The 15th stage of this year’s Tour de France from Millau to Carcassonne was enliven by three riders. Two of them played the role of protagonist while the third was an antagonist.
On a day where the GC favorites were content to let the break gain over 13 minutes, Dan Martin became so bored that he attacked just to break up the monotony. He was lying in 10th place overall, nearly seven minutes back but decided to wake up Team Sky with an aggressive move off the front 10 kilometers from the summit of the Pic de Nore.
“I was bored, to be honest,” said Martin. “Sky and Lotto-Jumbo were blocking the road. They just wanted to go really easy on the climb. I thought, why not try something?”
Try he did — at one point he cracked open a one minute gap on the peloton before Sky upped the pace and brought him back to the fold. Nice try and fans around the world appreciated the effort to inject some excitement.
The second protagonist was Magnus Cort (Astana). He made the large break of the day along with teammate Michael Valgren and 26 other riders. That group would gradually whittle down until it was just three men — Cort, Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).
The Dane was was the only one with a reputation for sprinting and so the conclusion was largely a given. Even though forced to lead out the sprint, Cort easily beat his rivals, taking his first Tour stage to go along with two stages of the Vuelta a Espana. It was a perfect weekend for Astana in the Massif Central with Omar Fraile taking the victory in Mende on Saturday.
The there was the antagonist of the day: Team Sky’s oft-misbehaving Gianni Moscon. The Italian couldn’t even wait for the race to get one kilometer past the start before he backhanded Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Samsic) in the face.
Race commissaires threw Moscon out of the race, citing article UCI regulations on “acts of violence among riders” which also merits disqualification in the event of “particular serious aggression.”
Given Moscon’s consistent ugly behavior dating back to last season, it was no surprise he was tossed. It there was a Tour competition for the Asshole’s jersey, Moscon would have an insurmountable lead.
But on to the Pyrenees and Bagnères-de-Luchon. There will hopefully be plenty of GC protagonists on the attack in the mountains. You hear that Nairo Quintana?