopin hit the first climb with a small gap but as soon as they road went uphill, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) hit the front. The Italian didn’t look back and easily reeled Gallopin in. At the same time, the peloton exploded to pieces, with most of the sprinters getting dropped.

 

Majka and Zakarin take off

Nibali, Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ) and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) got clear but Losada was soon distanced. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ion Izagirre (Movistar) and Zakarin bridged the gap and then Majka and Vuillermoz surged clear. Further back, the first Sky riders were dropped when Vasil Kiryienka and Luke Rowe were distanced. De Gendt who hasd been very active early in the stage, also fell behind.

 

Majka soon dropped his French companion and instead Zakarin made it across. The pair quickly got an advantage of 20 seconds while a big chase group formed behind. Further back, Sky tried to calm things down but riders kept attacking. At the same time, they lost their third rider when Ian Stannard (Sky) fell behind jusyt like Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) andWinner Anacona (Movistar).

 

Nibali accelerates

Majka led Zakarin over the top before Pauwels beat Nibali in the sprint for third 20 seconds later. Mikel Nieve (Sky) led the peloton to the top 45 seconds behind the leaders.

 

Nibali accelerated on the descent and with the rest of the group in tow, he closed the gap to the two leaders. Gallopin, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) tried to bridge across but Sky quickly shut it down. Then the peloton came to a standstill and this allowed a big regrouping to take place, with Kelderman, Rowe, Kiryienka, Stannard and De Gendt among the riders to make it back.

 

30 riders get clear

The front group consisted of 30 riders, Nelson Oliveira, Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali, Tanel Kangert (Astana), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Domenico Pozzovivo, Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek), Stef Clement, Jerome Coppel, Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Pierre Rolland, Dylan Van Baarle, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Sebastien Reichenbach, Steve Morabito (FDJ), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Alberto Losada, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek, Tsgabu Grmay, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Romain Sicard, Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Ruben Plaza (Orica-BikeExchange), and they had an advantage of four minutes when Sky upped the pace after a natural break. Rowe and Stannard hit the front. They kept the gap stable at around four minutes before they hit the second climb.

 

Sky took it easy on the climb and the gap had gone out to six minutes when Voeckler beat Majka, Pauwels and Navarro in the KOM sprint. Meanwhile, Cavendish and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) who had rejoined the peloton suffered massively in the peloton and were dropped close to the top.

 

Pauwels wins the KOM sprints

The front group slowed a bit down as they went up the third climb and so the gap stabilized at around 6.20 before Pauwels accelerated off the front to win the KOM sprint. Majka picked up the final point for second and took over the virtual lead in the mountains classification.

 

Pauwels continued his attack and was joined by Majka. The pair worked well together to build an advantage of 15 seconds and this allowed Pauwels to win the intermediate sprint. Morabito accelerated to take third before the group came back together.

 

The front group hit the fourth climb with an advantage of 7.10 after Sicard had rejoined the group following a mechanical. Morabito took some huge turns for Reichenbach. Again Majka was allowed to sprint ahead to win the KOM sprint, with Majka crossing the line in second. Rowe and Stannard led the peloton to the top 7.10 behind the leaders. Moments later Van Baarle made his move to start the exciting finale.

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