Tour de France 2020

Tour de France stage 15: Pogačar takes stage as Bernal cracks in the mountains

Defending champion dropped early on final climb of the day to lose over seven minutes as yellow jersey Roglič takes second on stage.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) took his second Tour de France stage Sunday after a huge GC shakeup on the summit finish of the Grand Colombier.

Pogačar punched clear of a small group in the final 100 meters of the brutal final climb, with race-leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) marking his wheel to take second place.

Jumbo-Visma piled on the pressure all day, cracking defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who lost over seven minutes on the stage. The result leaves Roglič with a 40-second advantage over countryman Pogačar on the GC, with Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling) moving up to third overall.

Bernal’s dramatic crumble sees him tumble out of the top-10 as countryman Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) also suffered, losing four minutes to drop from fifth to ninth in the overall at 1:34.

Pogačar spent much of the final climb marking Jumbo-Visma as the Dutch team drilled the pace. After a flurry of attacks from a select group in the final kilometer, it was Pogačar that made his count, following a move from Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) before rounding the Australian and holding off Roglič to take his second stage of the race.

“I’m so happy to win again. I think Jumbo-Visma was really prepared for today. In my point of view, there was no point to attack,” Pogacar said after finishing the stage on the same time as Roglič.

“I don’t know what happened [to Bernal] but Jumbo did a really hard pace today and some riders paid for it. For the moment Roglič seems unstoppable but today Bernal cracked and maybe another day I will crack, or Roglič.”

While Roglič was unable to gain time on Pogačar at the top of the GC, Bernal’s dramatic crumble marks a turning point in the race. With Jumbo-Visma again unstoppable and the defending champion out of contention, the GC battle could come down to the two Slovenians.

“Happy, like I said,” Roglič replied when asked about Bernal. “I don’t really bother with others, or who is doing well or bad. We have to keep the focus on ourselves. That’s the only one we can manage.”

Tour de France stage 15
Tour de France stage 15. Photo: ASO

Sunday’s multi-mountain test through the steep ascents of the Jura saw Jumbo-Visma pile on the pressure as soon as the road tilted upward.

After a breakaway of eight including Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling) and Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) went clear up the road, Jumbo-Visma went about slowly but surely dismantling Ineos Grenadiers.

Bernal’s teammates begun to go out the back as early as the Montee de la Selle de Fromentel, with Andrey Amador, Richard Carapaz and Dylan van Baarle all distanced.

Robert Gesink took a huge turn over the Col de La Biche as the remaining Ineos Grenadiers riders loitered toward the back of a group containing handfuls of UAE-Team Emirates, Trek-Segafredo, Bahrain-McLaren and Astana climbers.

The breakaway split down over the first two climbs, leaving just Gogl and Rolland at the front of the race going into the fearsome 17.4-kilometer Grand Colombier.

Wout van Aert led the bunch onto the Hors Categorie climb and soon scooped up Gogl with his metronomic pace. Then, just four kilometers into the steep slopes, the ‘crosser’s sustained tempo saw Quintana and Bernal both fall out of the back of the rapidly-reducing front group.

Michal Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castoviejo dropped back to assist the defending champ, though the Ineos trio soon shed minutes, Bernal’s GC hopes rapidly dimming.

At the front of the action, Rolland was caught by Jumbo-Visma as the front of the race came down to around 10 riders, with George Bennett now tempo-ing on the front for the Dutch team.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was the first to break the stalemate, attacking with seven kilometers to go before being closed down by Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma). The Dutchman continued dieseling away into the final two kilometers, with Roglič and Sepp Kuss on his wheel, as Pogačar, Porte and Miguel Angel Lopez stuck close behind.

Roglič opened the final salvo of attacks with 600 meters to go before the group came back together and Kuss took up the lead.

Porte then accelerated hard but failed to gain a gap, leading the group into the final 100 meters. Pogačar had maneuvered himself onto the Trek-Segafredo rider’s wheel and left it late to punch clear toward victory, with Roglič marking him all the way to the finish line to take a Slovenian one-two.

It was a bittersweet day for EF Pro Cycling, as while Urán moved onto the overall podium, Colombian champion Sergio Higuita crashed early in the stage after clipping wheels with Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and soon afterward had to abandon with a suspected broken hand.