Cracks start to appear in Alaphilippe's challenge as Yates claims stage 15 of Tour de France

Alex Rea 23:12 21/07/2019
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The pressure is building on the Tour de France yellow-jersey holder.

Simon Yates soloed to his second Tour de France victory of the week oblivious to the fireworks behind him as the battle for the yellow jersey exploded on the ramps up to the Prat d’Albis on stage 15.

Thibaut Pinot darted forward for the second day in a row as the first cracks appeared in Julian Alaphilippe’s challenge, while Geraint Thomas again watched his rivals race up the road in front of him.

The only disappointment for fans at the end of 185 kilometres of entertainment was that Monday’s rest day meant they must wait for the next instalment.

In lieu of a race, Monday will instead be a chance to dissect a general classification in which only 39 seconds separate Thomas in second from Emanuel Buchmann in sixth, and in which Alaphilippe seems to accept he may no longer be a factor despite sitting 95 seconds ahead of Thomas.

“It’s not a surprise that I’m starting to struggle,” said the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider, who did not target the Tour this year but will enjoy an 11th day in yellow when the race resumes in Nimes on Tuesday.

If Alaphilippe is fading, Pinot looks the man in form of all the contenders.

Twenty-four hours after his victory on the mighty Tourmalet, the Groupama-FDJ man was able to distance his rivals in the final kilometres and establish himself as the man most likely to end a 34-year wait for a home winner of the Tour.

His first kick with seven kilometres to go put Thomas in trouble. Alaphilippe tried to follow but quickly discovered he could not, while Pinot’s second dig four and half kilometres from the top left Buchmann and Thomas’ Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal behind.

By the line, Pinot had taken 55 seconds out of Thomas to sit only 15 behind. How he must rue the 100 seconds lost to crosswinds on stage 10.Thomas insisted he was feeling much better than he had when he was distanced a day earlier on the Tourmalet, and interestingly seemed to blame the co-leadership at Ineos for putting him in trouble.

“It’s a difficult one, tactics wise – I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel,” said the Welshman, who gave up 31 seconds to his team-mate.

“I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had to wait a few kilometres and that gave Thibaut Pinot time but at least the legs are responding really well.”

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