JEFF PACHOUD/Getty Images
Team Sky star Chris Froome faces a fight if he’s to retain the 2017 Tour de France’s yellow jersey after stage 15 on Sunday, a particularly testing route that will threaten to rumble the general classification’s current order.
Froome snatched the overall lead back from ProTeam Astana rider Fabio Aru after finishing just a second behind stage 14-winner Michael Matthews on Saturday, and the Briton now boasts a 19-second advantage:
Le Tour de France @LeTour
New GC, @chrisfroome back in yellow! / Froome reprend le Maillot Jaune ! #TDF2017 https://t.co/WcupUXBm6e
After Saturday’s transition away from the Pyrenees, Stage 15 features a much more difficult-to-navigate journey from Laissac-Severac l’Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay in south-central France.
Riders from all corners of the general classification will be timing their surges on the lead with less than a week now left on the Tour, and Monday’s rest gives competitors all the more reason to chase the win in stage 15.
Here’s a look at the stage profile and route for Sunday, via CyclingnewsTV:
TV Info: Eurosport, ITV 4 (UK), NBC Sports (U.S.)
Live Stream: Eurosport Player, ITV Hub, NBC Sports Live
The field will want to savour the flat start awaiting them on Sunday, essentially the only piece of neutral terrain they’re liable to encounter in a stage that’s replete with rolling hills and steep climbing.
Almost bookended by two first-category ascents, and with a third-category and fourth-category climb closer to the start and finish, respectively, there will be plenty of opportunity for breakaways to make their moves.
It’s for that reason stage 15 is so difficult to predict, however, as it’s possible the peloton may wait until late on to make up any lost ground or it could opt to try and keep pace with any puncheurs that emerge throughout.
In any case, Froome should be eyeing this as an opportunity to hold his lead first and foremost, considering Sky Sports reporter Orla Chennaoui suggested he was by no means entitled to open up a gap given the setting:
Orla Chennaoui @SkyOrla
Froome has a 19” gap on Aru after that. He would have been delighted with that on a high mountain stage, surely something of a bonus today?
It will also be a major factor that the great majority of stage 15 takes place at altitudes above 1,000 metres, reaching a high of 1,358 metres at the peak of the category-three Cote de Vieurals, the second graded climb on the menu.
The slightest error could result in a shockwave emitting throughout the general classification, however, and cycling journalist Neal Rogers stressed just how fine the margins are heading into Sunday’s showdown:
Neal Rogers @nealrogers
After 14 stages Froome, Aru, Bardet, Uran are separated by only 29 seconds. Any one of them could win this Tour. #TDF17 #TDF2017 https://t.co/kPyszUf6nK
Those riders looking to compete for the top spot on Sunday will need to ensure they leave enough energy in reserve for the final 30 kilometres, which includes the second category-one climb and the fourth-category Cote de Saint-Vidal.
It’s unlikely the sprint specialists in the field will be figuring to lead anywhere other than the stage’s final phases, with the combination of steep climbs in quantity playing more to the strengths of the mountain climbers.