16 July 2023

Wout Poels wins stage 15 as Jonas Vingegaard retains overall Tour de France lead

16 July 2023

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 Rodriguez 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, Rodriguez 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 the Ineos Grenadiers, delivered a second stage win of this race for the Bahrain-Victorious team and dedicated it to Gino Mader, 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.”

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