Cort sprints to stage win as Thomas stays in yellow

Magnus Cort

Magnus Cort made it back-to-back stage wins for Astana following Omar Fraile’s victory on Saturday

Magnus Cort dominated a three-man sprint to win stage 15 of the Tour de France as Geraint Thomas retained the overall lead to take the yellow jersey into the race’s final week.

Denmark’s Cort broke clear with Bauke Mollema and Ion Izagirre inside the final 6km on the run-in to Carcassonne.

As the strongest sprinter of the trio, Cort duly held off his rivals to claim his first Tour stage win.

Team Sky’s Thomas still leads team-mate Chris Froome by one minute 39 seconds.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin is third overall, 11 second further back, with only four of the remaining six stages likely to determine who will win the Tour.

However, Team Sky were dealt a blow when Gianni Moscon was disqualified from the race for hitting another rider.

Team Fortuneo-Samsic said the 24-year-old had punched their rider Elie Gesbert after 800m of Sunday’s stage.

In a statement, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said that they “support and accept” the decision by race organisers.

Following the second rest day on Monday, there are three tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees and an individual time trial to come, while stage 18 is a flat course and the final day is a processional run to Paris.

“It is rattling through quite nicely and I am looking forward to the rest day,” Thomas told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I am not even thinking about winning the Tour de France. I am not even contemplating it.

“There are three big days to go and a hard time trial to come. I will take each day and each climb as it comes and we will see what happens.”

Cort calls it right

With this stage being one of the last opportunities for the breakaway to go the distance in this year’s Tour, there were multiple attacks and counter-attacks off the front of the peloton in a frenetic first hour of racing.

Britain’s Adam Yates, now chasing stage wins after dropping down the standings, twice broke away but was dragged back each time, with a 29-man breakaway containing no threats to the overall leaders finally establishing themselves up the road.

Direct Energie’s Lilian Calmejane made a long solo effort over the Col de Sie before he was caught, and team-mate Fabien Grellier countered with Trek-Segafredo’s Julien Bernard.

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka then crested the Pic de Nore, being used for the first time in Tour history, alone before he was reeled in on the flat run-in by seven chasers, containing two riders each from Astana, Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo plus Calmejane.

Those three teams shed Majka and Calmejane but it was Astana who played the situation best – with Michael Valgren helping compatriot Cort get into the leading group and shutting down attacks behind.

And Cort, who won two flat stages in the 2016 Vuelta a Espana, duly did the rest, leading out the sprint to secure back-to-back stage wins for Astana following Omar Fraile’s victory on Saturday.

Sagan all but wraps up green

World champion Peter Sagan was again part of the break, claiming third place at the intermediate sprint to take an unassailable lead in the green jersey points classification.

The Slovak is now 282 points in front of second-placed Alexander Kristoff, with only a maximum 280 points available over the remaining six stages.

He pulled a record 100th green jersey at the presentation and now just needs to finish the race to equal Erik Zabel’s record of six points classification wins at the Tour.

With the breakaway initially unable to drop Sagan on the Pic de Nore, it even looked like he might contest for a fourth stage win of this year’s Tour before the steep gradients finally saw him drop back.

There was no movement in the general classification – Ireland’s Dan Martin attacked at the bottom of the final climb and gained a minute at one stage but was brought back long before the peloton rolled into Carcassonne, 13 minutes after Cort.

A rest then the Pyrenees

After Monday’s rest day, Tuesday’s stage 16 takes the race 218km from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, including a brief 15km dip into Spain.

In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Mark Cavendish said: “The breakaway could go to the end again. Or Team Sky might want to get to grips and put their dominance in before the big showdowns in the Pyrenees.”


Stage 15 result

1. Magnus Cort (Den/Astana) 4hrs 25mins 52secs

2. Ion Izagirre (Spa/Bahrain-Merida) same time

3. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek-Segafredo) +2secs

4. Michael Valgren (Den/Astana) +29secs

5. Toms Skujins (Lat/Trek-Segafredo) +34secs

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) same time

7. Lilian Calmejane (Fra/Direct Energie)

8. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora-Hansgrohe) +37secs

9. Nikias Arndt (Ger/Sunweb) +2mins 31secs

10. Julien Bernard (Fra/Trek-Segafredo) +2mins 38secs

General classification after stage 15

1. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) 62hrs 49mins 47secs

2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +1min 39secs

3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +1min 50secs

4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/LottoNL-Jumbo) +2mins 38secs

5. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +3mins 21secs

6. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +3mins 42secs

7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) +3mins 57secs

8. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +4mins 23secs

9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +6mins 14secs

10. Dan Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates) +6mins 54secs

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