Thomas keeps lead before Tour’s decisive week in Pyrenees

Thomas keeps lead before Tour’s decisive week in Pyrenees

Thomas keeps lead before Tour’s decisive week in Pyrenees

Nielsen was one two Astana riders who fought hard to get in a breakaway group of 29 riders, along with compatriot Michael Valgren.

The Welshman's rivals for cycling's most prestigious prize, which include teammate Froome in second place, mostly held back over the hilly Stage 15 with a decisive final week of racing ahead.

The former Barcelona playmaker came off the bench after 58 minutes with Kobe already trailing by two goals and, despite one or two trademark flicks, was unable to inspire a comeback in front of a crowd of 26,000.

Thomas, Froome and the rest of the overall contenders slowly rolled across the finish line at Carcassonne and its medieval city walls 13 minutes after stage victor Magnus Cort Nielsen of Denmark.

The Netherlands' Tom Dumoulin remains third at 1:50, while Slovenia's Primož Roglič is fourth at 2:38.

"The team really believed in me, and they were the ones that put a marker on this stage and said that it would suit me very well", Cort said. "You don't know if he is really suffering or just pacing himself".

The 15th stage of the Grand Tour saw riders faced with a 181 kilometres route from Millau featuring three categorised climbs. When I was in the break, I had him behind me in the vehicle and he explained everything, and I always knew what was coming and for sure that was a big help as well. "I knew that I still had another gear".

He added: "I'm not sure they would like to have seen their (France) football players being spat at (the World Cup) in Russian Federation".

Fraile had time to celebrate before crossing the line, finishing six seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe, the Frenchman wearing the polka-dot jersey awarded to the Tour's best climber.

With that job done, Froome latched on to a move from Irishman Dan Martin, eventually catching Dumoulin to finish third on the stage, 20 seconds back. It's my first year here at the Tour and I'm so happy to take a victory here.

The race expulsion adds to the 24-year-old Italian's troubled disciplinary record after he was suspended last year for racially abusing FDJ's Kevin Reza during the Tour de Romandie. The Basque rider also won the mountains classification in the Spanish Vuelta in 2015 and 2016.

The GC contenders were content to allow a win from the breakaway today, meaning Sky's Geraint Thomas hangs on to the yellow jersey going into the rest day on Monday.

Former French cyclist Jerome Chiotti, who in 2000 admitted doping with the Festina team, compared Sky's dominant performances to those of disgraced American Lance Armstrong and his US Postal team. We're trying to remain dignified, we're trying not to react and we're trying not to get distracted by it.

In September previous year, Moscon was disqualified from the UCI World Championships road race when video emerged of him taking a tow from the Italian team vehicle after he was caught up in a crash on the penultimate lap.

The steep 10% average gradient climb was just too much for the Belgian rider though, as it was for Slagter after his earlier efforts.

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