Wout Poels celebrated his first career grand tour stage win as the slopes of Mont Blanc failed to find any difference between Tour de France leader Jonas Vingegaard and his rival Tadej Pogacar.
Poels, 35, was the last survivor of a big breakaway group that got clear after a crash caused by a spectator reshaped the 179km stage 15 from Les Gets to Saint-Gervais.
Six minutes after the Bahrain Victorious rider crossed the line, Vingegaard and Pogacar came home shoulder to shoulder, with Vingegaard’s advantage in yellow remaining at 10 seconds going into Monday’s rest day.
Pogacar was guided towards the summit by team-mate Adam Yates but then gradually let the wheel go, seemingly unable to follow as Vingegaard stayed in his shadow.
The easing of pace allowed Saturday’s winner Carlos Rodríguez to ride back to the pair, with Vingegaard moving on to the Spaniard’s wheel.
Pogacar was planning one more attack, but as the Slovenian burst forward just after the flamme rouge, he could not shake Vingegaard, with the Jumbo-Visma rider drawing up alongside on the final bend to ensure he will start Tuesday’s time trial in yellow.
With Jai Hindley having faded, Rodríguez strengthened his grip on third place, with Yates moving up to fourth.
Asked if he had planned to drop Pogacar on the climb, Yates said: “Not really. We had a few issues with the radio. But I’m still high on [general classification] and if Tadej lets me go then Jumbo-Visma have to chase, so it’s kind of still in our favour. Today was unexpected, but these things add up over the three weeks.”
The peloton had been closely following a series of breakaway attempts in the early part of the stage but, when a young spectator in the road was struck by Vingegaard’s team-mate Sepp Kuss 50km in, around a dozen riders went down, slowing the main group and allowing almost 40 riders to get away.
“There was a narrowing in the town and a spectator in the road, and I guess he just clipped my handlebars,” said Kuss, his elbow heavily bandaged. “Luckily I’m OK and hopefully the other guys in the crash are all right. It’s not ideal.
“I think it’s fatigue. It’s been such a hard race and everybody is a bit tired, you lose a bit of alertness and there’s always things out of your control as well.”
Poels, riding his 10th Tour de France having been part of four winning teams while with Team Sky and Ineos, delivered a second stage win of this race for the Bahrain Victorious team and dedicated it to Gino Mäder, his team-mate who died after a crash at the Tour de Suisse last month.
“I always dreamed to win a stage in the Tour and especially with what has happened in the team in the last few weeks with Gino, all of the emotions come,” the Dutchman said.
“I’ve won a monument, I’ve won a stage in the Tour and I’m super happy. I only started to believe in the last kilometre and I had to just keep fighting.
“I really enjoyed my period with Sky – four times I was in the winning team and it was really incredible to do, but I could never fight for a stage win and to finally do it today is great.” PA
Tour de France, stage 15: As it happened. . .
05:14 PM BST
Honours even between Vingegaard and Pogacar
Jonas Vingegaard looks over his right shoulder, watching out for Tadej Pogacar. Pogacar attacks around 900 metres from the line, the maillot jaune is more than a match for him while Carlos Rodríguez, who started the day third on general classification, was unable to respond. As the pair ride into the final left hander, Vingegaard puts in a little dig but, just as there has been for most of this race, you could barely squeeze a cigarette paper between the pair as they cross the line shoulder-to-shoulder. What a final week we have ahead of us after Monday’s rest day.
And here’s what the top 10 of the general classification now looks like:
05:08 PM BST
The three amigos
Carlos Rodríguez gets back on. Jonas Vingegaard presses on, but Tadej Pogacar cannot respond. As it stands, Rodríguez is leading this trio. But will either Vingegaard or Pogacar respond with a late attack?
05:07 PM BST
Poels wins stage 15 at the Tour de France!
