Sepp Kuss put an end to a ten years drought as Tyler Farrar was the last American stage winner at the Tour de France in Redon in 2011. The climber from Jumbo-Visma outclassed Alejandro Valverde and the rest of the leading riders up to col de Beixalis to claim a solo victory at Andorra-la-Vella ahead of the Spanish veteran while Wout Poels, the new King of the Mountains, rounded out the podium. Tadej Pogacar retained the yellow jersey.
32 riders in the lead
149 riders took the start of stage 15 at 12.29. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was first to go clear off the peloton at km 3.5 in the non-categorized climb to col de Llauro. Seven riders caught up with as well as a bigger group of chasers. 32 riders gathered in the lead at km 35: Steven Kruijswijk, Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Jonathan Castroviejo, Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Dan Martin, Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Vincenzo Nibali, Julien Bernard, Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Julian Alaphilippe, Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), David Gaudu, Bruno Armirail, Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citröen), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Ruben Guerreiro, Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Mark Donovan (DSM), Matej Mohoric, Wout Poels, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Ion Izagirre (Astana), Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-NextHash), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels-KTM) and De Gendt. UAE Team Emirates got organised at the head of the peloton with Norway’s Vegard Stake Laengen pulling tirelessly.
Great battle for the polka dot jersey
A time gap of 8’45’’ was recorded at the intermediate sprint at Olette (km 66) where Nacer Bouhanni, suffering alone in front of the broom wagon, called it a race twenty minutes after Matthews crossed the line first. Following splits in the breakaway, Armirail decided to impose a steady pace at the head of the leading group with his team-mates Madouas and Gaudu on his wheel. A maximum difference of 10’10’’ was noted with 72km to go. Poels won the KOM at Montée de Saint-Louis (km 86) before van Aert and Woods. At col de Puymorens, the same top 3 was in a different order: van Aert, Poels, Woods. Quintana waited for Port d’Envalira, the highest peak of the 108th Tour de France, to go solo 1.5km before the summit and take the maximum of 10 KOM points 15’’ before van Aert, Poels and Woods. 17 riders formed the front group in the downhill with an advantage of 5’ over the yellow jersey group from which runner up Guillaume Martin was ejected in the descent.
Kuss betters Valverde
Quintana attacked again at the beginning of the ascent to col de Beixalis but he was quickly brought back. Gaudu tried his luck briefly. Valverde wanted to follow Kuss but it was the American from Jumbo-Visma who rode away solo 5km before the summit. They were separated by 25’’ at the top and the downhill didn’t modify the race scenario. In the yellow jersey group, mimicking two attempts by Ben O’Connor, Jonas Vingegaard strongly attacked twice but Pogacar reacted with no fret. Rigoberto Uran, Vingegaard and Carapaz remained with the race leader to regain their positions on GC over Martin who dropped back to ninth where he was before stage 14.