Tour de France (st. 15)
Quintana y Valverde safe through Valence's finish after fast racing (46.4kph average), with Greipel (LTS) victorious; Herrada, Anacona into unsuccessful breakaway attempts
183km covered into less than four hours between Mende and Valence brought the first bunch sprint in the Tour de France after more than a week on stage 15, as German André Greipel (LTS) took a final rush exempt from serious incidents. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde kept his places in the overall standings -2nd and 4th- as the Blues stayed in the lead of the teams' classification following a tremendous start, with Movistar Team's Winner Anacona and José Herrada into an early, 27-man break -eventually caught-.
“I didn't think the bunch sprint was guaranteed," said Valverde, “because the riders at the front [Ed: including the likes of Sagan (TCS), Kwiatkowski (EQS) or Pinot (FDJ)] were talented and strong, but eventually, there were many teams interested on catching them, even though it took a lot. Tomorrow? There will surely be some fireworks and we could see a few time gaps; we can't say if such battle will come from us or not, but I don't have any doubts – something will happen tomorrow."
Imanol Erviti, still into recovery after stomach problems suffered some days ago, his performance compromised since then, was the only bit of suffering from an unscathed block which is waiting for the Alps to come, following a second rest day preceeded by an interesting stage 16 on Monday: Bourg-de-Péage – Gap, 201 long kilometers with the Col de Manse (Cat-2, 8.9km at 5.6%) just before the end.
"I'm actually excited for the Alps to come", said Quintana at the finish. "We're ready and I think we'll fare well; we've got a strong team and we showed it again today with several attacks into the early breakaways. We're all willing to take on the final challenge, and even though tomorrow might become an irrelevante day, we must keep all attention. We hope to get through the stage well and enjoy that final rest day."