Woet Poels (Bahrain Victorious) has done it, the 35-year-old Dutchman has won the first Tour de France stage of his career. He has, of course, been part of Tour winning teams from his days with Team Sky, but has not, until now, had his own moments of glory. Adam Yates, meanwhile, floats off up the road, leaving his team leader alone with just rival Jonas Vingegaard for company. What is happening? Is he hoping for Jonas to respond?
05:05 PM BST
1km to go
Adam Yates sits on the front, team leader Tadej Pogacar follows with Jonas Vingegaard at third wheel. I’m expecting – hoping, even – for a violent attack. . . but is it going to come?
05:04 PM BST
1.5km to go
Wout Poels has 1min 40sec on Wout van Aert.
05:03 PM BST
2km to go
Wout Poels will, barring disaster, be winning the stage today. But the focus right now is on Adam Yates, Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard who are locked together, watching each other before the inevitable attack. But who will launch the assault, and will it be successful?
05:00 PM BST
2.5km to go
Carlos Rodríguez and Sepp Kuss have popped. Jonas Vingegaard has no team-mates, the maillot jaune is isolated. Wout Poels, meanwhile, has gained another 30sec and is, surely, minutes away from landing the first grand tour stage win of his long career.
04:58 PM BST
3km to go
Rafal Majka takes over on the front of the general classification group for UAE Team Emirates, followed by team-mates Adam Yates and Tadej Pogacar. Jonas Vingegaard is at fourth wheel, then Sepp Kuss. Carlos Rodríguez and Tiesj Benoot are hanging on at the rear of the group, as is David Gaudu, the Groupama-FDJ rider who may be moving back up the standings this afternoon if he can hold onto the coattails of the big hitters.
04:56 PM BST
4km to go
Carlos Rodríguez has drifted off the front of the general classification group, but the Spaniard has Wilco Kelderman for company, the Dutchman marking him closely on behalf of Jonas Vingegaard. At the pointy end of the stage, Wout Poels has extended his lead to almost a minute now.
04:53 PM BST
5km to go
Felix Grossschartner, Rafal Majka, Tadej Pogacar and Adam Yates – that’s the order of the UAE Team Emirates squad as they tackle this final climb. Jonas Vingegaard is tucked in on their wheels. Up the road, Wout Poels has gained another 10sec on Wout van Aert who he now leads by 45sec.
04:51 PM BST
6km to go
Simon Yates and Tom Pidcock are sat towards the rear of the general classification group. Tadej Pogacar has four team-mates alongside him, outnumbering Jonas Vingegaard whose main mountain domestique Sepp Kuss who was involved in the big crash earlier. Will be interesting to see how that affected Kuss.
04:48 PM BST
7km to go
Wout Poels is flying, the Bahrain Victorious rider is onto the Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex nad has increased his lead over Wout van Aert to over 30sec.
04:47 PM BST
7.5km to go
Mikkel Bjerg has moved to the front of the general classification group, powering on as UAE Team Emirates hit the steepest part of the côte des Amerands. Tadej Pogacar is clearly feeling strong, sending his helpers up to the front in an attempt to hurt Jumbo-Visma and Jonas Vingegaard. But will their strategy pay off?
04:45 PM BST
9km to go
Warren Barguil has been reined in by Mikel Landa, but at the front of the stage the broad-shouldered Woet Poels is ploughing on. He’s far from aerodynamic, but doing a great ride here with a 30sec advantage over Marc Soler.
04:42 PM BST
10km to go
Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), who won his last Tour de France stage in 2017, has flashed his heels at Giulio Ciccone on the front of the chasing group. But they are 1min 30sec down on stage leader Woet Poels, and losing ground on the Dutchman.
04:40 PM BST
Woet Poels, the former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner, attacks and drops Wout van Aert. The Jumbo-Visma rider was unable to respond, but there’s a long way to go yet on this undulating climb.
04:39 PM BST
11km to go
Wout van Aert and Woet Poels are onto the penultimate climb of the day the côte des Amerands which, forgive me, is the climb that pitches up to 17%.
