Jonas Vingaard’s Jumbo-Visma team endured another traumatic day on Stage 15 of the Tour de France with the race leader losing two key climbing lieutenants, as the pelotond went through baking conditions on the road from Carcassonne.
Primoz Roglic, who had started the day as Vingaard’s main support rider, and Steven Kruijswijk both left the Tour due to injury, with Roglic retiring before the start of the stage and Kruijswijk after his being crushed with 135 kilometers to go.
Worse still, Vingegaard and his teammate Tiesj Benoot also fell 58 kilometers from the end and, echoing the Arenberg stage, in which the Dutch team appeared chaotic, had to hunt to regain their position alongside their closest rival, defending champion Tadej Pogacar (United Arab Emirates).
But the loss of Roglic and Kruijswijk, two of the team’s strongest climbers, with three days of racing in the Pyrenees looming, could still prove damaging.
“I’m fine,” said Vingaard at the finish, still ahead of Pogacar by two minutes and 22 seconds. “I have a rash on my left side. I went down but got up quickly. I have a little pain but that’s how it is after a crash.
In the absence of Roglic and Kruijswijk, he admitted that he had “lost two very important teams (members), two very strong riders, which is not pleasant. It was a very bad day for us.
Vingaard sporting director Grischa Niermann was more blunt. “It was a shitty day,” he said. “When Steven crashed it was immediately clear he wasn’t going to continue as it landed hard on his shoulder. Then we jumped in the car to continue chasing the peloton and just as we arrived Jonas and Tiesj were on the ground.
“So everyone waited for them and then they got dropped trying to get Jonas back in the peloton. I think Jonas was fine after that, but we’re another man down and that’s not good. Thankfully, there’s the rest day, and then we see what the impact of that day was.
The 202 kilometer stage was held in scorching heat, with several riders appearing at their limit as the peloton raced on tarmac which had been sprayed with water to prevent it from melting. Professional cycling’s extreme weather protocol, allowing more regular fueling and consumption of team cars alongside a relaxation of the stage time limit, was also invoked, but for some riders the 40-degree temperatures were too high.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won the first stage victory of his career on the Tour after a final breakaway, the French rider Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) was caught in the last 500 meters. “It’s amazing,” Philipsen said. “I know what it means to win a stage in the Tour de France.”
Monday is a rest day, but the race resumes on Tuesday with the first big Pyrenean climbs and the staging for Pogacar to tackle Vingaard, just as he did Roglic in 2020, when he won the Tour the penultimate day. The irrepressible 23-year-old breathes again in the neck of Jumbo-Visma, with his favorite ground of the Pyrenees on the horizon.
“There are three days of mountain stages between the best riders, the leaders, and I don’t think having teammates will make such a big difference,” said UAE Emirates team manager Mauro Gianetti. “Tadej has just had a bad day, but we are in a position now that we have the opportunity to try something.”
“It’s a different situation than 2020 [when Pogacar usurped Roglic in the final time trial]. We still have a week to go, there are still a lot of kilometers to go but Tadej is confident. He knows he has won the Tour twice and can do it again.
Roglic, winner of the last three Tours of Spain, will now turn his attention elsewhere but even injured, his presence will be greatly missed. Niermann, however, rejected suggestions that the Slovenian’s absence could be critical.
“If we thought he could have played a role for Jonas in the Pyrenees, he would still be there but he was going down very, very fast and his body was not reacting anymore,” Niermann said of Roglic’s injuries. “Then we would have another runner dropped out today. It’s a shame that Stevie is also absent, but that doesn’t change the decision we made.
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