Tour de France
Stage 15) Céret – Andorra-la-Vieille
France Sunday 11 July 2021 191.5 km
Tour de France: Alaphilippe on the offensive in the Pyrenees
Week two of the race came to a conclusion with a challenging day in the Pyrenees, which had the riders go over the Port d’Envalira – the highest point of this edition (2408 meters) – on their way to Andorra-la-Vella, which returned as stage finish for the first time since 1964, when Julio Jimenez took the spoils following an impressive mountain ride.
Sunday afternoon, a huge breakaway was in the spotlight, 32 riders booking a place in the leading group soon after the start in Céret, including Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe and Davide Ballerini. The Italian, victorious at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this season, did a splendid job in the service of the World Champion, working for him on the climbs and helping the escapees drive their advantage to ten minutes.
First cracks in the groups began appearing close to the top of the Envalira, but the chasers closed the gap on the long descent to Col de Beixalis, where riders were soon spat out the back at a fast rate following a series of attacks. Five kilometers from the top, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) kicked clear and took the victory after holding off the chasers on the roads to Andorra-la-Vella, including a small group that came home some two minutes later and from where Julian finished 12th.
“I wanted to be in the front today and made it there, part of a strong break. Ballero did a great job for me today, he was incredible. I knew that last climb and was hoping for a good result, but my legs weren’t that strong and I lacked the energy to follow when the attacks began coming, which is normal after two hard weeks. Now I am looking forward to the rest day and to get some recovery for the final stages of the race”, said Julian.
Mark Cavendish beat again the time limit with the help of his teammates Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Michael Mørkøv, retaining the green jersey which he will carry into the final week of the race: “We knew it was going to be difficult. I was focused on just pushing and holding on, and was so lucky to have three guys with me. There was a lot of suffering and I was completely empty on the last climb, but we knew we were inside the time limit and we took it a bit easy. I’m glad this is over and I’m happy everyone is safe and well. I’m looking forward to Monday and then to the third week”, explained the Manxman.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images