Greg Van Avermaet was back on the attack at the Tour de France on stage 15 today and showed that he is still in good form heading into the second rest day by riding as part of the breakaway before narrowly missing out on a top ten finish.
The 181.5km stage started with three short but sharp climbs heading away from Millau, including the category three Côte de Luzançon, and this set the race up for a fierce battle to make the breakaway.
Tejay van Garderen was active on the front, both chasing down moves and attacking, before a trio of riders was able to extend a narrow advantage after 20km of racing.
In the midst of all the excitement, the peloton split in two with over 40 riders losing contact as up ahead the main bunch was closing in on the front group with the catch made 15km after the initial attack.
In the end, it was a large 29-rider breakaway, which included Van Avermaet for the second consecutive day, that was finally able to go clear and with the pace easing behind, the second part of the peloton was able to make contact once again.
On the early slopes of the 10.2km long category two Col de Sié, the advantage of Van Avermaet and his fellow leaders had passed the four-minute mark as Lilian Calmejane (Direct Énergie) decided to go solo at the front of the race.
At the summit of the climb, the lone leader was sitting one minute ahead of the first chasing group while the peloton, seemingly unfazed by the composition of the breakaway, was another five minutes back.
The road then rolled down towards the base of the category one Pic de Nore, the day’s final climb which at 12.3km long had an average gradient of 6.3% and pitches of over 9%.
By this point, Calmejane had been caught by the rest of the breakaway and Julien Bernard (Cofidis) and Fabien Grellier (Direct Énergie) were trying their luck 1’45” up the road and with a relaxed peloton almost 14 minutes back, it was evident that the stage win would go to a rider at the front of the race.
Van Avermaet continued to work hard on the slopes of the climb but the subsequent increase in pace combined with the gradient soon began to take its toll, and he slipped off the back of the chasing group as it splintered behind the leading duo.
A reshuffle saw Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) alone at the KOM with 41.5km to go before a group of seven joined him after a fast descent towards the finish line in Carcassonne with Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) going on to take the day’s honors ahead of Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).
After riding his own tempo in the closing stages of the day, Van Avermaet narrowly missed a crash going onto the home straight and finished just outside the top ten in 11th place, 2’30” back, which saw him move up into 15th on the General Classification.
Damiano Caruso, who now sits 18th overall, and van Garderen crossed the line over 13 minutes behind the stage winner in the yellow jersey group.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I actually felt pretty good today when I went into the breakaway. I felt better than yesterday and although it was hard to make the breakaway, I was happy to be in it. I think the final climb was just a little bit too hard again and with the energy I have already spent this week, it was hard to keep up with the good guys. I tried to set as good a tempo as possible and then tried to come back in the descent. However, the strongest guys were already gone and that was a bit of a pity. But, that’s how racing goes.”
“The second part of the Tour has been pretty good for me. I have been trying and have had a couple of good finishes and been in the breakaway. I think I am in good shape but you also have to have a parcours that fits your style and with the energy I have had to spend, maybe I missed something in the end to really go for the win. But, I think the rest day will be good for me and hopefully, I can recharge a bit and get another chance.”