It’s been a tough road for the sprinters through the Pyrenees and over the last two ‘transition’ stages, but they would have been grateful for this half-a-chance sprint stage.
It could have gone either way with an opening 18km drag uphill, with an early break attacking and forming that the GC teams were likely to leave alone.
But the nine riders that eventually pulled out in front never got more than three minutes of breathing space, as the sprinters teams kept them within arms reach and hoped there key men could make it over the four categorised climbs on the 183km route from Mende to Valence.
Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) was the main casualty of the day, falling away on the first climb and eventually rolling in 15 minutes behind the stage winner, André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) into second and third respectively.
There was no change in the general classification, as yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky) rolled in safely alongside the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), with no change in the top-10 overall.
Monday sees the race head to Gap on stage 16, the final stage before a well earned rest day for the peloton. With two category two climbs en route, there’s a chance for the breakaway to succeed with a descent to the finish, before the race hits the Alps proper on Tuesday.