19/07/15 - 12:05
Mende - Valence
Tour de France • Stage15

Mende - Valence

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Boasson Hagen took fifth ahead of Navardauskas, with Matthews also in the top ten. That was a great sprint - very competitive.


That's a hat-trick for Andre Greipel, who wins it by half a bike length ahead of John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan...


Degenkolb draws level but then fades... and it's a third victory for Greipel!


Greipel opens it up...


There's a counter from a Bora-Argon 18 rider as Stybar is caught ahead of the kite. Now Katusha come to the front for Kristoff - Greipel, Sagan and Degenkolb are all there too...


And it looks like Stybar will be caught before the flamme rouge... a ballsy effort, but in vain.


He has about 100m over the pack and is completely burying himself... but the chase has yet to get organised so Stybar may not hold on.


No response from the peloton! This is extraordinary... the standoff could result in a second win for Stybar...


There's a little rise as Daniel Oss has a pop for BMC. Zdenek Stybar uses this as a launchpad for his own attack - and he's opened up a small gap for Etixx.


BMC and Lotto Soudal going shoulder to shoulder as Giant and Cofidis come forward. The yellow jersey is near the front too, with two Sky team-mates.


They cross the river on a narrow bridge and will take a tight turn at the end - and it's the world champion Kwiatkowski who leads the pack.


The peloton has really strung out after two roundabouts in quick succession. Lotto Soudal haveformed their train and are near the front - but Katusha and Giant-Alpecin are quite far back for now.


BMC have come right to the front ahead of a tight left-hander on a roundabout.


It's train mode for the teams of the GC boys and sprinters now as they zip under the 10-to-go banner.


Orica-GreenEdge have come near the front for their man Michael Matthews. Lampre-Merida are there too, for their man, um, er, let me check... Davide Cimolai?


Another sprinter who won't win today is FDJ's Arnaud Demare, who's back in that Cavendish gruppetto. Oh, and Tyler Farrar of MTN.


Katusha's Giampaolo Caruso leads the peloton ahead of Belgian's Thomas De Gendt of Lotto-Soudal - working for their sprinters Alexander Kristoff and Andre Greipel. Then we have the Europcar train. Today is the last chance of a bunch sprint ahead of Paris - and Mark Cavendish is in a gruppetto 12 minutes off the back.


The riders are hugging the bank of the Rhone right now - some gorgeous aerial shots from the helicopter. Still Europcar drive the pace as Trentin and Hesjedal are swallowed up.


Just 30 seconds now for our two leaders, Trentin and Hesjedal. The carrots are surely cooked for these game chaps.


Peter Sagan needs a bike change and will have to fight back on to the peloton. His directeur sportif takes issue with the cameraman filming the swap and throws a water bottle at him...


Hesjedal has caught Trentin. They have 43 seconds but it remains to be seen if they give it a go or not.


It looks like even Trentin is throwing in the towel - even though the man chasing him down, Hesjedal, is going at it. The rest of the break has been caught by the Europcar-led peloton, with the Italian from Etixx-QuickStep holding a 50-second gap.


Gescke tried to reel in Trentin, to no avail, and now Hesjedal has pinged clear. It looks like the others are sitting up and letting the Canadian and Italian have their way. The pack is just 1:10 behind and Sagan may feel he stands a better chance conserving his forces ahead of the expected bunch sprint in Valence.


Matteo Trentin has launched himself clear of the break on this descent as Etixx-QuickStep plays one of their cards early.


Did you know: Man mountain rugby player Sebastian Chabal - he of the caveman looks and long dark hair - hails from Valence, as does the former French cyclist Charly Mottet. The local American Football team is also called the Sharks - which should spur on Vincenzo Nibali.


Here's some more info on this long, but gradual descent.


Hesjedal pips Pinot for the points atop the climb - but it was hardly contested. Back with the main pack, it's Voeckler, with his mouth agape, who dances on the pedals with Valverde in his wheel. They go over the top 1:30 down on the leaders.


Europcar have sent two men to help out with Katusha on the front - it's Voeckler and Quemeneur. They will want to launch Bryan Coquard at the finish today. The gap is 1:48 for the break.


The temperature is up to 31 degrees out there - and apparently it's going to get hotter in the Alps. At least it's cloudy today and so the sun's not so fierce on the riders' backs.


Of course, Katusha can only ride as fast as Alexander Kristoff on this climb - because there's no point reeling in the break if they shed their main man for the sprint finish at Valence... The gap is 1:35 still.


We're onto the Cat.2 Col de l'Escrinet (7.9km at 5.8%) now. This will be quite a key moment - if the break wants to stay away it will need to increase the gap when they go over the summit. Because once at the bottom of the climb there's a 35km flat run to the finish.


History: The Tour's only previous visit to Valance resulted in a win for Colombian Chepe Gonzalez in 1996 but Mark Cavendish won just down the road in Bourg-les-Valance in 2010.

Believe it or not: Renowned smuggler and highwayman Louis Mandrin - aka the Robin Hood of France - came from Valence and was tortured to death in 1755 without making a cry.


