Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) won stage 15 of the Tour de France by out sprinting Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) to the line in Culoz. Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale) completed the stage podium in 3rd.
With 6 categorised climbs placed over a distance of 160km, it was another tough climbing day at the Tour de France. The final climb of the day would summit with still 15km to go and so the stage lent itself well to the breakaway. As most teams knew this would be the case, there was a big fight to make it into the day’s early move. After a number of attacks, a group finally went clear when we reached the first categorised climb of the day.
Serge Pauwels was our rider hoping to make it into the day’s move and he achieved his objective. Pauwels showed he was one of the strongest on the day by doing most of the pace making on the first climb, which allowed the break to form in the first place. 29 other riders would join Pauwels on the attack and the peloton let them go, so they could start regrouping after shedding many riders during the fast start.
The break rode to a nice 8-minute lead and with no riders in the escape being any real danger to the overall classification, Team Sky had no reason to bring them back. It then became a duel between the riders in the large group up front. Pauwels continually moved to the front on the climbs, attacking over the 3rd climb of the day with Majka. The duo was later caught, but only after Pauwels won the intermediate sprint of the day.
The final 2 climbs were where the difference was made and Majka, Pantano, Vullermoz and Julien Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) got away after the penultimate climb. Alaphilippe then lost contact on the descent after a mechanical and later joined up with Pauwels in the chase group. Majka attacked on the final climb and got a gap, but on the descent Pantano came back to the Polish champion and then proceeded to beat him in the 2-man sprint for the line.
Vuillermoz and Sebastian Rechanbach (FDJ) were racing for 3rd and 4th and they came home 6 seconds down while Alaphilippe just beat Pauwels to the line, 25 seconds after Pantano took the victory. 6th place for Pauwels on an extremely difficult Alpine stage of the Tour de France is a result our African Team is really proud of.
Serge Pauwels – Rider
I tried to make it into the breakaway today because I thought it was one stage that suited me really well. I was keen for the stage but I knew it was going to be a very hard day. I pretty much went all in on that first category 1 climb to make sure I was the break of 30 riders. I went over the top of that climb in 3rd so I made the break but then it’s basically like a new race starts all over again. It was a super strong breakaway if you look at the riders who were in there like Nibali, Zakarin, Dumoulin and Pozzovivo. They were all dropped in the final and you know those guys don’t drop for nothing, it was such a tough day. These are the kind of races I like and 6th was probably the place I deserve. I rode for what I could so I am happy with this result because it was such a tough day.