04:37 PM BST
12km to go
Wout van Aert and Woet Poels lead the stage, with Marc Soler a few second back. I suspect the Spaniard will manage to get back on before the incoming climbs.
04:35 PM BST
15km to go
Marc Soler is distanced on a descent by Wout van Aert, the Belgian who has flying Dutchman Woet Poels glued to his wheel. Poels, of course, won Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in 2016 so is a rider who is more than capable of riding on the incoming steep stuff and so may fancy his chances on the final climb of the day, the Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex.
04:30 PM BST
20km to go
Wout van Aert, Marc Soler and Woet Poels have over a minute on Giulio Ciccone and the remaining chasers, while back in the maillot jaune’s group all of the main hitters – Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Poagacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) – are positioned near the front, waiting for a battle royal on the final climb of the day, the category one Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex that pitches up to 17% in places.
04:24 PM BST
25km to go
The leading trio has a minute on Giulio Ciccone with two categorised climbs – côte des Amerands and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex – to follow. Have just heard reports that Krists Neilands is back up on his bike and riding. The Latvian has been riding brilliantly at this Tour, but he will not be challenging for line honours today. To be honest, I think he should just be happy he is able to ride a bike. He will be smarting, but is a lucky boy. I’ve heard people criticising the motorbike for that incident, but I think that may be a little unfair on motoman.
04:18 PM BST
30km to go
Wout van Aert, Marc Soler and Woet Poels are working well together and have almost a minute on the chasing group containing Giulio Ciccone. The peloton is 6min 52sec down.
04:12 PM BST
33.5km to go
Wout van Aert, Marc Soler and Woet Poels press on. Their lead has grown to 30sec, with the peloton another six minutes down the road. The Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates boys in this leading group are clearly going for the stage honours, as opposed to acting as satellite riders. Could be a fun finale.
04:09 PM BST
Neilands crashes heavily
Krists Neilands has hit the deck on a left hander. He appears to have hit a small concrete wall which would have been very painful.
On replay, the Latvian was spotted taking a bottle from a motorbike on a corner. Good grief, that wall may have saved him – it certainly stopped him from going over the edge.
04:03 PM BST
42km to go
Wout van Aert has managed to catch Marc Soler on the descent off the Aravis. The pair have Woet Poels and Krists Neilands for company.
04:00 PM BST
Rigoberto Urán has crashed on a downhill section. I think Chris Hamilton (DSM-Firmenich) was involved too. Both appeared to be back on their feet fairly swiftly. Hopefully no serious damage done, although Urán has half a bale of hay now stuffed into the back of his shorts.
03:56 PM BST
46.4km to go
Wout van Aert delivers a killer blow to Giulio Ciccone. The Jumbo-Visma rider attacks and is off in pursuit of stage leader Marc Soler who must, surely, be targeting personal glory here today. Woet Poels and Krists Neilands are following.
03:55 PM BST
46.5km to go
Wout van Aert responds to that move by Marc Soler. Giulio Ciccone jumps onto Van Aert’s wheel. Providing Ciccone is second over the summit, where he would add a single point to his account in the mountains classification, he will become the virtual holder of the polka-dot jersey. Soler, meanwhile, is flying now and has gained 27sec on Van Aert et al.
03:52 PM BST
48.2km to go
Marc Soler attacks. The Spaniard flies past Giulio Ciccone who looks over briefly, but is unable to respond. I has assume that Soler was in this group to act as a satellite rider. . . so no idea waht he’s doing.
03:49 PM BST
49km to go
Rolling straight into the col des Aravis, Giulio Ciccone is sat on his bars with his glasses off, tucked into the vents of his helmet. The Italian is fully focused on taking that polka-dot jersey this afternoon. There are just two points available on the incoming summit, but if he takes them he will be the virtual leader in the mountains classification.There are five and 10 available respectively atop the côte des Amerands and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex.
