TDF 2023: Stage 15: Wout Poels Wins on Mont Blanc

Wout Poels wins stage 15 (c) A.S.O.

Les Gets les Portes de Soleil to Saint Gervais Mont Blanc – 179 km

July 16, 2023

Wout Poels won on the final ascent of Mont Blanc today, after splintering his breakaway of Wout Van Aert and Mark Soler on the mountain peak. It was the first time the 35-year-old won a stage of le Tour, having spent most of his career as a domestique for other team leaders over 10 Tours.  Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Burgaudeau rounded out the stage podium.

Behind him the top two riders of the GC classification dueled it out up to the finish, but Pogacar failed to take any of Vingegaard’s 10 second advantage at the end.  Adam Yates is now third, and Carlos Rodriguez is fourth.

“I really love this moment. I always dreamt of winning a stage in the Tour de France,” said Poels. “Obviously, with Gino [Mäder’s death in June], it has a special meaning…Gino was helping me today. I thought I had the perfect approach to the Tour…I really enjoyed my time with Team Sky. It was an incredible experience, but yet I never could fight for stage win. I could do it today and I’m very happy.”

Italian rider Giulio Ciccone managed to take the polka dot jersey away from American Neilson Powless. “When I was young I really liked this jersey,” said Ciccone after the stage. Now he has it for the first time.

There is a rest day tomorrow, followed on Tuesday by a time trial. Anything could happen for the GC battle.

The Deets

Alaphilippe and Lutsenko Escape 

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was the first attacker of the day but the peloton reacted. A split occurred after 10 km of racing with Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën) caught behind but it was all together again at km 16.

Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Alberto Bettiol, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Jasper

16/07/2023 – Tour de France 2023 – Etape 15 – Les Gets Les Portes du Soleil / Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc (179 km) – LUTSENKO Alexey (ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM), ALAPHILIPPE Julian (SOUDAL QUICK-STEP)

Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citröen), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Matthew Dinham (DSM-Firmenich), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) made an interesting move but were also reined in at km 26.

Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) rode away solo at km 29. He was joined by riders like Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in several moves.

Alaphilipe and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) escaped from a 27-man leading group after 42 km of racing.

Martin in a 39-Rider Lead Group

A group of 37 was formed behind the leading duo when a crash occurred in the peloton at km 52, the effect of a spectator holding his phone out too far on the road, taking Sepp Kuss down, and almost everyone behind him. Among those that crashed was Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Omar Fraile (Ineos Grenadiers), Olivier Le Gac, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Andrey Amador, Magnus Cort, Powless, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), Mikel Landa, Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Marco Haller, Patrik Konrad, Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giulio Ciccone, Mathias Skjelmose, Juan Pedro Lopez (Lidl-Trek), Nans Peters (Ag2r-Citröen), Van der Poel, Soren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Guillaume Martin, Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), Alex Aranburu (Movistar), Chris Hamilton (DSM-Firmenich), Michael Woods, Hugo Houle, Krists Neilands, Dylan Teuns (Israel-PremierTech), Lawson Craddock, Luka Mezgec, Chris Juul-Jensen (Jayco-AlUla), Warren Barguil, Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic), Tobias Halland Johannessen, Torstein Traeen (Uno-X) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies).

The peloton crossed the line of the intermediate sprint at Bluffy (km 72) eight minutes after Alaphilippe and Lutsenko. With 85 km remaining, it became a lead group of 39 riders. Haller took off 10km further.

Poels Alone on Cote de Amerands

Rui Costa overhauled Haller to become the lone leader in the ascent to col de la Croix Fry 60 km before the end but he was brought back by 19 chasers 1.3 km before the summit.

Ciccone crested in first place. Soler attacked in the following climb. The Spaniard was later joined by Van Aert, Poels and Neilands. A breakaway consisting of Neilands, Van Aert, Poels and Soler took form. On the descent from col de Aravis, Chris Neilands crashed against the support wall as he tried to take a water bottle from the support motorcycle on the curve. One of the strongest riders in the break, what a shame.

With 30 km to go, the 11 chasers including Martin, Pinot and Landa were 40” behind the leading trio, Van Aert, Poels and Soler.

The trio continued to gain time against the peloton and the chase group as they neared the cat. 2 Côte des Amerands, and at 20.5 km to go they were 7 minutes 24 seconds ahead of the GC peloton, and one minute 13 seconds ahead of the first chase group.

With 13.3 km to go, the head group were ahead of the chase group by 1 minute and 12 seconds, and they had 11 riders following.

At the front, Wout Van Aert and Wout Poels dropped Mark Soler at about 11 km to go.  As they started the ascent up the Cote des Amerands, Mark Soler was catching up, but Wout Poels took a flyer off the front at 10.7 km to go. Soon Soler was in the chase (plus 22 seconds), with Wout Van Aert third (plus 29 seconds). Van Aert continued to lose time.

The Yellow Jersey chase group was 7 minutes 29 seconds behind the leader at the start of the Cote de Amerands. Soler and Van Aert, 34 seconds behind, joined forces before cresting the cat. 2 Cote.  Wout Poels reached the ascent of Saint Gervais Mont Blanc, a 7.7 average grade for 7 km lay ahead. Van Aert and Soler were 26 seconds behind. Then Van Aert went ahead of Soler, but he could not shorten the distance to Poels. The Peloton was 7 mins 19 secs. behind.

At 4.5 km to go, Van Aert was 48 seconds behind. Wout Poels was looking almost certainly like the stage winner.

In the Yellow Jersey peloton, Rodriguez was putting pressure on the two GC leaders, Vingegaard and Pogacar.  Sepp Kuss was tight behind them despite his crash earlier in the stage. There was 10 seconds between Vingegaard and Pogacar.

With 2.5 km to go to the finish, Poels was ahead of Van Aert by 1 minute 15 seconds. It is his 10th Tour, and would be his third stage win. Behind him there was still the chance that Pogacar would accelerate and try and steal back the 10 seconds he was behind Vingegaard.  They were 6 minutes and 37 seconds behind Poels. Adam Yates was also looking to move up in his standing, as he rode with the two GC leaders.

Then Adam Yates took a flyer off the front, and neither Vingegaard nor Pogacar reacted, with Vingegaard drafting Pogacar.

Wout Poels won the stage for the Bahrain squad. Then Rodriguez came ahead, and was leading with Vingegaard close behind.

Soler and Yates joined forces ahead of them. Wout Van Aert came over in second place on the stage.

With a kilometer to go, Vingegaard was expecting the White Jersey (Pogacar) to attach, and he did with 800 meters to go. Vingegaard followed to preserve the 10 second advantage. Pogacar went again, and Vingegaard followed. The duel goes on as they came to the finish together.

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