Norwegian Alexander Kristoff wins Tour de France’s flat stage 15 in thrilling finish
Vincenzo Nibali retains overall lead as New Zealand rider Jack Bauer, who almost led from starter's gun, bursts into tears as pack runs him down
Alexander Kristoff of Norway captured his second stage win of this year’s Tour de France by leading a pack that dramatically overtook two breakaway riders with only about 50 metres left in stage 15 on Sunday.
Vincenzo Nibali finished in the main pack to keep the overall lead.
After two days in the Alps, Sunday’s stage offered some relief over a flat 222km course from Tallard, southeast France’s parachuting capital, towards the city of Nimes – known for its Roman arena and bullfighting.
Kristoff, a Katusha rider who also won stage 12, lifted a fist after leading a bunch of sprinters who surged ahead of the two breakaways – Swiss champion Martin Elmiger and Jack Bauer of New Zealand – who had led the stage virtually since the starter’s gun.
“It was a little bit late for comfort. It was very close,” said Kristoff. “I thought I would be second ... we turned on the gas.”
Bauer tapped his head on his helmet, sighed heavily, leaned over his bike and burst into tears after failing to win. In the last few hundred metres, he left Elmiger behind.
But the pack, which timed its creep up on the duo to perfection, was just too strong. By the time the New Zealander, pedalling with his last remaining strength, looked back a last time, they were already zooming by. He ended up finishing the stage in 10th place. Elmiger was 16th.
Nibali, who crossed in the pack, kept his main rivals at bay in the stage. He is 4:37 ahead of Spain’s Alejandro Valverde in second, and 4:50 ahead of France’s Romain Bardet in third.
Riders take a second rest day on Monday.