The Tour de France boiled down to a battle between its two star Slovenian drivers on Sunday as last year’s winner Egan Bernal abandoned realistic competition.
Tadej Pogacar beat yellow jersey holder Primoz Roglic in a spectacular mountaintop finish on Stage 15, although Roglic retains a 40-second advantage in the yellow jersey and tremendous support from his teammates who l ‘guided in the ascent of the Grand Colombier.
Bernal fell in the standings, almost securing the end of a five-year streak of Tour victories by his side Ineos Grenadiers, formerly known as Team Sky.
“At the moment Roglic looks unstoppable,” Pogacar said. “But today Bernal is cracking and maybe one day me or Primoz will crack too. There are still many opportunities to come. “
Pogacar stayed with Roglic on the long and brutal ascent of the Grand Colombier despite the support of four teammates on his ascent. They drew on their last reserves to sprint for the summit finish, with Pogacar claiming his second stage victory by a bike length.
Pogacar and Roglic received the same time. As the winner of the stage, Pogacar got 10 seconds of bonus in the general classification against Roglic’s six for second place. Roglic leads Pogacar by 40 seconds in total.
“I was a little too small at the end. I did not give Tadej any gifts. We’re good friends, but we both want to win. He was just stronger and I was a bit disappointed to lose the stage, ”said Roglic, adding that the Tour was“ far from over ”.
Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpétue, Que., Finished the stage in 44th place. The Astana Pro Team driver is in 48th place overall.
Monday is a day of rest before five competitive stages including an individual time trial on Saturday, then the traditional procession in Paris on September 20.
The Colombian riders started the day from third to sixth behind the Slovenian duo, but they all lost time on Sunday on the 175-kilometer stage in the Jura Mountains, and for two the challenge seemed over.
Bernal abandoned the leading group on the climb to the Grand Colombier and seemed to lose any chance of retaining the title by falling to 13th place, 8 minutes 25 seconds from the yellow jersey. Colombian Nairo Quintana started the fifth day, but also fell back on Grand Colombier and is ninth at 5 minutes and 8 seconds from the lead.
Two other Colombian riders, Rigoberto Uran and Miguel Angel Lopez, managed to stay with the leading group and occupy the third and fourth places in the general classification.
As the long climb up the Rhône valley to the finish began, Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team had five riders including the Slovenian in the peloton. They worked well together on the climb to protect Roglic and force a pace that put pressure on his rivals.
Restrictions introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic were meant to ensure fans were limited to the flattest sections and foothills and not allowed to crowd the narrow approaches to the summit’s arrival. However, there was still cheering and waving flags near the top.