It was a huge fight to make the breakaway and with all six of CCC Team’s riders trying to go clear, the majority of attacks featured a CCC Team rider but were all subsequently pulled back each time.
After more than 50 kilometers, a 28-rider group finally went clear on the Col de Montségur, featuring Geschke, and was caught on the descent by a chase group to form a large 36-rider breakaway that, by this point, had a three-minute advantage.
With the closest rider in the breakaway only seven minutes behind on the General Classification, the peloton controlled the situation and kept the advantage around the four-minute mark.
The breakaway split on the approach to the Port de Lers, eventually coming back together before the road started to rise, but the group split in half again with Geschke making the front selection on the climb.
An attack from Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) saw the groups reshuffle with Geschke relegated to the chasing group but Geschke made his way back, by which point the gap was up to almost five minutes inside 70 kilometers to go.
On the Mur de Péguère, the third of four category one climbs of the day, Geschke attacked five kilometers before the summit and led the race solo, with a 30-second advantage, on the rest of the ascent to take the King of the Mountain points.
Yates attacked to join Geschke over the summit and the duo forged on ahead, increasing their advantage to one and a half minutes on the flat before hitting the foot of the final climb to Prat d’Albis together.
Geschke was able to follow Yates for the first four kilometers of the climb but an attack from Yates with eight kilometers to go saw the German rider lose contact and continue to climb at his own pace.
Yates took the win, followed by the General Classification contenders, and Geschke crossed the line in 25th place, 4’24” behind, after a big battle at the front of the race, before the final rest day tomorrow.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“I had the legs, so I enjoyed the stage. There was, of course, massive amounts of pain, on the second to last climb especially it was pretty steep and there were no spectators there to motivate you more so, that was hard but, when you are on the front, you enjoy it and now I’m smiling because it’s a rest day tomorrow. It was actually fun to be out there. I feel more like the old Simon Geschke. I don’t know what it was, maybe lacking race days because of my spring, but I feel like my legs are coming back which is nice.”
“It was a really big breakaway and it was also a little bit of a GC group so, for me, it was frustrating as this meant that my chances to go for a stage victory from it were small. On the second-to-last climb, with guys like Quintana and Bardet in the breakaway, I knew just by gut feeling that I had to try the impossible and go out on my own. I have had situations in the past where that has worked so, I just went all in until Landa and the GC guys passed me and then my day was over. However, it was worth a shot.”
“When I was riding with Simon Yates on the flat, I already felt that he was strong, of course he won the Vuelta last year, and I knew that with a 10-kilometer climb to the finish, it would be hard today. When I was racing against him, I was racing my own race and trying to get as far as possible and in the best case get a podium or top five result. It wasn’t meant to be today but maybe it is on another day.”
Tour de France
Stage 15 Limoux > Foix-Prat d’Albis (185km)
Top 3: 1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT), 2. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama – FDJ), 3. Mikel Landa (Movistar Team)
CCC Team top 3: 25. Simon Geschke, 52. Michael Schär, 69. Serge Pauwels