Egan Bernal is out of contention in the fight for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France 2020, as Tadej Pogačar rode to triumph on stage 15.
A pivotal day of climbing from Lyon to the summit of Grand Colombier saw Jumbo-Visma continue to decimate the race, as Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) lost contact with the favourites on the final climb and crossed the line more than seven minutes down on the winner.
That set up a rapid race for the stage victory amongst the remaining general classification favourites, who were all still together with just 300 metres to the line.
But it was Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) who triumphed over Primož Roglič and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) in brutal three-man sprint for the line at the finish.
Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) holds onto the yellow jersey heading into the second and final rest day of the Tour.
How it happened
Stage 14 of the 2020 Tour de France was likely to split into two clearly defined sections: the flats and the mountains.
Running over 174.5km from Lyon to Grand Colombier, the course started with a very flat opening 90km, with a few uncategorised ramps but no notable ascents, likely to cause a frantic fight to make it into the breakaway that would benefit the larger, more powerful riders.
But then the profile took a turn as the road began to tilt upwards.
At 99km the climbing started with the first of the classified climbs spread throughout the second half of the stage.
The Montée de la Selle Fromentel (11.5km at 8.1 per cent) was followed almost immediately by the equally tough Col de la Biche (6.9km at 8.7 per cent), which crested around 45km from the finish.
After a long descent from the col, the peloton faced a wall to the finish – the 17.7km-long, 7.7 per cent average gradient Grand Colombier – a climb familiar to many of the Tour de France peloton from this year’s Tour de l’Ain.
That stage in l’Ain was won by Primož Roglič, with Egan Bernal, Nairo Quintana and Richie Porte all close behind in the pre-Tour warm-up race.
As expected racing was frantic early in stage 14 of the Tour, as almost every team was determined to get someone up the road, but owing to the flat start it was the rouleurs who had the advantage over the climbers who would flourish later in the stage.
Disaster struck for EF Pro Cycling in the opening kilometres when their Colombian national champion Sergio Higuita crash after Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) swung off the front of the bunch and took out Higuita’s front wheel, with the latter falling hard and later abandoning the Tour with a broken hand.
After a hectic opening 50km with countless breakaway attempts, an eight-rider group finally formed and pulled clear of the bunch.
CCC Team were best represented in the break with Simon Geschke and Matteo Trentin, with Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling) and Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) other notable escapees, as the group extended their advantage out to almost five minutes as the first climb of the day approached.
The breakaway hit the Selle de Fromentel and immediately began to break up, as Trentin was dropped and Geschke attacked the group with only Gogl, Rolland and Herrada able to stay with him, the peloton four minutes in arrears.
Back in the bunch, Ineos Grenadiers began to struggle as Richard Carapaz was dropped after a crash earlier in the stage and Dylan Van Baarle also lost contact before the top of the first climb.
At the head of the race Herrada led over the climb and onto the 10km descent.
By the foot of the second climb of the day – the Col de la Biche – the break still had a 3-18 advantage as Gogl went clear alone and jumped a minute ahead of his breakaway companions with 50km to race.
Jumbo-Visma start to apply the pressure in the peloton on the Biche, which put Bernal’s key lieutenant Pavel Sivakov out the back to up the stakes even more for Ineos while Pogačar and Porte still looked strong.
Over the top of the climb with just under 50km to race, Rolland had caught Gogl and crested first with Herrada not far behind, as the bunch pulled over the top of the Biche just two minutes behind, the Grand Colombier looming in the distance.
The Tour de France hit the Grand Colombier with Rolland and Gogl leading the charge, as Jumbo-Visma continued to control proceedings 1-45 behind, with a thinned out group of favourites in tow.
Jumbo still had six riders early on the climb, while Bahrain-McLaren were well represented along with UAE Team Emirates, but Bernal had only Jonathan Castroviejo for help.
With 13km left of the climb the last of the breakaway was swept up after admirable rides by Rolland and Gogl, as the GC drama burst into life.
Egan Bernal lost contact with the front group under the pace set by Wout van Aert with a very long way left to race, with Nairo Quintana also losing contact.
The reigning champion lost 90 seconds in the next 3km and the gap continued to grow, as Tadej Pogačar, Mikel Landa, Miguel Ángel López and Porte all kept their hopes alive despite the huge pressure being applied by Van Aert and the Jumbo train.
With 6.5km left to the summit it was Adam Yates who fired the first attack amongst the favourites, pulling out a modest gap and dangling out front with Tom Dumoulin leading the Jumbo locomotive before being absorbed by the front group shortly after.
But the yellow jersey contenders could not be separated on the upper slopes of the climb and with 300m to the line they remained together.
Roglič finally launched a dash for the line and was joined by Porte and Pogačar, but it was 21-year-old Pogacar who was able to sprint past Porte and hold off Roglič to take his second stage of the 2020 Tour.
In the general classification standings, Roglič remains leader with a slightly narrowed advantage of 40 seconds over Pogačar, with Rigoberto Urán moving up into third place after Bernal’s implosion.
Bernal finished the stage 7-20 down in the winner and has slipped out of the top-10 overall.
He now sits in 13th place, 8-25 off the race lead.
The Tour de France now heads into its final rest day, but racing will return with a chance for the breakaway specialists on stage 16, over 164km from La Tour-du-Pin to Villard-de-Lands to start the final week.
Tour de France 2020, stage 15: Lyon to Grand Colombier (174.5km)
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-34-13
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 5s
4. Miguel Àngel López (Col) Astana, at 8s
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 15s
6. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time
9. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 18s
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistart, at 24s
General classification after stage 15
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 65-37-07
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 40s
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-34
4. Miguel Àngel López (Col) Astana, at 1-45
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 2-03
6. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-13
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 2-16
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 3-15
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 5-08
10. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, 5-12