Copyright: Lotto Soudal

Stage fifteen had the perfect profile for a long breakaway to survive until the finish line. When the flag went down, Marcel Sieberg escaped with nine other riders. However, this group was short-lived, as the group fell apart on the first climb of the day after fifteen kilometres, which saw Sieberg drop back to the peloton. On the same climb, a large group with Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin, jumped away from the peloton. After the first climb, all escaped riders came together in a front group of 28 riders. Their maximum advantage was around nine minutes. Apart from the three Lotto Soudal riders, Tony Martin and Bauke Mollema were also part of this group.

With 65 kilometres remaining, Martin decided to leave the other escapees behind. He started the final category one climb with an advantage of one and a half minutes. However, this was not enough on the steepest parts and he was overhauled by the chasing group. Tiesj Benoot and Tony Gallopin rounded the top with the best climbers from the group. Just after the top, Bauke Mollema escaped and he took an advantage of 45 seconds on the group with Benoot and Gallopin. Tony Gallopin tried to bridge the gap in the finale, together with three other riders, but they never came closer than ten seconds. After a day in the break, Tony Gallopin finished in a nice third place, behind Bauke Mollema and Diego Ulissi, who was also part of the chase group. Tiesj Benoot crossed the finish line in eleventh place. Tim Wellens was hindered by respiratory problems and had to abandon the race after twenty kilometres. Chris Froome keeps his yellow jersey, after being in trouble for a moment. Tomorrow, there is a rest day for the riders.

Tony Gallopin: “Congratulations to Mollema for his performance. He was the driving force in the breakaway and he was very strong on the climbs of first category. Together with Barguil, Roglič and Ulissi, we did everything we could to catch him, but it was almost an impossible task. I had already finished second behind Mollema in the Clásica San Sebastián, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy to catch him.”

“It is unfortunate that I couldn’t sprint for the first place, but I think that this was the maximum for me. I am still feeling well in the Tour after fifteen stages. That gives me a lot of courage for the second week and I hope to follow-up this performance.”

Tiesj Benoot: “We used a lot of energy already in the first hour of the race to form the breakaway. This group of 28 became smaller along the way until a point when Tony Gallopin and I were left in a group of eight riders. Bauke Mollema placed his attack at a surprising moment in the race, but his solo ride was really impressive. On the fourth category climb, I set the pace to keep the gap as small as possible. This was for Tony Gallopin, as he was stronger than me.”

“I think this was the highest result possible for me and I think everyone finished according to their strength. The riders who have finished several Grand Tours in the past, like Gallopin or Ulissi, have more power than me on such moments. I hope that there will be some more chances in the third week for Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin or for me.”

Tim Wellens needed to abandon due to illness.

Tim Wellens: “I had a good night yesterday and I had no fever either, so I hoped that today would go smoother than yesterday and that I would make it to the rest day tomorrow. I quickly sensed that this was not the case and after twenty kilometres, I decided to abandon the race with a respiratory infection.”

“I didn’t want to abandon the race just like that, especially not in the Tour de France, but I had no power left in me at all due to the infection. I came to the Tour with certain expectations, but unfortunately, I was not able live up to them. The heat was not the reason for the abandon, but it was much more due to illness.”