03:42 PM BST
54.5km to go
Unsurprisingly, Giulio Ciccone jumps off the wheel of Lidl-Trek team-mate Mattias Skjelmose before darting towards the summit of the col de la Croix Fry to add another 10 points to his account in the mountains classification. Rigoberto Urán attempted to pour cold water on his challenge on behalf his EF Education-EasyPost team-mate Neilson Powless, but the Colombian was no match for Ciccone. Thanks for the 10 points Ciccone just picked up, he is now joint leader in the mountains alongside Powless. Powless, by the way, is over three minutes down on the leaders, so I cannot see him picking up any further points today.
03:38 PM BST
56km to go – 1.5km from the summit
Rui Costa’s lead on the road has dropped to just a handful of seconds, Giulio Ciccone is looming, ready to pounce and take maximum points in the mountains classification.
03:34 PM BST
Powless has popped
Just hearing that Neilson Powless has lost contact with the chasing group that contains Giulio Ciccone. This is big news in the mountains classification race. Wout van Aert takes a bottle from rival team Alpecin-Deceuninck.
03:32 PM BST
58.5km to go
Rui Costa his the lone leader having dropped Marco Haller. Giulio Ciccone rises out of his saddle, sat on the front of the chasing group 35sec down the road from the Intermarché-Circus-Wanty man. Back in the maillot jaune’s group – 6min 49sec down on Costa – David Gaudu looks to be struggling near the back.
03:27 PM BST
Pidcock’s dad on the crash incident
Replying to a tweet earlier regarding the crash caused by a spectator, Giles Pidcock said: “I don’t understand why anyone would want to film it. No one is interested in all these s— little videos. Just watch the race and enjoy your day folks.”
03:22 PM BST
62km to go
Rui Costa has bridged over to Marco Haller, which I expect will be welcomed by Bora-Hansgrohe. Costa has three Tour de France stage wins on his palmarès, but the last of those came in 2013, his annus mirabilis. The 36-year-old, though, got his season off to a cracking start with wins at Trofeo Calvia and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. Will he be rolling back the years here today with a fourth career stage win at the Tour? I doubt it, but only time will tell.
03:18 PM BST
63km to go
The moustachioed Marco Haller is starting to labour on this climb, rising out of his saddle as he attempts to find a comfortable rhythm. Rui Costa is closing in on the Austrian, trailling by 16sec. Giulio Ciccone and the rest of the chasing group – that has started to splinter on this category one climb – is 35sec off the pace.
03:14 PM BST
64km to go
Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), the 2013 world road race champion, has drifted off the front of the chasing group, off in pursuit of Marco Haller. Giulio Ciccone is not hanging around, and looks keen on hauling back the Portuguese.
03:10 PM BST
66km to go
Onto the col de la Croix Fry goes Marco Haller, while back in the chasing group Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek) shifts to the front. López will be working for team-mate Giulio Ciccone who is focusing on the mountains classification. With Jonas Vingegaard, who currently leads that competition, over six minutes down the road, the Italian stands a very good chance of gaining on the Dane this afternoon.
03:04 PM BST
71.5km to go
Marco Haller has gained 23sec on the chasing group. That’s some sliding room in the bank for the Austrian. Interesting to note, too, that the group containing the maillot jaune and Tadej Pogacar is just 6min 30sec down the road. It would appear that the pace has been increased, but are the main protagonists thinking about the stage win?
03:00 PM BST
73.5km to go
Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe) has shifted off the front of the leading group. He’s currently inching his way up an uncategorised climb,which will lead straight into the category one col de la Croix Fry which is 11.3km at an average gradient of 7%. Somehow, methinks the sprinter and one-day specialist will not be winning today.
02:53 PM BST
Coquard’s snapped handlebars
Confirmation here that Bryan Coquard’s handlebars has snapped. Fair play to the Frenchman, it takes some skill to descend on those.
02:49 PM BST
80km to go
Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko were caught a few minutes ago. The leading group, which has over eight minutes on the peloton, is 38 riders strong.
