Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) crossed the line alone on Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday. The win in Le Puy-en-Velay marked his first ever Tour de France stage win. Chasing 19 seconds back was Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal).
The final selection came from a 28-rider breakaway that rolled on the first climb of the day, the Montée de Naves d’Aubrac. Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) went away with a solo attempt 60 kilometers out, but was overcome on the final category 1 ascent by the more proficient climbers in the move behind.
GC leader Chris Froome’s Team Sky had no intentions of bringing the large selection back, as the highest-placed rider within the move, Damiano Caruso (BMC) was over 11 minutes down.
A savage race would also play out within the main field. Approaching the Montée de Naves d’Aubrac, Ag2r La Mondiale took the front and set a fast tempo into the lower slopes of the climb.
Froome quickly found himself distanced due to a positioning error but made it back quickly with the help of his Sky teammates. Moments later, he had a rear flat and stopped roadside for a wheel swap with teammate Michal Kwiatkowski. This time the GC group had left him behind by almost a minute. Again, Froome had teammates with him who aided in his ultimate return to the field.
After what were surely back to back moments of panic for the three-time Tour winner, Sky proved its collective prowess in handling critical situations within the GC battle as Froome regained contact. Landa, after his controversial Stage 12 distancing of team leader Froome, dropped back from the group of GC contenders and was critical in Froome’s return to the group.
After multiple attempts to create separation between himself and the GC group, tenacious Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) finally succeeded in rolling off on the final short ascent of the Côte de Saint-Vidal. His efforts awarded him 14 seconds over the GC group at the line, moving him up to fifth in the GC, 1:12 down.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had a rough day, losing almost four minutes in the GC battle and moving down to 11th overall.