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Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) attacked clear on the final climb of the day in Andorra before descending down to the line holding off former world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The break went away early with 32 riders going clear with a very high pace throughout the day. Behind, the peloton was quiet until the penultimate climb of the Port d'Envalira when Ineos Grenadiers and Movistar upped the pace.
However, while the attacks did come from the GC favourites, such as Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was not shaken for the end of week two.
Second overall going into the stage, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) lost touch and slipped out of the top-five again after a long day in the break yesterday.
How it happened
The day started in Céret before the race headed deep into the Pyrenees and into Andorra with a finish in the capital of Andorra-la-Vella after 191.3km of riding.
A huge break of 32 riders got away with some big names involved including the top five riders in the mountains standings as well as other big names aiming for stage wins. The most dangerous rider on GC was over 20 minutes down however.
The peloton was rather calm about the break and let 12 minutes quickly go out with Groupama-FDJ working hard in the break and UAE Team Emirates controlling behind until just before going over the top of the second climb of the day.
As the break battled for points for the KoM on the Col du Puymorens with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) being the rider taking the maximum points, behind in the peloton saw the pace change as Movistar and Ineos Grenadiers started drilling the race as it went over 2,000 metres above sea level with 50km to go.
Soon after that, at the front of the race, Trek-Segafredo upped the pace for Vincenzo Nibali. The tactics were being played out though as both Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan van Baarle both dropping back from the break to the peloton for Ineos.
With 2km to the top of the highest point of the race, the Port d’Envalira, riders looking for the mountain points were battling it out with each other as the wind battered them from the right. And it was Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) who flew out of the break was the man who went over the top in first as the rest of the break looked at each other with 45km to go.
Behind, Van Aert powered past Poels, Valverde and Woods to take second place on the climb. Quintana led by 15 seconds over the chase and 5-57 to the Ineos led peloton.
But the peloton went over the top with no attacks. Ineos did have Castroviejo and Van Baarle back with them just as they went over the top but Pogačar was not overly tested as they went over 2400 metres.
Lukas Pöstlberger also dropped back for his Bora-Hansgrohe leader, Wilco Kelderman helped Ineos on the descent. The pace was high mainly because second overall, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) had lost touch and was desperately trying to get back on with 35km to go.
Quintana was caught by the rest of the break with 30km to go and he quickly settled back in before planning his next move on the final climb. The peloton had closed the gap to 5-04 before hitting the final climb of the Col de Beixalis.
Once again, Quintana attacked hard early on the climb and got a good gap again early on. Riders like Van Aert lost touch almost immediately as well as a large number of others in the break, cutting the bunch by half.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dragged eight others back to Quintana with 20km to go as the pace slowed up. Quintana tried to kick clear again but he was being fiercely marked out by his former team-mate, Valverde.
Woods came to the front to try and just grind everyone off the wheel. That saw Quintana dropped. David Gaudu was the next man to attack for Groupama-FDJ after all the work his team put in. Valverde and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) were able to follow initially. Six more riders including Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) got back on.
Kuss and Valverde then managed to kick clear. Kuss then managed to drop the Spaniard as they hit the steepest gradients of 14 per cent. Kuss pushed on with 19km to go.
Carapaz did try with only Pogačar and Vingegaard able to follow the first kick. Urán was left to try and bridge and he managed to do just that. Enric Mas (Movistar) was able to get back on too. Kelderman, Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) all managed to get back on with O’Connor counter-attacking over the top.
The moves were brought back and Pogačar then decided to up the pace himself as he tested the other riders. They all went over the top together with Van Aert dropping back to guide them to the line.
Kuss managed to keep away from Valverde and ride to the line on his own to win his first Tour de France stage. Valverde came in second with Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) leading in the chasing group.
Van Aert led in the GC group with no further attacks coming to the line as the race now heads into it's second rest day before 169km from El Pas de la Casa to Saint-Gaudens on stage 16.
Tour de France stage 15, Céret to Andorra-La-Vella (191.3km)
1. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, in 5-12-06
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 23s
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-15
4. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech
5. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkéa-Samsic
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, all at same time
8. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 1-22
9. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
10. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën Team, all at same time
General classification after stage 15
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 62-07-18
2. Rigberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
5. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r-Citroën Team, at 5-58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 7-01
8. Enric. Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 7-11
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 7-58
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 10-59
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