02:46 PM BST
81.5km to go
Bryan Coquard is on the descent and it appears that his handlebars have snapped. Heart in the mouth stuff there. So what does the Frenchman do? He just keeps on riding. Speaking of daft/brave things these riders do, here’s Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Deceuninck) following the earlier crash:
02:38 PM BST
85km to go
With four riders in the chasing group, Israel-Premier Tech are one of the best represented teams – along with EF Education-EasyPost – and believe they have the firepower to win this stage today. Michael Woods, as you will recall, won his first Tour de France stage a week ago today on Puy de Dôme and with the steep finale may again fancy his chances this afternoon. Speaking over team radio a short while ago, one of Israel-Premier Tech sport directors said: “We have a perfect situation here to win this race today. So we need to focus on the big boys, the strong ones. And making sure we are always represented when they are moving.”
02:33 PM BST
92km to go
Julian Alaphilippe is handing Alexey Lutsenko a lesson in descending here. The Frenchman is, I think, not attempting to gap his colleague for the day, he just happens to be better at going downhill.
02:29 PM BST
95km to go
Alexey Lutsenko gives everybody in the Astana Qazaqstan team car a minor heart attack on a right hand bend on the descent off the Forclaz de Montmin. Having misjudged a corner, Lutsenko unclips his left leg to help him regain his balance. Julian Alaphilippe pulls up alongside him, lending a supportive hand and a slight shake of the head. Moments before, Giulio Ciccone got the better of Neilson Powless having attacked just shy of the summit to gain six points – two more than Powless – in the mountains classification.
02:26 PM BST
96.2km to go
Alexey Lutsenko is looking strong on the front, the Kazakhstan national champion barely breathing as he hauls himself and Julian Alaphilippe up and over the summit of the category one col de la Forclaz de Montmin. That large chasing group – being pulled along by Wout van Aert – is 40sec down the road.
Incidentally, colleague Thomas Broom who created the fancy gifs I use in these liveblogs (see above) is currently on on the road in France where he is watching the race with his father, here they are on the col de la Forclaz de Montmin:
“Here we are 1km to go on the col de la Forclaz,” writes Thomas from the roadside. “Party atmosphere in sweltering temperatures that only a beer can quench. Tom Pidcock is looking strong as he passes within the maillot jaune bunch gearing up for undoubtedly a rapid decent. Our moneys on Pidcock to take the stage win…”
02:17 PM BST
Here’s that chasing group… in FULL
Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Pro), Andrey Amador (EF Education-EasyPost), Alex Aranburu (Movistar), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Soren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies), Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Lawson Craddock (Jayco-Alula), Omar Fraile (Ineos Grenadiers), Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic), Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Chris Hamilton (DSM-Firmenich), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Jayco-Alula), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek), Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Luka Mezgec (Jayco-Alula), Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech), Torstein Traeen (Uno-X Pro), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost) and Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech)
02:01 PM BST
107km to go
Julian Alaphilippe takes a bottle from a neutral service motorbike before dousing himself with the cold contents – presumably water – in an effort to cool himself down. The stage leaders are inching their way up a slight incline over the intermediate sprint. The Frenchman takes 20 points, 34sec ahead of the chasing group. The peloton is 6min 35sec down the road..
01:53 PM BST
115km to go
The peloton is on a go-slow now, allowing stage leaders Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko to increase their lead to almost five minutes. There is a 35-man group closing in on that pair, though, trailling by just 39sec.
01:46 PM BST
That crash… caused by a spectator
01:45 PM BST
118km to go
I missed this a few minutes ago, but Sepp Kuss also went down in that crash.
01:42 PM BST
Wenger speaking earlier today. . .
01:42 PM BST
120km to go
Following that crash, a number of Jumbo-Visma riders fanned out across the front of the peloton, which effectively neutralised that part of the race. As a result, the gap between the peloton and stage leaders Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko has grown out to 1min 40sec. The chasing group, meanwhile, trails that duo by 33sec.
