Stage Report: Jumbo-Visma’s young American, Sepp Kuss attacked on the last climb of the day to cruise into Andorra la Vella for the stage win ahead of the ‘old man’ of the peloton, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) contained all the other GC men to hold the overall lead.
The big win for Sepp Kuss
– The final kilometre of Stage 15 and read our full report and pics below:-
Sepp Kuss has given Jumbo-Visma a second stage win in the Tour de France. Four days after Wout van Aert’s demonstration in the Mont Ventoux stage, Kuss rode to victory in the first tough Pyrenees stage in the microstate of Andorra. Alejandro Valverde finished second.
Stage 15 profile
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme describes stage 15: “A start in Céret for the first ever time, a first stop in the Pyrénées-Orientales area since 2009 and Thomas Voeckler’s victory in Perpignan, a journey through Prades, Font-Romeu, the col de Puymorens, the Port d’Envalira and Beixalis with slopes that are as tough to climb as they are tricky to descend: the Principality will crown a real king of the mountains.”
Another big day ahead
The day after Bauke Mollema’s solo effort in Quillan, the Tour de France continued with a stage through the Pyrenees. The 191.3 kilometre stage took the riders over four climbs, the Montée de Mont-Louis, Col de Puymorens, Port d’Envalira and the Col de Beixalis, from Céret to Andorra la Vella, where the finish was after a descent.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) wanted to be in the break today
Just after noon the starting signal was given for the fifteenth Tour stage, on the way to the first two uncategorised climbs of the day. It wasn’t long before a heated battle erupted for the day’s break. KOM, Michael Woods sat in the front row, eager to hit the front on his way to his home town of Andorra. The Canadian was one of the first attackers of the day.
Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) has had a quiet Tour so far
After the first skirmishes, Thomas De Gendt jumped away and the Belgian attacker was soon joined by Steven Kruijswijk, Daniel Martin, Dylan Teuns, Sergio Henao, Ruben Guerreiro, Aurélien Paret-Peintre and Julien Bernard. At half a minute ahead of the front group, several riders, including Wout Poels and Woods, tried to make the crossing. The peloton was not too keen on the break.
Bahrain Victorious had Teuns and Poels in the break, Poels looking for KOM points
Poels, Woods and Nairo Quintana, who are engaged in a fierce battle for the KOM jersey, were the instigators of a large chasing group of 24 men. With Van Aert and Kuss, two riders from Jumbo-Visma were at the forefront, but also Trek-Segafredo (Nibali and Elissonde), Groupama-FDJ (Gaudu and Madouas), INEOS Grenadiers (Van Baarle and Castroviejo), Deceuninck – Quick-Step (Alaphilippe and Ballerini) and Bahrain Victorious (Poels and Mohoric) were represented in the chasing group with several riders.
The break was going to get bigger
Wout van Aert, Steven Kruijswijk, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Vincenzo Nibali, Julien Bernard, Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Teuns, Wout Poels, Matej Mohoric, (Bahrain Victorious), Michael Woods, Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Ruben Guerreiro, Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Dylan van Baarle, Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers), David Gaudu, Valentin Madouas, Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Julian Alaphilippe, Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Lukas Pöstlberger (BORA-hansgrohe), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Mark Donovan (DSM), Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Sergio Henao (Qhubeka NextHash), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) made up the break.
The break was going to have some big names
With Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Lukas Pöstlberger (BORA-hansgrohe), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Mark Donovan (DSM), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) and Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) also jumped after the eight leaders. After a fast chase, the counter-attackers managed to get to the head of the race.
A hot day in the Tour
In the peloton, the men of UAE Team Emirates decided to ease up, giving the 32-rider leading group a safe escape towards the Montée de Mont-Louis. Yellow jersey wearer Tadej Pogačar didn’t really have to worry about his lead, as Aurélien Paret-Peintre, at 24:44 from the yellow, was the best placed rider in the leading group. Alpecin-Fenix and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert also had no man at the front.
Everyone wanted to be in the break
At the intermediate sprint in Olette, after 70 kilometres, Michael Matthews managed to grab the first place, ahead of De Gendt and Ballerini. Not much later, the front riders reached the top of the Montée de Mont-Louis. Poels was ahead of Van Aert and Woods. Well behind; the battered Nacer Bouhanni decided to get into the broom wagon.
Van Aert looking for another stage
The front riders were now on their way to the Col de Puymorens (5.8km at 4.7%), the second climb of the day. On this second cat climb, the roles were reversed and Van Aert came first after a mighty sprint, followed by Poels and Woods. The latter saw the Dutchman equal him in the KOM, but later in the stage the riders were faced with two more first category climbs.
The break was eventually too big
In the peloton, the men from UAE Team Emirates were relieved by those of INEOS Grenadiers and Movistar. The British team apparently had plans with classification man Richard Carapaz, while Movistar pulled for Enric Mas. This was more than 9 minutes from the front group, who had meanwhile started on the flanks of the Port d’Envalira (10.7km at 5.9%), with its top at 2,408 metres also ‘the roof of this Tour.’
Hard climbs to Andorra
At three kilometres from the top, Woods’ patience ran out and the polka dot jersey wearer tried to attack, but the Israel Start-Up Nation rider had Kuss and Nibali along as watchdogs. So Woods didn’t get away, but the leading group did explode completely after the Canadian’s attack. Several riders tried to jump away from the front group, but due to the strong headwind it was almost impossible to stay away. Still, Quintana tried with a strong acceleration.
