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Tour: Pantano Strongest in Two-up Sprint, Sky Dominate Peloton

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Not the most aggressive of stages in the Jura, but Van Garderen falls back.

Le Tour de France 2016 - Stage Fifteen Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Rafał Majka was the day's strongest climber on the dual ascents of the Grand Colombier, but he was powerless to stop Jarlinson Pantano when they went head to head in a two-up sprint in Culoz. The Colombian had been making his presence known on descents all day, starting the Lacets du Grand Colombier on equal terms with the Pole, before being dropped on the climb, and catching up afterwards.

We got to see the entire stage today, and were rewarded with a reasonably interesting fight for the break. There were a number of failed attacks preceding and on the Col du Berthiand, containing Peter Sagan and Thomas De Gendt, both of whom attacked multiple times. Majka only attacked once, bringing Alexis Vuillermoz clear. Vuillermoz couldn't stick with the pace, and dropped back to a group of around thirty forming behind Majka and Zakarin, who bridged up to the Tinkoff man. Majka took the points on the Berthiand, dropped back. and there we had our break.

They continued on through the Jura, with the weird thing of the day being that Majka was repeatedly denied mountain points. First Thomas Voeckler (and come on, it's not 2012) attacked for five points on the Col du Perthus, and then Serge Pauwels nabbed the maximum on the Col de Pisseloup. However, as the break shattered on the Grand Colombier, Majka was among the strongest, going clear with Zakarin. Julian Alaphilippe jumped across, descending to catch the leaders along with Pantano, before his "chain slipped ten times" on the road, leaving him way back in a chasing group. Zakarin fell back on the descent, apparently due to a misplaced contact lens.

So Pantana and Majka it was who went on to the Lacets. Majka took on the majority of the work on, gapping the Colombian and cresting alone, but was never going to be able to keep the IAM Cycling rider at bay on the descent, especially after attempting a bit of cyclocross. Pantano caught up, did most of the work on the flat, started the sprint in front, but Majka's jumpiness with a chase group of Vuillermoz and Reichenbach closing in showed, and he sprinted with more than 250 metres left, never standing a chance once Pantano kicked. He takes Colombia's first win of the Tour, and lighting up the race for a country disappointed by Quintana's lack of spark on the mountains.

Speaking of a lack of spark, the peloton didn't have the most exciting day in cycling history. Astana made a move at the top of the big climb, and pushed to the bottom of the Lacets, but Fabio Aru's attack at the start of the final never looked menacing, even when Valverde joined the move. No, it was hoovered up by Wout Poels, who set an infernal pace all the way up the final climb, and even had time to drink a Coke as Froome made a mock attack. It could have been a bluff, and he could have been suffering...

Haha, I nearly got you there, didn't I! No, yet again, Sky were imperious, with Mikel Nieve their last man not even needed, puncturing before Poels even looked like faltering. And yes, it's looking like Froome is going to ride a traditional "Sky" Tour for the rest of the race, having pulled out a couple of minutes on Bauke Mollema, who himself is reportedly happy to ride for second. I can't complain about that, really. Froome did ride an aggressive and interesting first fortnight, and conservative riding in the final week is mostly a reward for that. Why is nobody else attacking? Because they can't. Poels pushes a certain number of watts, for a certain number of minutes, and the attacker is brought back. And since the riders from second to thirteenth are actually very evenly matched, they don't want to risk falling from second, well, to thirteenth.

Romain Bardet did try, but was of course brought back. He did cause the only real GC consequence of this stage though, which was the detachment of Tejay van Garderen from the peloton. He finished a minute and twenty-eight seconds back, and dropped to eighth, joining Richie Porte in the sense that he's more than four minutes down.

Stage Results:
1. COL Jarlinson Pantano IAM 4:24:49
2. POL Rafał Majka TNK "
3. FRA Alexis Vuillermoz ALM 0:06
4. FRA Sébastien Reichenbach FDJ "
5. FRA Julian Alaphilippe EQS 0:22
6. BEL Serge Pauwels DDD 0:25
7. FRA Pierre Rolland CDT "
8. RUS Ilnur Zakarin KAT 1:30
9. ESP Daniel Navarro COF "
10. NED Tom-Jelte Slagter CPT 2:08