01:35 PM BST
Another big crash
The peloton has again been shredded after, I think, somebody was clipped by a roadside spectator. The maillot jaune managed to avoid any trouble, but I saw Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) off his bike. Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) went down and has ripped his jersey, as did Kevin Vermaerke (DSM-Firmenich).
01:33 PM BST
130km to go
Stage leaders Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko covered 46.2km in the first hour of racing. The pair have 35sec on a huge 30-man chasing group, but the peloton is just 14sec further back so I’m not quite sure what is going to happen here.
01:26 PM BST
135km to go
Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko lead the stage, with the peloton at 24sec. In between, there are lots of strong riders playing around: some attempting to get over to Alaphilippe and Lutsenko (Tom Pidcock), others marking those moves.
01:23 PM BST
137.5km to go
Julian Alaphilippe attacks, taking with him Alexey Lutsenko. Neilson Powless jumps in an effort to catch the pair. Further back, Tom Pidcock is on the move again in an attempt to get the the front of the race. Absolute chaos today.
01:20 PM BST
140km to go
The leading group has grown to around 25 riders now, with the peloton 25sec down the road. There are some ballers in here, and there are a few still fighting to bridge over: Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) are looking lively, but Dylan van Baarle (Jumbo-Visma) is setting the pace on the front of the peloton, making every move closely.
01:16 PM BST
142km to go
Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) are the next riders to bridge over to Wout van Aert’s group at the front of the race. A frenetic start today, but the leading group has just 10sec on the peloton.
01:13 PM BST
144km to go
Julian Alaphilippe looks over his left shoulder at which point he sees Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who is about to bridge over to leading quartet. A shake of the head from the Frenchman. Moments later, UAE Team Emirates domestique Marc Soler gives chase and, he too, wastes little time in marking out Van Aert.
01:10 PM BST
145km to go: Gang of four out in front
Julian Alaphilippe, Alexey Lutsenko and Aurélien Paret-Peintre have managed to bridge over to Nils Politt, while Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) is the latest to attempt to bridge over . . . but the Australian may struggle here.
01:05 PM BST
147km to go
Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) and Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën) have shimmied off the front of the peloton, the trio off in pursuit of stage leader Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) who they now trail by 11sec. Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) is on his own, riding through no man’s land. The peloton, meanwhile, is another 20sec down the road.
01:00 PM BST
150km to go
Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), a former Tour stage winner, slouches over his handlebars and sets of on a lone attack off the front. The big German was not followed, and currently leads the stage. . . but he will not be on his lonesome for too long. Not with the incoming climbs. Weighing in at 80kg, the classics’ specialist is not a rider designed for the mountains – even if he has been climbing quite well at this year’s race.
12:58 PM BST
153km to go
Not quite sure why, but French sprinter Bryan Coquard was just spotted gesticulating at his Cofidis team-mates. Moments later, the breakaway was caught by the peloton. I suspect there will be a few more scraps before the breakaway sticks.
12:51 PM BST
160km to go
A nine-man breakaway has formed, comprising Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën), Matthew Dinham (DSM-firmenich), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies). There are some strong riders here, but there is just 10sec separating the two groups on the road.
12:44 PM BST
165km to go
Jumbo-Visma team-mates Sepp Kuss and Wilco Keldermann have missed the split, as have Marc Soler, Mikel Bjerg, Vegard Stake Laengen from Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates’ squad. Felix Gall (Ag2r-Citroën), who started the day ninth on general classification after moving up five places in the overall standings following Saturday’s stage, is also in the second group on the road.
12:40 PM BST
168km to go
Splits have formed in the peloton thanks to the huge effort from Mads Pedersen et al. There is a gap of around 30sec between the leading group – which includes the maillot jaune and Tadej Pogacar – and the stragglers. It is still early days though.
12:38 PM BST
170km to go
Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), the 2019 world champion, is riding hard on the front of the speeding peloton with team-mate Giulio Ciccone on his wheel. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step) is looking lively, but the Frenchman has, as yet, looked a shade of his former self at this year’s race. He’s shown himself in the early parts of stages, but failed to make any real impact. Is today the day that changes?
