For his first Tour de France stage win on the final transition stage before the Pyrenees, Magnus Cort (Astana) takes the Zwift Rider of the Day for stage 15. The Dane beat Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) in a three-up sprint in Carcassonne.
Featuring a first category climb 40km from the finish, it didn't at first glance appear to be a stage suited to the Dane's abilities. A sprinter who can climb well, it was nonetheless something of a surprise to see him outclimb the likes of Izagirre, his Bahrain teammate Domenico Pozzovivo, and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Énergie) on the 12.3km, 6.3 per cent Pic de Nore.
He worked with Mollema after Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked midway up the climb, detonating the day's large breakaway group. The pair rode 30 seconds behind Majka for the remains of the climb, before a regrouping at the bottom of the descent saw that lead trio join up with Izagirre, Pozzovivo, Calmejane, Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) and Cort's teammate Michael Valgren for the flat and windy run-in to the finish.
Cort found his way to the front after the attacks started inside the final 10km, ending up accompanied by a duo of veritable non-sprinters in Izagirre and Mollema. All that was left, as if it was the simplest task in the world, was to cover any attacks (the Spaniard launched the only full-throated attempt to get away), before easily outsprinting the pair to take another win for Astana.
The win is the biggest of the versatile Dane's career so far, surpassing his two sprint wins in the 2016 Vuelta a España. Then in his second year as a professional with Orica-GreenEdge, those victories were just his second and third as a pro - coming at the age of just 23.
Now 25, he can add this stage win to stages at the Tour of Oman and the Tour de Yorkshire this season, while the spring also saw him progress in the classics. A top 10 at Milan-Sanremo was followed up by 20 the at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, hinting at where his racing future could be focused. But for now let's savour this impressive victory.
Daniel Ostanek: Considering the likes of Thomas De Gendt, Lilian Calmejane and Julian Alaphilippe seem to be semi-permanent fixtures in the breakaway at this point in the race, Cort is probably not the name you'd immediately jot down when thinking of favourites for this stage. He showed up superior climbers with his performance on the Pic de Nore today though, before sealing the sprint with minimal fuss. A masterclass from the Dane and his Astana team.
On Saturday's 14 you picked Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven as your Zwift Rider of the Day. The Belgian followed a Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) attack 60km from the line before going solo with 35km remaining. On the final climb in Mends, Stuyven's effort came to an end just 2km from the line as he was caught by Astana's Omar Fraile. It was heartbreaking to watch after his solo ride but he still managed to salvage third on the day.
You can vote for stage 15's Zwift Rider of the Day below. We will announce the reader's poll winner after Tuesday's stage 16.
Who's your pick for stage 15's Zwift Rider of the Day at the #TDF2018 ? Choose from Cort Nielsen's winning ride, Majka attacking the climb, or Dan Martin giving us some action in the peloton— Cyclingnews.com (@Cyclingnewsfeed) July 22, 2018