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Simon Yates made it look easy. He made it seem like winning a stage of the Tour de France is as simple as losing a bunch of time early in the race, getting in a break in the mountains, and then just riding away to victory. His expression as he crossed the line atop Prat d’Albis, arms aloft, was one of “right, job done – what’s next?” rather than that of a man who had to fight for 185km to win his second Tour stage in four days.
Of course there was nothing easy about what Yates did. Losing time, sure — that part is easy. Getting in the breakaway on a tough Pyrenean mountain stage? Not nearly as easy, particularly when the pace is so frenetic early on as riders fight for a spot up the road. And then riding away from a group of other strong climbers that included Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet and Vincenzo Nibali? Nothing easy about that.
Of course it helps that Simon Yates is a world-class climber with a Grand Tour victory under his belt. It helps that he’s never had GC ambitions at this year’s Tour. And it helps that his GC leader, his brother Adam, doesn’t need the same support he did when the latter was still in GC contention.
But still, Simon Yates made it look easy. And just like his first Tour stage win earlier in the race was overshadowed by Rohan Dennis’ bizarre departure, so Yates’ win on stage 15 was overshadowed by the GC battle happening further down the road. And fair enough: the GC battle was a truly engrossing one.
In the gallery below you’ll find shots of Simon Yates’ impressive solo victory, of the intriguing GC battle behind him, and much more from stage 15 of the 2019 Tour de France.