Norwegian sprinting star Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) picked up his second stage win of this year's Tour de France, blasting first across the finish at the end of stage 15's thrilling 222km mostly flat ride from Tallard to Nimes. Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) slotted second, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) third.
The day's break of consequence was a two-rider affair with Aussie Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Iam Cycling's Martin Elmiger escaping early in the stage and pushing the bunch to their absolute limit. With on-and-off rain and a rash of roundabouts on the run-in to the finish conspiring to slow the pace, the pair weren't caught by the chasing peloton until just 10 meters from the line.
Bauer ended up 10th in the wash of sprinters. Afterward the Garmin rider was disconsolate, hanging his head, tears running down his face as a throng of photographers snapped photos of the dramatic agony-of-defeat moment.
In the GC chase, there was no change at the top with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finishing safely in the bunch to maintain his 4:37 lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Romain Bardet (Ag2R)is third at 4:50, with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) rounding out the top five at 5:06 and 5:49.
Monday brings the Tour's second rest day. Then the Tour marches into the Pyrenees for three tough stages. Up first on Tuesday, stage 16's 237.5km ride from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon. Look for riders to spend upwards of six hours in the saddle during what's the race's longest stage.
After 150 kilometers of spinning on the flats, the bunch will face the cat. 2 Col de Portet-d'Aspet, cat. 3 Col des Ares, and finally the hors categorie Port de Bales, a 11.7km gut-punch with an average grade of 7.7%. From the summit it's all downhill to the finish, so whoever crests the climb first should be able to stay away. See stage 15 results here.
STAGE 15 PHOTOS
The ride from Tallard to Nimes passed by huge fields of lavender flowers. Photo by Graham Watson
Ever popular German Jens Voigt is all smiles during stage 15. The 42-year-old German is the oldest rider in the field and is racing in his final Tour de France. Photo by Graham Watson
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali opted to wear the Specialized Evade aero road helmet on this almost dead flat day of racing. Photo by Graham Watson
BMC's Michael Schar discusses strategy - and gets a brief free ride - from the team car. Photo by Graham Watson
Garmin-Sharp's Jack Bauer teamed up with Swiss champion Martin Elmiger (Iam Cycling) in the day's lone breakaway of consequence. The pair fought valiantly all the way to the finish. Photo by Graham Watson
The peloton rolls across an ancient Roman aqueduct during stage 15. Photo by Graham Watson
Stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and the rest of the sprinters spoiled the breakaway's day, reeling them in just 10 meters from the finish line. Photo by Graham Watson
The emotion of coming so close only to be denied was too much for Jack Bauer to handle. Photo by Graham Watson
After the stage Jack Bauer was disconsolate, shedding tears at the finish line. Photo by Graham Watson
Jack Bauer's Garmin-Sharp teammates did their best to console the crestfallen rider. Photo by Graham Watson
STAGE 15 GALLERY