Wout Poels wins Tour stage
With its steady up and down through the Mont Blanc region, stage 15 of the Tour de France put the riders to a serious test. Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS managed to get two riders into the day’s breakaway with Mikel Landa and Wout Poels. In the finale, Poels proved to be the strongest climber, celebrating his first stage win in a Grand Tour - the second stage win for the team and for Gino.
As the riders of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS had failed to leave a mark in the two mountain stages up to the Grand Colombier and Morzine, the lead in the team classification of the Tour de France was lost. But before the second rest day, there was another stage in the Alps, and Team Pearl entered the race with high ambitions. After a very animated start, a breakaway of almost 40 riders went up the road. Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS had managed to get Mikel Landa and Wout Poels in that group, and both riders were serious contenders for a stage win, seeing the race’s profile. After a reckless spectator had caused a considerable pile-up back in the peloton, the lead of the breakaway grew to over 8 minutes.
After the crash the peloton was in no hurry to reduce this gap, so the riders in the breakaway knew that they were in for the stage win. This naturally did not add to the cohesion of the group. Where the main entertainment had come from the fight for KOM points earlier on, the lesser climbers soon launched their first attacks, looking for some kind of buffer for the next climb. These attacks were neutralised on the slopes of the Col de la Croix Fry, but then Marc Soler placed the first serious attack on the lower slopes of the Col des Aravis. The only riders able to catch up with him were Wout van Aert, Krists Neilands and Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS's Wout Poels. After Neilands had crashed on the descent from the Aravis, a trio was left in the fight for the stage win.
Wout Poels did not wait for long as he placed an explosive attack on Wout van Aert on the initial, very steep slopes of the Côte des Amerands. It proved to be the decisive attack, as the Dutchman gained a lead of about 30 seconds on the way to the summit and only lost a handful of seconds on the following short descent. On the final ascent to the finish, Wout Poels rode to an undisputed stage win on a wave of support both from the rowdy fans and thoughts of his late teammate Gino Mäder. For Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, this is the second stage win in this year's 110th edition of the Tour de France. A bit more than three minutes down on the stage winner, Mikel Landa crossed the finish line in 5th place, and since Pello Bilbao put on a brave fight on the final climb, the time deficit in the team classification was cut in half.
Winning a stage at the Tour de France has been a dream of mine ever since I first saw the race passing by as a little boy when spending the summer holidays in France. To get this stage win at my 10th participation in the Tour de France is incredible, especially seeing all the emotions in the lead-up to this race. I only started to believe in my win in the last kilometre and knew I had to keep going full gas", Wout Poels said after what was his first career win on a Grad Tour stage. "A big thanks also to the team for believing in me. After I had gotten sick in altitude training and had to skip the Dauphiné, a ticket for the Tour de France certainly was not a given."
110TH TOUR DE FRANCE
STAGE 15: LES GETS LES PORTES DU SOLEIL - SAINT-GERVAIS MONT-BLANC, 179KM
1. Wout Poels, NED/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:40.45 hours
2. Wout van Aert, BEL, + 2.08
3. Mathieu Burgaudeau, FRA, + 3.00
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency