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Froome heads into 2nd rest day with 3 min 10 second lead; Ruben Plaza picks up Tour de France 2015 Stage 16

Article by Todd Hofert

Ruben Plaza, Tour de France 2015 Stage 16, © Chasing Light Media

The stage to Gap today represented the final transition stage of the Tour. Gap lies on the fringes of the Alps at 745m (2,445 ft) above sea level while the stage started at 157m (515 ft) above sea level, another day made up of a long uphill drag from start to finish. This drag included two climbs and an intermediate sprint point.

Three whole minutes into the race a break would form and again Peter Sagan would make sure he was in it. For the third day in a row, he came out to defend his Green Jersey out on the roads. The break was made up of: Andriy Grivko (Astana), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Simon Geschke, Marco Haller (Katusha), Bob Jungels (Trek), Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), Ruben Plaza Molina (Lampre-Merida), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bretagne-Seche-Environnement), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka)

Part of the original move, another group of 16 was caught between the break and the peloton.

35km into the stage the break had established a six-minute gap on the peloton and a minute over the chase of 16 although the gap between the two escape groups was coming down ever so slightly. Some riders would retreat back to the relative peace of the peloton, the pace high out front as the lead group remained intent on fending off their chasers

As planned Peter Sagan took the win and the 20 points at the intermediate sprint in Die. He was uncontested and his win extended his Green Jersey lead over Andre Greipel to 64 points. Halfway through the stage, the gap between the 12 man break and the peloton had swelled to 9:21 with the second group of 12 still hovering around a minute behind the leaders. The two groups finally merged a few kilometers up the road and the gap to the now 23 riders strong breakaway was now over ten minutes. The riders remaining out front were: Grivko (Astana), Riblon (AG2R), Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo), De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Geschke (Giant Alplecin), Haller (Katusha), Irizar and Jungels (Trek), Oliveira and Plaza Molina (Lampre), Navarro (Cofidis), Erviti (Movistar), Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Golas and Trentin (Etixx), Voeckler (Europcar), Mate (Cofidis), Pantano (Cannondale Garmin), Fedrigo and Perichon (Bretagne Séché), Boasson Hagen, Pauwels and Teklehaimanot (MTN)

The race would proceed status quo up the first of two categorized climbs on the road to Gap. The results over the category 2 Col de Cabre:1. Serge Pauwels (MTN) 5 points2. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 3 points, Edvald Boasson-Hagen (MTN) 2 points, and Marco Haller (Katusha) 1 point. The peloton appeared to fall victim to a series of punctures as they came across the summit. It would later be clarified that molten pavement under the riders tires was making it feel as though they had flatted, the oppressive heat continued to wear down the race.

Edvald Boasson Hagen, MTN Qhubeka, Tour de France 2015
Edvald Boasson Hagen, MTN Qhubeka, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 50km to go Edvald Boasson-Hagen (MTN) would have a go off the front of the break. He was joined by Marco Haller (Katusha) and Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida). Peter Sagan, like a boss, drilled the move back almost single-handedly. For now it appeared that the cooperation within this lead group had begun to fracture. The gap to the peloton now over fifteen minutes.

The next to go was Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal). He managed a gap of 31 seconds before Marco Haller (Katusha) made an attempt to bridge up to him. He made the catch and the two working together began to open their advantage. As it approached a minute, the gap to the peloton had grown to nearly eighteen minutes. The Col de Manse (1,268 m) an 8.9 kilometre-long climb at 5.6%, coming into sight.

Adam Hansen, Lotto Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Adam Hansen, Lotto Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s our goal to win stages, so we wanted to try that again today. It took a while before I and ten others joined the first group. We had to chase for about 100 kilometres because the speed was so high. Luckily some did an extra effort to close the gap. It was the intention to bring Thomas De Gendt into the finale in the best possible position. I had to respond to attacks, but because we were with so many I decided to attack to reduce the group and hoped Thomas could move along. Unfortunately only one other rider joined me, so it was hard to cover more than 40 kilometres. Because of my shoulder injury it’s hard to sprint, so if I would have gone to the finish with some others I wouldn’t have won anyway.”
Adam Hansen, Lotto Soudal

The pace on the ascent of the Col de Manse was lifted and the effects were evident. The gap to Hansen and Haller coming down rapidly. Peter Sagan clinging to the group leading the chase. They made the catch with six km left on the climb and 18km to the finish. An acceleration by Ruben Plaza Molina (Lampre-Merida) blew Hansen and Haller straight out the back leaving Sagan to lead a group of four in pursuit of Plaza.

Most of the break regrouped behind the move of Plaza as his lead grew to a minute, the chasers all intent to sit on Peter Sagan. Sagan, however, attacked the descent putting his bike handling skills on display. Only able to cut the deficit in half however he was once again relegated to a second place finish behind Ruben Plaza who took his first Tour de France stage win. Peter Sagan came across the line beating a fist to his chest signifying his insurmountable grip on his fourth overall Tour Green Jersey, only misfortune able to take it from him now. Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) COL rounded out the day’s podium.

Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015
Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Meanwhile, the fireworks in the chasing peloton had been lit. Vincenzo Nibali, another master of the descent, was off the front of the pack. In a moment of high drama, Geraint Thomas (Sky) was forced off the road on the descent, hitting a pole head first and plummeting over a barrier into a deep ditch, his well-being uncertain. Soon after Nibali led the chasing GC contenders home to the finish Thomas could be seen fighting his way seemingly unscathed back to the group to protect his sixth place in GC. So much testimony to the grit and determination required to complete this great race.

For now, take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a rest day. Then come the Alps and four days of high drama before the race reaches its conclusion in Paris on Sunday.

Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo, Tour de France 2015
Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you don’t try, you gain nothing. I tried and funnily I always have second places. But it’s okay, I’m very happy with my effort. I might have some bad luck because everybody is looking at me in the race and follows me, when I try. Today, nobody wanted to work on the final climb but I tried to keep the race open. Well, I have a good lead in the points classification but Tour de France is crazy and everyday something can happen and I have to make it to Paris.

I’m very happy with the support I have here at the Tour, it really motivates me. For example, a whole bus from Slovakia is here and follows me at the race to cheer me on – it’s really nice. Today, I also had many great friends in the group that all wanted to stay with me so it was very difficult to do something but I did my best, also for the supporters.”
Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo

Tour de France 2015 Stage 16 Top 10

  1. Ruben Plaza (ESP) #156
    LAMPRE – MERIDA 04h 30′ 10″
  2. Peter Sagan (SVK) #47
    TINKOFF-SAX 04h 30 ’40’ ‘ + :30
  3. Jarlinson Pantano (COL) #188
    IAM CYCLING 04h 30′ 46″ + :36
  4. Simon Geschke (GER) #86
    TEAM GIANT-ALPECIN 04h 30′ 50″ + :40
  5. Bob Jungels (LUX) #147
    TREK FACTORY RACING 04h 30′ 50″ + :40
  6. Christophe Riblon (FRA) #17
    AG2R La Mondiale 04h 30′ 50″ + :40
  7. Daniel Teklehaimanot (ERI) #219
    MTN-Qhubeka 04h 31′ 03″ + :53
  8. Thomas De Gendt (BEL) #73
    LOTTO-SOUDAL 04h 31′ 10″ + 1:00
  9. Luis Angel Mate (ESP) #174
    COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS 04h 31′ 32″+ 1:22
  10. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) #129
    TEAM EUROPCAR 04h 31′ 32″+ 1:22
Chris Froome, Team Sky, Tour de France 2015
Chris Froome, Team Sky, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I did hear on the radio that G (Geraint Thomas) had been caught in a crash behind. At that point I was just trying to say to the guys around me ‘listen there’s been a crash let’s just try and keep the race steady for now.’ But obviously only a few kilometres before the finish the guys wanted to go hard.

It’s really unfortunate for us to lose Pete Kennaugh at this point. He’s a big part of the team but he’s had a tough couple of days with illness. I hope he recovers soon. It means we’re going to have to share the work between the eight riders but the guys are strong and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them.

Beyond that I think it’s been a pretty good day for us. We saw the other GC teams trying today. Tinkoff-Saxo took the race on at the foot of the last climb. We saw attacks over the top and Vincenzo Nibali going for it. I think that’s definitely what we can expect these next two days in the Alps. The race certainly isn’t over yet. We’re going to have try and keep control of the race and hope we can keep the lead until Paris.”
Chris Froome, Team Sky

Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 16

  1. Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
    TEAM SKY 64h 47 ’16”
  2. Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
    MOVISTAR TEAM 64h 50′ 26″+3:10
  3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) #61
    BMC RACING TEAM 64h 50′ 48” + 3:32
  4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
    MOVISTAR TEAM 64h 51′ 18” + 4:02
  5. Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
    TINKOFF-SAXO 64h 51 ’39” + 4:23
  6. Geraint Thomas (GBR) #39
    TEAM SKY 64h 52′ 48” + 5:32
  7. Robert Gesink (NED) #131
    TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 60h 64h 53′ 39” + 6:23
  8. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
    ASTANA PRO TEAM 64h 55′ 05” + 7:49
  9. Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
    TREK FACTORY RACING 64h 56′ 09″ + 8:53
  10. Warren Barguil (FRA) #82
    TEAM GIANT-Alpecin 64h 58′ 19″ + 11:03

Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 16

Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Worn by: Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar

Stage 16
Date: 20 July, 2015
Start:  Bourg-de-Peage
Finish: Gap
Distance: 201 km

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