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Tour de France 2019: Simon Yates wins Stage 15 as Alaphilippe keeps yellow

Peter Stuart
21 Jul 2019

Simon Yates rode to solo victory as the GC contenders attacked one-another on the final climbs of Stage 15

Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott took a decisive solo victory in a dramatic mountainous Stage 15 of the Tour de France which fractured the leading riders in the general classification, but in which Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) managed to fight hard to keep his yellow jersey.

Yates broke clear of the remnants of a large breakaway group with 9kms to go on the final climb of Foix Prat d'Albis, and rode an excellent ascent to take his second stage victory of the race.

Behind him, Thibault Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) made a fantastic attack on the main yellow jersey group, and finished the stage second ahead of Mikel Landa.

Each of the major contenders looked in trouble at times and there was a small reshuffle in the general classification - with Pinot moving up to 4th place and Landa entering the top 10.

At one point Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) found himself dropped from a group of Pinot, Emanuel Buchman (Bora–Hansgrohe), Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) and other GC contenders, edging away at his GC prospects.

Alaphilippe stayed with the group but was dropped from a breakaway of Pinot, Buchman and Bernal which was then trimmed down to solely Pinot and Bernal, before Pinot eventually dropped Bernal with 4kms to go.

The race leaders then regrouped in a pack containing Thomas and Alaphilippe. Several attacks came, and Thomas landed a heavy blow on Alaphilippe when a big acceleration dropped the Frenchman from the group. 

Pinot then bridged back to Landa and looked within sight of Yates, though he was 30 seconds short of catching the Brit by the summit.

Alaphilippe managed to limit his losses, finishing around 30 seconds down to Thomas and so retained his yellow jersey. Thomas, with a very strong finished, proved himself to be a serious contender for the overall general classification.

How the race unfolded

The first hour of Stage 15, out of Limoux was blisteringly fast – averaging just under 50kmh. Unsurprisingly it meant that no move was able to stick.

By the top of the 2nd category Col de Montségur, 60kms into the stage, a 28-man break had broken clear and put just under 3 minutes into the pack.

The break contained Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Romain Bardet and Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali, Damiano Caruso and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida), Rudy Molard and Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Nairo Quintana, Andrey Amador and Marc Soler (Movistar), Pello Bilbao, Omar Fraile and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Michael Woods (EF Education First), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Simon Geschke (CCC), Julien Bernard, Giulio Ciccone and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Lennard Kämna and Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Romain Kreuziger (Dimension Data) and Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Amaël Moinard (Arkéa-Samsic).

With Nairo Quintana being the best placed GC contender in the group, it was allowed to go clear. Though with 65km to go, there optimism and speculation around Quintana's potential to reenter GC contention, as the break was around 6 minutes clear of the main yellow jersey group.

The group was fractured over the penultimate climb, with Robert Geschke breaking clear of the main group, eventually joined by Simon Yates to form a two-man break.

Meanwhile in the main group, Mikel Landa and Jakob Fuglsang attacked the group and began to bridge forward to the breakaway.

Frustrations were clear at Quintana, as he was seen not to be contributing to the pace of the breakaway.

With 20km to go Quintana's group was caught by the remains of the breakaway as Landa's group pulled out around 1.30 on the main peloton.

Alaphilippe approached the final 11.8km climb of Foix Prat d'Albis unsupported by any Deceuninck–Quick-Step riders, and was forced to collect his own food and bottles.

With 9kms to go, Landa managed to bridge to the Quintana group, and we were left to wonder who Movstar would be favouring as team leader.

From that same point Yates attacked Simon Geschke to continue solo to the summit. From there it was down to the main contenders to battle it out on the climb.