Tour de France Stage 15: Etixx - Quick-Step Goes on the Attack
Etixx - Quick-Step riders Matteo Trentin, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Rigoberto Uran entered a large original breakaway, and Zdenek Stybar launched a late race attack to animate 183km Le Tour de France Stage 15 on Sunday.
The peloton kept the pace high throughout the stage to ensure the bunch sprint finale, which was won by Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal). John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) finished 2nd, and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished 3rd.
Teams such as Katusha, Team Sky, and BMC Racing Team kept a tight leash on the breakaway that went up the road just 10km into the stage, and had as many as 27 riders. The breakaway was always kept within an advantage of three minutes on a stage with climbs early on, followed by flat kilometers heading into the finish line. Eventually the breakaway was down to about nine riders including Trentin and Kwiatkowski
With the gap hovering around a minute, Matteo Trentin attacked out of the lead group. He gained a 12" advantage with 45.3km remaining. Eventually Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) was able to bridge. However, the peloton continued its fast tempo and caught the leading duo with 29.3 left to race.
BMC Racing Team made sure the field kept up its speed going into the final kilometers in anticipation of the field sprint. However, Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) tried to attack and Kwiatkowski countered, going over the top with 6km to go. Both were caught quickly. Stybar then tried his chance with a solo acceleration at the 3.4km to go mark.
Stybar went full gas into a headwind, but was unable to hold off a well organized field behind and was caught with 1.2km remaining.
Mark Cavendish, who suffered with stomach problems the night before the stage, lost contact with the peloton in the early moments of the stage. He was guided by Mark Renshaw and Michal Golas in a group of more than 20 riders. That group made the time cut despite the peloton riding so quickly during the stage.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 201km Stage 16, from Bourg-de-Péage to Gap, on Monday. This could be a stage that favors a breakaway, with two Category 2 climbs at kilometer 130 and the 189th kilometer. However, there is a descent into the finish and if the breakaway comes back, sprinters who successfully stay with the peloton could have their say in the finale.
"When we went away with 27 riders we knew it was a big group. We stayed awake, Matteo, Rigo, and I. When there was another acceleration we were there with seven other riders. Collaboration was pretty good in the group at that point. No one was super confident we could arrive at the finish, because we still had more than 50 kilometers to go from the top of the last climb. Katusha was pulling full gas in the bunch. But we did everything we could. We've always been there when we have to be. That's the most important thing. We've always been paying attention. When there was a chance to arrive in a breakaway, we were there. Matteo could try the sprint if the breakaway was successful, or I could try something before that. But the advantage was not enough to try our chance the way we would have liked. But, that's cycling. You take the gamble of entering the breakaway, and sometimes the peloton does not work to catch you. Other days they are giving everything to control you. We're satisfied with the fact that we tried and it simply wasn't meant to be today."
"We just tried to stay away and it didn't work. We were focused on the stage win. We just tried 100 percent to go to the finish, and we will try again like this if there is another opportunity in the next days. Honestly when I went alone in the downhill I simply tried my tempo and no one followed me. I believe it was too much optimism to think I could go to the finish. There was also a headwind the last 25 kilometers. It was hard. But you have to honor the breakaway until the end, and that is what we did."
"I tried and didn't win. I saw a chance at a certain moment and gave my all. Sport Director Brian Holm was saying in my ears that at 3.6 kilometers to go it was good to go by myself. I was hoping someone would join me, but this didn't happen. Unfortunately the last 3 kilometers it was a full headwind, and just straight forward roads with no turns. It was me against the peloton. But like we've been saying this entire Tour, when you don't try you'll never win."
"I was up last night with stomach problems. In terms of the team's tactics we prayed it would be an easy start. But we had the plan to get guys in the breakaway anyway. I felt empty at the start. It's a shame because I was going good in the last couple of days. I had Mark Renshaw and Michal Golas with me, and we thought there was a chance we could come back. But once Katusha got on the front, and the TV cameras realize there's a chase happening and so go to the front of the peloton, you know it's going to be a long day for us guys behind. After about 30 kilometers we knew it was about surviving the day. We knew there wasn't a chance to win with me. But we knew there were guys that were in the break, which is really good. It was a hard day for us, but I'm still in Le Tour de France. I'm looking forward to just trying to get to Paris and I hope I am not ill in the next days."