Michael Woods wanted to keep his KOM jersey
Pogačar had it easy…. at first
Quintana’s move remain unanswered and so the Colombian drove at a good cadence towards the top of the Envalira, taking full points in the battle for the mountain jersey. Van Aert won the sprint for second place 15 seconds later, ahead of Poels and Woods and Valverde.
The yellow jersey had all his team for a while
In the group of favourites, most of the INEOS riders were already used up and it was up to Geraint Thomas to keep the pace high as the last man in Carapaz’s service. However, shortly after the top of the penultimate climb of the day, Thomas and Carapaz received assistance from Van Baarle and Castroviejo, who sat-up from the break to help their Ecuadorian teammate. The difference between the thinned leading group and the Pogačar group was now only good 5 minutes.
Mark Cavendish did a great ride to hang onto the peloton for a long time
On the last climb of the day, the steep Col de Beixalis (6.4km at 8.5%), the race was completely split. The front riders started the last climb of the day with 5 minutes lead on the peloton (without Guillaume Martin). Quintana attacked again, just like on the Port d’Envalira. When the Colombian pocket climber raced away from his closest attackers, we saw Van Aert, Teuns, Martin and Ballerini in trouble.
There was no one in the break to worry the yellow jersey, all the top men were with him
At the peak of the race Quintana was again caught by Valverde, KOM Woods and Kuss. The Colombian was already showing his best was gone and he was in trouble from an acceleration by Woods. Kuss and Valverde were quick to catch Woods, Kuss decided to throw his cards on the table. The graceful climber of Jumbo-Visma rode the others off his wheel for the stage victory and took a half-minute lead in no time.
Sepp Kuss played a perfect game
The perfect attack by Kuss
Valverde refused to fold and managed to narrow his gap at the top to about 20 seconds, leaving a battle for the day’s victory. On the descent of the Col de Beixales, both men did not shy away from the risks, but Kuss went down just a little faster than his Spanish opponent. In the final kilometres, Kuss continued to advance and the American had plenty of time to celebrate his first Tour victory. Valverde was second, Poels third. The latter took over the mountain jersey from Woods.
Kuss wasn’t going to be caught
In the group of favourites we saw the long-awaited attack from Carapaz on the Col de Beixales. The Ecuadorian’s first move was solid, but Pogačar, Urán, Mas and Vingegaard were along with Carapaz’s attack. Due to the slow pace, Wilco Kelderman, Ben O’Connor and Alexey Lutsenko were able to rejoin, but these riders had to pass again after an acceleration from Jonas Vingegaard. However, the Dane was not strong enough to get away alone.
Alejandro Valverde was the only rider to get close to Kuss
Pogačar, Urán, Kelderman, Mas, Carapaz and Vingegaard eventually crossed the summit together, followed closely by Lutsenko and Pello Bilbao. No risks were taken on the descent. Van Aert, who had been caught, led the favourites group in the last kilometres, in order to put Guillaume Martin even further behind. Lutsenko and Bilbao managed to limit the damage, but Martin lost a lot of minutes and dropped out of the top-5 of the general classification.
The Jumbo-Visma rider kept the pressure on into Andorra la Vella
Stage winner, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma): “It’s incredible. I’m lost for words. To be honest, I was suffering a lot in this Tour de France. I didn’t feel like I had the spice in the legs. Today I knew it was finishing where I live, so I was motivated for the stage. I’m so happy. My girlfriend and her family were on the last climb cheering for me. I say hi to my parents back home in the US too. I’ve not seen them for a long time. It was a hard day in the breakaway. I knew the final very well. I don’t ride to col de Beixalis much in training because it’s so hard, but I knew if I had good gap I’d stay away till the finish. Wout van Aert did a great job for me in the valley. It means a lot to me to win a Tour de France stage.”
Congratulations for Kuss from Valverde
Overall leader, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates): “Today’s stage was really hard, especially as it was the last of second week of this Tour de France. We expected attacks today. Ineos Grenadiers put a hard pace really soon. Anyway, I felt good, and I wasn’t worried at all about the last climb. I just needed to follow the other riders there, as I did. My team did a great job at protecting me all day long, providing me with everything I needed. The key today was to keep myself hydrated, to have water available all the time, and my teammates did that job perfectly. Today’s stage has been one of the hottest of the Tour de France, that’s for sure. Although I’m looking forward for the rest of the race, I hope I can sleep for very long on tomorrow’s rest day!”
The yellow jersey group – No change on GC apart from Guillaume Martin
Tour de France Stage 15 Result:
1. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma in 5:12:06
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:23
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 1:15
4. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
5. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation at 1:22
9. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
10. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën
11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
12. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
13. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo at 3:00
14. Mark Donovan (GB) DSM at 3:02
15. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious at 4:11
16. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
17. Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
18. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash
19. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 4:51
20. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar
21. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
22. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
23. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers
24. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo
25. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 15:
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 62:07:18
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo at 5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma at 5:32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 5:33
5. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën at 5:58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe at 6:16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech at 7:01
8. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 7:11
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 7:58
10. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 10:59
11. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 14:45
12. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 21:15
13. Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) BikeExchange at 22:51
14. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 27:15
15. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 29:16
16. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 31:43
17. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 35:49
18. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash at 36:48
19. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious at 43:14
20. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo at 44:01
21. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 47:17
22. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 50:15
23. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 55:12
24. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 55:28
25. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation at 56:43.