Sepp Kuss takes the biggest win of his career
It has been a turbulent Tour de France for Jumbo-Visma, after these lost their general classification leader early in the race, but the Dutch WorldTour squad have bounced back in outstanding fashion.
Sepp Kuss, the 26-year-old American star, formed an integral part of the resurgence of Jumbo in this race on stage 15, making it into the 32-rider breakaway on a day well-suited to the climber.
Kuss attacked on the final climb of the day and was able to hold off the experience Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the descent to the line to take the biggest win of his career.
After his stage victory in the 2019 Vuelta a España, and his stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Kuss has taken a win on the biggest show in cycling and it’s no surprise.
He has been building towards a significant victory for the last few seasons as he has also openly spoken of his general classification ambitions.
Now with a Tour stage to his name, we may see Kuss grow in the confidence he needs to back himself as a GC man.
Jumbo-Visma strike out
The loss of Primož Roglič in the first week of the Tour was a significant blow to the ultra-ambitious Jumbo-Visma.
It took a while for the Dutch outfit to reassess their position, but as Jonas Vingegaard emerged as one of the strongest GC contenders the team had found their new purpose.
Vingegaard has been outstanding so far, looking almost as unshakeable as yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar and even dropping the superstar Slovenian on Mont Ventoux, albeit without gaining any time by the finish.
Once again Vingegaard was solid on stage 15, comfortably making the elite selection in the GC group and trying multiple attacks to try and drop Pogačar, or at the very least extend his one second advantage over Richard Carapaz.
While Jumbo weren’t able to compound their stage win with any time gained for Vingegaard, the 24-year-old Dane is back on the podium after Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) dropped out again, and has clearly been the revelation of this Tour.
Pogačar still unshaken
Pogačar faced another flurry of attacks from his GC rivals, but once again the reigning champion was equal to the task.
After his UAE Team Emirates squad led the bunch for the entire early stages, he was left isolated late into the day, but he didn’t seem phased even when surrounded by an almost full complement of Ineos riders.
As Vingegaard tried multiple times to dislodge Pogačar, and even Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) tried his luck, the yellow jersey was not shaken and calmly reeled back his rivals, even taking over the pace-setting to reassert his dominance on the later climbs.
While the stage wasn’t best suited to significant time gains, owing to the long descents, it still showed this race is far from over as teams were willing to challenge, and Pogačar proved again he’s willing to answer any questions.
Ineos Grenadiers try and try again
Ineos Grenadiers resorted to the familiar tactic of taking over the pace-setting in the GC group from UAE Team Emirates late into the stage, in the hopes of isolating Pogačar to then gain time.
While the isolating part of the plan worked flawlessly, with Pogačar alone on the later climbs, the taking time part didn’t prove so easy.
Ineos leader Richard Carapaz launched his attacks late on the final climb, but once again his efforts fell flat against the might of Pogačar, who comfortably marked out the 2019 Giro d’Italia winner.
While Ineos weren’t able to touch Pogačar, they’re also struggling to shake the other riders ahead on GC, Jonas Vingegaard and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo), who are just as unshakeable as Pogačar so far.
With six stages remaining, Carapaz sits fourth overall, 5-33 behind Pogačar, but just one second behind Vingegaard in third, but that second is proving almost impossible to shift.
Rest day before more mountain tests
While the attacks came thick and fast from the GC group, as the race heads into the second and final rest day on Monday, stage 15 didn’t deliver time gaps worthy of the efforts, as the main contenders all comfortably finished together once again after the descent.
The stage wasn’t well-suited to gaining the kind of time rivals need on Pogačar, but after the rest day there is plenty more climbing to come.
Stage 16 is another tough day in the Pyrenees, with four categorised climb to tackle before the punchy uphill finish.
Rest day legs, which can often leave previously untouchable GC contenders struggling to keep up, can also strike anyone at any time, making the day after a very tense moment for riders still high on GC.
Pogačar remains unshaken so far, but there are still plenty of opportunities to come.
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