Astana Pro’s Magnus Cort Nielsen came out on top in a three-man final sprint to win stage 15 of the Tour de France in Carcassonne today.
The Dane completed the 181.5km race in 4:25:52, beating Jon Izagirre Insausti and Bauke Mollema in the dash for the line.
Throughout the first 15km of the race a series of attacks were launched, but no breaks resulted.
Team Sky were controlling accelerations at the head of the peloton, before Warren Barguil, Adam Yates and Gregor Mühlberger made a break and extended their gap slightly on the third early climb, about 20km in.
About 40km into the race the field split and a break of 29 riders went ahead. Several kilometres later, their lead had risen to three-and-a-half minutes.
Lilian Calmejane attacked alone and went clear about 57km into the race, as the peloton dropped to six-and-a-half minutes from the breakaway group.
Calmejane fell back into the breakaway group with 100km remaining. With 81km left, the group’s lead rose to almost eight minutes and, 20km later, it had risen to over 10 minutes.
Just 3km before the intermediate sprint in Mazamet, Julien Bernard and Fabien Grellier went off the front. They created a one-minute-and-19-second lead over the breakaway, as the peloton dropped to 11 minutes back.
Rafal Majka attacked the two leaders with just under 50km remaining and managed to catch and pass them to take the lead. He created a 40-second gap with 42km left as the peloton were left almost 13 minutes off the pace.
Nielsen and Mollema then broke off in pursuit of Majka. The chase increased to seven riders when Calmejane, Toms Skujins, Izagirre Insausti, Domenico Pozzovivo and Michael Valgren joined the pursuit.
With 15km left, Majka was caught by the seven chasers. The eight escapees held a 13-minute lead over the peloton with 10km left.
Nielsen, Izagirre Insausti and Mollema then broke away with just 5km left.
The trio played a game of cat and mouse over the final kilometre, before Nielsen launched an attack with 200m to go and outlasted the other two. Valgren of Astana Pro followed them home in fourth, 29 seconds later.
Team Sky brought home the peloton, ensuring Geraint Thomas remained in the yellow leader’s jersey ahead of the rest day tomorrow.
“This is a dream come true. I’m very happy to take a victory”, Nielsen said afterwards. “I have to thank my team for giving me this chance and believing in me.
“Everything was perfect, and my sports director had a lot of belief in me. The team had this tactic a few days ago and we said that this was a stage for me.
“Everything worked out perfectly. I’m so happy,” he added.