Just 1:35 for the leaders with Katusha setting the tempo in front of Sky. It looks like this break may well be doomed...


It's through the feed zone for the riders. Cavendish won a stage in Aubenas in 2008 but this year it's not so lucky - his 23-man gruppetto is only just going through the intermediate sprint. The gap is about seven minutes - and we have that second-category climb coming up too...


John Degenkolb leads the peloton over the line for the points for 10th place, with Greipel on his wheel. They didn't contest that one - it looks like the German has conceded the green jersey to Sagan.


And the answer is no: Sagan and Rogers edge ahead of the other escapees and take points for first and second. They then ride through the centre of town in a selection of very narrow streets - punctuated with storm drains that are real wheel-eaters. The peloton will have to avoid those - could be carnage...


The leaders have entered Aubenas with a lead of two minutes over the pack. The intermediate sprint is coming up in one kilometre. Will anyone contest Sagan for it?


Puncture for Mick Rogers, who needs to ride back to the leaders. He'll be key for Sagan if the Slovakian wants to win today's stage - especially with that climb coming up.


Sean Kelly reckons Sagan will get the win today, as the gap stretches out to more than three minutes. Katusha have come back to the front of the peloton to take over the reins from Sky. They want to set up their man Alexander Kristoff who, like Sagan, is without a win this year, but unlike his rival, he's been pretty much invisible in the race.


You have to admire that man Sagan - despite finishing second for a fourth time on Friday, he got into yesterday's break to mop the points at the intermediate sprint. The climb to Mende was too much for him, but fifth place was another top ten for the consistent Slovakian. And he's in the break again today - and will almost certainly take the points at the intermediate sprint coming right up. If the break stays out, he'll be one of the favourites - and if it comes down to a bunch sprint, then he'll still be able to feature.


The gap has increased to 2:45 for the leaders on this descent, which has flattened out considerably.


The 23 riders of the back of the peloton - which includes Cavendish, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Sep Vanmarcke, Simon Yates and Peter Kennaugh - are seven minutes in arrears now, so there'll be no second stage victory for Cav before the Champs-Elysees, that's for sure. And even in Paris, Andre Greipel may have other plans...


Rain is expected in about 15 minutes so the riders must be catching up with the weather, so to speak. The road is very wet now, with water cascading down the road. Froome is second in the peloton with Quintana two places further back. The leaders have 2:05 to play with.


It must have been raining here recently because the roads are wet on this descent, which will make it tricky. It's not a steep descent, but it's very technical, with many bends and tight corners.


Froome also leads the polka dot jersey standings - although it's double stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez who wears the famous spotted jersey. The Spaniard has 52 points to Froome's 61 - although all could change next week in the Alps.


The riders are now on a long descent that effectively goes on for the next 20-odd kilometres. The gap is just under two minutes, with the Sky team-mates of yellow jersey Chris Froome setting the tempo. Froome leads Nairo Quintana by 3:10 in the general classification after stealing a second off the Colombian in yesterday's finale. American Tejay Van Garderen slipped to third place at 3:32, with Valverde and Contador completing the top five ahead of Welshman Geraint Thomas.


That climb is followed immediately by another Cat.4 climb, the Col de la Croix de Bauzon, which Michael Rogers crests in pole position.


Pinot leads the break over the Cat.4 Col du Bez for one KOM point.


Lars Bak is a bit of a deadweight in the break, knowing that his team will want to bring it back for their man Greipel at the finish. The nine leaders have 1:45 over the peloton, which has caught those other early escapees but which has split in two, with a second group including Cavendish another four minutes back.


Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin) has quit the race.


The nine leaders are: Pinot (FDJ), Rogers and Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Bak (Lotto Soudal), Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), S. Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Kwiatkowski and Trentin (both Etixx-QuickStep) and Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin).


Now nine of those 27 leaders have managed to force the break to split in two - and that was all because of the hard work of Sagan, the green jersey. He has four second-place finishes in this year's Tour and he clearly wants to end a barren run that stretched back to 2013. Sagan leads Andre Greipel by 322 points to 261 after being in yesterday's break and taking maximum points at the intermediate sprint, plus finishing fifth at the end.


Katusha are leading the chase for their sprinter Alexander Kristoff - this is also because Britain's Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quickstep) is one of many riders who have lost touch with the pack.


The leading group has swollen to 27 riders: Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Michael Rogers and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Winner Anacona and José Herrada (Movistar), Lars Bak and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Simon Geschke (Giant), Purito Rodriguez (Katusha), Adam Yates (Orica), Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin and Rigo Uran (Etixx), Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL), Bob Jungels (Trek), Kristjian Durasek and Ruben Plaza (Lampre), Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Paul Voss (Bora) and Serge Pauwels (MTN).


Serge Pauwels (MTN) picked up 2pts over the top of the Cote de Badaroux ahead of Lieuwe Westra (Astana) 1pt.


17 riders - including the green jersey Peter Sagan - have opened up a gap over the peloton.


The 172 remaining riders roll out of Mende under bright sunshine but with a more clement temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 15 of the Tour de France - a rolling 183km ride from Mende to Valence that could well end in a mass bunch sprint if certain teams control matters and bring it back before the end.