Stage 15 of the Tour de France saw BMC Racing Team on the attack in multiple breakaways before Nicolas Roche sprinted to sixth place on the stage and Damiano Caruso gained significant time to crack the top ten overall.
Caruso was the first BMC Racing Team rider on the attack, making the initial 10-rider breakaway in the early kilometers of the stage.
On the first of four categorized climbs, the category 1 Montée de Naves d’Aubrac, riders began to drop from the breakaway while behind, a 30-rider chase group formed.
Caruso, Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data) and Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) went clear in the final kilometers of the climb and Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche were in the chase group 1’30” behind.
After 60km of racing, the two groups merged to give BMC Racing Team strong representation at the front of the race. The Team Sky-led peloton sat up and allowed the 28-rider group to gain more than seven minutes’ advantage.
With it clear the stage winner would come from the breakaway, Tony Martin (Team Katusha-Alpecin) was the first rider to attack from the group but was eventually reeled in on the category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, which allowed further attacks to play out.
The gradients of the climb and the high pace split the group and Caruso was left to chase an attack from Barguil and Pauwels, before Roche bridged back just before the summit to help with the chase.
The breakaway came back together on the descent and Moinard re-joined the group, before Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) attacked before the final climb of the day.
Multiple chase groups formed behind Mollema but were unable to bring him back and eventually he took the stage win in Le Puy-en-Velay. Roche sprinted to sixth place one minute behind Mollema and Caruso finished a further four seconds back.
Having started the day in 14th place on the General Classification, 11’26” behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), Caruso had gained 5’21” by the time the group of General Classification favorites crossed the line.
Caruso now sits in tenth place, 6’05” behind Froome, heading into the final six stages.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“I hoped there would be a big breakaway and this morning I was motivated to do this. In the end, the breakaway went with good riders. We missed the big goal of the day, the stage win, but of course it was a good result for us because we did a big jump in the GC. Now, finally we have a rest day and we approach the last week really motivated.”
“My teammates did a really good job, it was amazing. They helped me to keep the tempo high in the breakaway and in the end, Nicolas Roche was top ten on the stage. It’s not a really, really big result because we wanted to win the stage, but it’s not bad.”
“I think that the particularity of this Tour de France is that there are so few mountain stages that every single one of them is raced flat out, and this one was no different. It was some battle to be in the breakaway. I think the team managed pretty well. At some stage we even had Greg Van Avermaet and Danilo Wyss with us so we almost had six in that group. We fought very hard to be there and I think we raced well. When they attacked us on the last categorized climb we just couldn’t follow and we rode as hard as we could, the two of us.”
“Damiano Caruso was looking to do two things. When you are at the front you have your fingers crossed that it will work out for the GC but obviously also having a go for the stage win. I think Damiano showed that he was riding very well in the Pyrenees and I think it will be good to have him in a good position in the last two stages in the Alps.