Chris Froome moved another step closer to Tour de France victory by comfortably defending his lead on a mountainous 15th stage won by breakaway rider Jarlinson Pantano.
The 160km stage contained six categorised climbs and offered plenty of scope for gaps between the general classification contenders, but Froome had to fend off just two short-lived attacks – from Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet – on what turned out to be a routine day in the yellow jersey.All of the favourites crossed the finish line in Culoz together, meaning Froome of Team Sky remains 1min 47sec ahead of second-placed Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo at the top of the overall standings. Orica-BikeExchange’s Adam Yates stays 2min 45sec back in third, while Movistar rider Nairo Quintana remains 2min 59sec adrift in fourth after another tepid display lacking in aggression.
Pantano of IAM Cycling, meanwhile, formed part of the day’s original 28-man breakaway but was one of just two riders who survived to the finish and then beat Rafal Majka of Tinkoff in a sprint for victory.Stage 15 took place in the Jura Mountains, just east of Lyon, and had been dubbed the hardest day of this year’s Tour.
After the breakaway had been given a big enough lead to hang on to the finish, the peloton rolled sedately over the first five climbs and it wasn’t until they reached the foot of the final ascent that Froome finally came under pressure. Aru of Astana accelerated at the bottom of the Lacets du Grand Colombier and was followed by Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, but both were swiftly reeled back in by Froome’s relentless team-mate Wout Poels, who then snuffed out a subsequent move from Bardet of Ag2r-La Mondiale close to the summit to reassert Team Sky’s dominance in the mountains.In the breakaway, meanwhile, Pantano started up the final climb alongside Majka but looked a beaten man when he was dropped half way up the 8.4km ascent.
However, he re-caught Majka on the descent into Culoz and then proved too fast in the sprint for the line. The Tour continues tomorrow with a 209km stage from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne.
Stage 15 result
1 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling, 4:24:49
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff, same time
3 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +6sec
4 Sebastien Reichenbach (Sui) FDJ.fr, sat
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step, +22
6 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, +25
7 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac, st
8 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha, +1:30
9 Daniel Navarro (Esp) Cofidis, st
10 Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac, +2:08
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 68:14:36
2 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +1:47
3 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +2:45
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:59
5 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +3:17
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:04
7 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +4:27
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +4:47
9 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +5:03
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +5:16