Pogacar retains Tour yellow jersey as Kuss takes first Pyrenean stage

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
Cycling Philippe LOPEZ AFP
JUL 12, 2021 LISTEN
Philippe LOPEZ AFP

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar survived a torrid day in the saddle as the Tour de France hit the Pyrenees on Sunday, the Slovenian holding on to the overall lead despite constant pressure from a group of Ineos riders.

Stage 15 into Andora was won by Sepp Kuss of the Jumbo Visma team, a 26-year-old Coloradan becoming the first American to win a Tour stage in a decade.

Near the top of the last climb Kuss skipped away from Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who finished second, and Dutch rider Wout Poels, who pulled on the king of the mountains jersey after coming third.

Kuss had been sent into the day's long-haul attack with the aim of eventually dropping back and helping team leader Jonas Vingegaard, third overall.

"We had planned to help Jonas, but there were two of us so Steven (Kruijswijk) dropped back, so we got the stage and the team tactics right," Kuss explained of the windy stage where the protection of a teammate can make all the difference.

"My girlfriend and my family were on the final climb cheering me on. I'm lost for words," said climb specialist Kuss, whose family has roots in Slovenia.

"It was a hard day in the break, but I know this ride well from training," he said.

Defending champion the day's big winner

Pogacar said family support means a lot.
"My family are here most days although I don't always see them, but I did today," he said, smiling. "When I see my mum it takes away the pain for a moment."

Pogacar is perhaps the big winner on the day after he was isolated on the windy slopes of the third climb, but kept his calm and, crucially, pace as his closest rivals took turns to attack him.

Ineos have said they plan to grind him down in a bid to manoeuvre their own rider, Richard Carapaz, into contention for the yellow jersey.

The Ecuadorian currently lies fourth, 5min 33sec behind Pogacar. Colombian EF rider Rigoberto Uran is second at 5:18, while Denmark's Vingegaard is third at 5:32.

Monday is a rest day.

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