Deporte

Tour de France 2017: stage 15 - report

Tour de France 2017: stage 15 - report

Romain Bardet (France / AG2R La Mondiale) +23'; 4.

The British Chris Froome (Sky) retained the leader's yellow jersey, on the eve of the second rest day. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Froome sits just 18 seconds clear at the top of the general classification, ahead of Aru.

The mathematics say it all: 10 teams have won stages, with Quickstep the biggest winners thanks to Marcel Kittel.

Sky has two riders - Froome and Landa - in the top five. Stadium finishes are rarely seen nowadays in cycling so this is relatively new.

But reigning champion Froome had to survive a worrying moment when he suffered a mechanical problem in the last 50km that saw him drop 50 seconds behind his main rivals as he had to take teammate Michal Kwiatkowski's bike to continue. It's not since 2008 that we've had so many riders so close to yellow after 15 stages.

That decision apparently paid off for the now-19-time Grand Slam champion.

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Despite their recent history and how much is at stake now, the pair seem to be on good terms. Certainly the speed was probably at the highest point of the race, coming in to the foot of that last climb. I've worked for it so hard.

Martin was reeled in by polka dot jersey holder Warren Barguil (Sunweb) just before reaching the summit of the Col de Peyra Taillade and Mollema then forged ahead at the front.

"Bardet used the team properly, but then you're not going to distance Froome using the team mates who are already tired having ridden in the front all day". But the Team Sky leader recovered in style two days later, when Aru was trapped at the back of the peloton in Rodez. The down-the-line forehand passing winner that landed right on the opposite baseline in the second set, leaving Berdych slumping his shoulders. "Chapeau to him, he got some time back on the GC guys".

On Thursday he took nine seconds off Froome and another nine on Friday. "Who would be happy with any less?"

"We knew that after the climb it wasn't ideal for big attacks, so we had to really dig deep on the climb", said the Frenchman, who is third, 23 seconds back.

Vaughters said Uran will not be content with a podium finish in Paris.

The rider known as the Panzerwagen faltered on the Taillade as did the breakaway which splintered behind him in various formations back to the bunch. "I just felt it was really bad luck".

Froome himself is not expecting it to be an easy battle in the days that remain. "Have a mano a mano, Froome against Landa", said LeMond.

"Never a dull moment in this year's Tour, that's for sure", said Froome. "It's going to be very aggressive racing I imagine".

On paper it would seem that Chris Froome is on his way to winning a fourth Tour de France title, but the Tour is not raced on paper. The race for yellow is still incredibly tight and with two hard days in the mountains to come, just about anything can still happen.