Jarlinson Pantano finally provided some joy for Colombia at the Tour de France by winning Sunday’s 15th stage. The country’s top rider Nairo Quintana has been strangely out of sorts over the Tour’s first two weeks, and sits fourth overall at 2min 59sec behind race leader Chris Froome.
But there was celebration after Pantano outsprinted Poland’s Rafal Majka to win the 160km mountainous stage from Bourg en Bresse to Culoz. The 27-year-old had proved last month he was in good shape by finishing fourth at the Tour of Switzerland. And while Majka seemed the stronger climber on a day that included six categorised ascents, Pantano’s descending skills proved crucial.
He was dropped by Majka on both the last two climbs of the day, but each time closed the gap on the descent. Behind, the Tour favorites spent the day marking each other and there was no change to the overall positions, with Dutchman Bauke Mollema remaining second at 1:47 and young Briton Adam Yates third at 2:45. The only change in the top 10 saw American Tejay Van Garderen dropped on the final climb and lose almost a minute and a half, dropping from sixth overall to eighth.
A DAY FOR THE BREAKAWAY
A 30-man group got clear of the peloton on the opening first category climb of the day inside 20km. It broke up on the hors category Grand Colombier climb inside the final 60km, with 13 riders left at the front, 8:30 ahead of the peloton. Russian Ilnur Zakarin and Majka went clear on the first of two climbs up the Grand Colombier and pulled out a gap of more than a minute.
The peloton had closed to 7:45 by the summit of the Grand Colombier but it was clear the stage victory would be decided up front. Pantano and Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe caught the front two on the mountain’s descent, 42km from the finish. But as it happened, Zakarin was dropped — the Russian, who crashed badly in May’s Giro d’Italia, was simply more circumspect than his fellow escapees on the fast descent.
Alaphilippe’s hopes were destroyed by a problem with his bike, leaving him stranded on the side of the road as Pantano and Majka soldiered on. The front two had a lead of just over 30sec by the start of the the second, shorter climb of the Grand Colombier, by a different route known as the ‘laces’, with the peloton 6:40 down.
Majka managed to drop Pantano with 18km left and went over the top with a 24sec lead over Switzerland’s Sebastien Reichenbach and the Colombian. Majka almost lost all hope of victory when he briefly went off the road on the descent, 11km out from the finish. And it cost him as he was caught by Pantano a couple of kilometers later. Two kilometers from the end the two leaders had 16sec on the chasing pair of Reichenbach and Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz. They started playing cat and mouse in the final kilometer but had just enough room to contest the sprint before Vuillermoz beat Reichenbach for third.
1. Jarlinson Pantano (COL/IAM) 4hrs 24min 49sec
2. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) at 0:00.
3. Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA/ALM) 0:06.
4. Sebastien Reichenbach (SWI/FDJ) 0:06.
5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/ETI) 0:22.
6. Serge Pauwels (BEL/DDT) 0:25.
7. Pierre Rolland (FRA/CAN) 0:25.
8. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 1:30.
9. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 1:30.
10. Tom Slagter (NED/CAN) 2:08.
1. Chris Froome (GBR/Sky) 68hrs 14mins 36sec
2. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) at 1:47.
3. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) 2:45.
4. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 2:59.
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 3:17.
6. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 4:04.
7. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 4:27.
8. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 4:47.
9. Daniel Martin (IRL/ETI) 5:03.
10. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 5:16.