12:34 PM BST
He’s on the front of the race, obviously. Kevin Geniets’ time in the sun was shortlived and the powerful Belgian bridged over to him, stretching out the peloton in a long line as it speeds down the first descent of the afternoon. Lidl-Trek and Groupama-FDJ have numbers near the front.
12:30 PM BST
177km to go
It will surprise nobody to learn that Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) is looking lively in the early part of the stage. The Italian climber clipped off the front with a handful of others, before Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) countered and, as it stands, is the lone leader. There is a large group in pursuit though, made up of fastmen, rouleurs and climbers with their eyes on points in the mountains classification.
12:26 PM BST
And they are off . . .
Having pedalled through an 11.5km neutralised section on the approach to the little kicker that will mark KM0, race director Christian Prudhomme popped up and out of the sunroof of his red Skoda before dropping the flag to signify that stage 15 is under way. The stage started a few minutes later than the scheduled start time – six minutes, to be precise – but I think we can forgive them. Everybody – riders, race officials, back room team staff and the travelling journalists – will be feeling the fatigue having been on the road for a fortnight now.
Arsène Wenger, the former Arsenal manager and sometime jumper model, is apparently sat alongside Mr Prudhomme this afternoon. Wenger is not the only football manager with an interest in cycling. I seem to recall Jose Mourinho being at the grand départ in London in 2014, while Paris St-Germain manager Luis Enrique is a keen cyclist himself and recently completed the Cape Epic mountain bike race. In fact, while manager of Spain he announced a squad while on his bike.
11:55 AM BST
Motorbikes suspended: ‘We should have forgotten about the picture’
If you were watching yesterday’s stage, then you will have seen the controversial moment when a pair of motorbikes denied Tadej Pogacar the opportunity to launch a second assault on the maillot jaune.
“I lost a bullet but it is what it is,” said a sanguine Pogacar afterwards. The watching public, and race officials, however, were not quite as understanding.
“Those motorbikes should not be there but I appreciate that everyone is trying to do their job here,” Pogacar’s team manager Mauro Gianetti said, while the team’s sports director Matxin Fernandez called the incident ‘unacceptable’.
Reporters from Reuters managed to speak with a photographer from one of the motorbikes. “I told my driver to accelerate when Pogacar attacked but he could not as there were fans in front,” the photographer said. “We should have gone away before and forgotten about the picture.”
Both motorbikes have subsequently been suspended from today’s stage.
11:00 AM BST
Stage 15 preview
Hello and welcome to our live rolling from the Tour de France’s final Alpine stage, the 179km run from Les Gets Les Portes du Soleil to Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc.
Following yesterday’s stage to Joux Plane, won by Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers), today presents the remaining riders a final day in the mountains before Monday’s rest day. With five categorised climbs, culminating on the category one Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc Le Bettex (below) which, although just 7km in length at an average gradient of 7.7%, pitches up to 17% at one point. Similarly to the last two stages, it is a toss up between the stage win coming from a breakaway, or the main protagonists Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). One thing is almost certain, though: there will be some aggressive racing on this final climb, but will either Vingegaard or Pogacar be able to land a decisive blow? With Tuesday’s time trial looming, one suspects neither will want to go into the ‘race of truth’ with just 10sec separating the pair.
Vingegaard now leads the mountains classification, but the maillot à pois, or polka-dot jersey, will be worn by Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) as second-placed rider in that competition. With five categorised climbs in today’s stage – including two category one ascents (col de la Forclaz de Montmin and col de la Croix Fry) – before the business end of the day, I expect we may see a posse of riders targeting the mountains points with an early raid. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the climbs in today’s stage:
For the sprinters, the main priority will be survival. Here is what can be won by those targeting the maillot vert, the green jersey worn by the leader in the points classification, at the intermediate sprint and finish line:
Whatever happens, Telegraph Sport will be here to guide you through all of the key moments, from start to finish. Racing starts at KM0 at 12.20pm (BST).