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Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) took his third stage win of the 2015 Tour de France

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Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) took his third stage win of the 2015 Tour de France n Sunday, winning a high-powered sprint in Valence after 183km. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was second, closely followed by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). There were no changes in the top of the general classification as Chris Froome (Sky) finished safely in the bunch with all of his main rivals.

The final sprint came down to four riders: Greipel, Degenkolb, Kristoff and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo). Degenkolb led in the final few meters, but Greipel turned it on and powered his way past. Sagan, who has finished second numerous times this Tour, didn’t even make the podium, coming in fourth.

The favourites were all in the first group, with no GC changes. Much of the rest of the field came over in smaller groups, with a large grupetto with the injured Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) coming in significantly later.

Greipel did not appear affected by his crash on Saturday, which left him with three stitches under his knee.

Sagan padded his lead in the points ranking by being in the day’s escape group and winning the intermediate sprint, and then got additional points at the finish. Greipel took 50 points with his win, but is still well behind.

How it unfolded

Team Sky warmed up as usual before the stage, but this time with a difference. Six gendarmes stood by to guard the British team, after Chris Froome was doused with urine yesterday, and other riders said to have been spit on.

The stage started high on a ridge, tackling three smaller climbs before plunging down to the Rhone Valley. One more climb awaited the field along the way.

The break group started forming only 10 km into the stage. At one point it ballooned up to 27 riders, but eventually settled down to a group of nine: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Michael Rogers and Peter Sagan (both Tinkoff-Saxo), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Michel Kwiatkowski and Matteo Trentin (both Etixx-QuickStep), and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin).

The group never had much of a lead, not hitting the three-minute mark. Things were complicated slightly by rain and wet roads on the descent, but everyone made it through safely.

The only intermediate sprint of the day, and presumably Sagan’s reason for being in the break group, came at km 108. The Slovakian easily rolled through to gather the 20 points and further extend his lead in the green jersey ranking.

After that sprint, the gap dropped to around 1:30, with the next challenge of the Cat. 2 Col de l’Escrit coming up quickly.

Katusha was eager for Alexander Kristoff to win a stage here, and pulled the peloton along on the flat and up the start of the climb. The gap had dropped to 1:19 by the time Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) led the field over the top of the climb.

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) had quite early fallen back and was in a large group that was nine minutes down. Also in that group was Jean-Christophe Peraud, who was suffering from injuries from Saturday’s crash.

Trentin took off in the lead as the gap hit the one-minute mark, and that group started slowly dividing. Movistar was driving the field now.

Hesjedal gave chase a the others fell back to the peloton. It took nearly 10 km, but the two finally came together, some 45 seconds ahead of the field.

Once back in the peloton, Sagan punctured, and got a new bike. As he pulled to the side, a TV camera moto followed him and apparently got closer than Sagan though necessary, and the rider kicked at the moto. After the team car arrived and provided the new bike, the team mechanic threw a water bottle at the tv moto.

With 29.3km to go, the inevitable happened, as Trentin and Hesjedal were caught and the peloton moved on towards the hoped-for bunch sprint finish. The Peraud-Cavendish grupetto was now over 11 minutes down.

Lotto-Soudal, Europcar and Katusha shared lead duties going into the final 20km. The course ran alongside the Rhone river, with the peloton moving along as smoothly as the water.

BMC moved to the front, and the first attack came at just under 7km. First it was a Bora-Argon 18 rider, then World champion Kwiatkowski. But the BMC train ploughed them down.

Stybar attacked with 3.4km to go,with Lotto driving the chase. That chase only seemed to get serious with 2 km left, and Stybar was caught. Bora Argon attacked at the 1 km marker, but had no chance.

Kristoff, Degenkolb, Greipel, and Sagan fought it out, but it was the big German Greipel who pulled past his countryman Degenkolb at the last minute to take the clear win by three-quarters of a bike length.

Brief Results

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka
6 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
7 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
9 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10 Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement
General classification after stage 15
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:10
3 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:03:32
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:02
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:04:23
6 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:04:54
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:06:23
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:17
9 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:08:23
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing 0:08:53

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