Magnus Cort Nielsen claimed victory on the Tour de France when he prevailed in a three-man sprint at the end of a long breakaway in the 15th stage on Sunday.
The Astana rider was the overwhelming favorite in the finale and he duly delivered, comfortably beating Ion Izagirre and Bauke Mollema, who were second and third, respectively.
It is Cort Nielsen’s third grand tour win after he won two stages in the Vuelta a Espana in 2016, and Astana’s second in this year’s Tour after Omar Fraile won Saturday’s 14th stage.
“Everything went very well … it’s the best victory of my career,” said Cort. “I was feeling good in the finale and felt confident. I did exactly what I wanted to do in terms of strategy.”
Geraint Thomas retained the overall lead after a 181.5-km hilly ride from Millau through the vineyards of Minervois, Corbieres and Cabardes in Southwestern France.
He leads Team Sky team mate and defending champion Chris Froome by 1:39 and Tom Dumoulin by 1:50 before Monday’s rest day as the race heads to the Pyrenees.
A 29-man breakaway took shape early on, and after they had built an advantage of more than 10 minutes to make sure the win would be decided between them, the fireworks started.
Tour debutants Fabien Grellier and Julien Bernard attacked with 70 kilometers left nut Rafal Majka, who has three Tour stage wins to his name, jumped away from the group and chased the duo down, whizzing past them to reach the top of the Pic de Nore, a 12.3-km climb at an average gradient of 6.3 percent, in first position.
He had a 30-second lead, but with a flat, crosswind-exposed stretch leading to the line, his chances were slim and he was caught by a group of seven chasers.
Lilian Calmejane, in his home region, had no team mate in the group unlike Cort Nielsen, Mollema and Izagirre. He was isolated when things heated up and had to concede defeat, breaking down in tears after crossing the line in seventh place, 34 seconds off the pace.
The peloton crossed the line 13:11 behind.
Tour de France 2018 – stage 15 results (Millau – Carcassonne):
|1||Magnus Cort (Astana)|
|2||Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida)|
|3||Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)|
|4||Michael Valgren (Astana)|
|5||Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo)|
|6||Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida)|
|7||Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)|
|8||Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe)|
|9||Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb)|
|10||Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo)|
|11||Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)|
|12||Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors)|
|13||Daniele Bennati (Movistar)|
|14||Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie)|
|15||Pawel Poljanski (Bora-hansgrohe)|
|16||Amael Moinard (Fortuneo-Samsic)|
|17||Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott)|
|18||Romain Sicard (Direct Energie)|
|19||Daniel Martinez (EF Education First – Drapac)|
|20||Jesus Herrada (Cofidis)|
General classification after stage 15:
|1||Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)|
|2||Chris Froome (Team Sky)|
|3||Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)|
|4||Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|5||Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)|
|6||Mikel Landa (Movistar)|
|7||Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|8||Nairo Quintana (Movistar)|
|9||Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)|
|10||Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates)|
|11||Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)|
|12||Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)|
|13||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)|
|14||Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)|
|15||Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)|
|16||Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton – Scott)|
|17||Guillaume Martin (Wanty – Groupe Gobert)|
|18||Damiano Caruso (BMC)|
|19||Tanel Kangert (Astana)|
|20||Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)|