Tour de France 2015 recap: How the race unfolded

Stage 1: Utrecht (ITT), 13.8km

Stage winner: Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing)
Yellow jersey: Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing)

What happened: Endless blue skies and huge crowds created the backdrop for the first stage of this year’s Tour de France with a city-centre test around Dutch venue of Utrecht. Rohan Dennis (BMC) was among the earlier starters and the former UCI Hour Record holder held off a volley of challengers including former world time trial champions Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Whether it was the fastest time trial ever recorded at the Tour is still open to debate but there was no doubting Dennis’ phenomenal performance.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was the best of the 'fab four' as he crossed the line in 22nd place. 2013 champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) was next in 39th place, seven seconds down on Nibali, with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) conceding 15 seconds and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 18 seconds.

He said what? "It started to sink in when I saw the big threats come in behind me. It was surreal but a few emotions came out." - Rohan Dennis.

Stage 1 results | Stage 1 podcast

Stage 2: Utrecht – Zelande, 166km

Stage winner: André Greipel (Lotto Soudal)
Yellow jersey: Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing)

What happened: André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) timed his sprint to perfection after Etixx-QuickStep and Mark Cavendish threw away all the hard work they had put into making the stage. It was Cavendish’s team who had split the race in the Dutch cross winds, with overnight leader Dennis, Quintana, and Nibali all caught out and losing over a minute.

Contador, Froome, Tejay van Garderen and a number of sprinters made the cut with Tinkoff-Saxo the most willing team to work with Etixx. In the dash for the line Geipel held his nerve in the face of a buffeting headwind, while Cancellara’s third place behind Greipel and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) ensured that the Swiss rider picked up enough time bonuses to take yellow from under Tony Martin’s nose. A double whammy for Etixx-QuickStep but they faired better than LottoNL-Jumbo, who saw Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam lose several minutes.

He said what? "Today, I thought it was more for the sprinters. I was coming to the Tour to win and get the yellow yesterday, and I didn’t win yesterday and not today, but I made a nice sprint at the end and I got third and the yellow and that is really a success. It’s always special." - Fabian Cancellara.

Stage 2 results | Stage 2 podcast

Stage 3: Anvers - Huy, 159.5km

Stage winner: Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

What happened: Another day of high drama with the race leaving Holland and dipping into Ardennes country. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals on the Mur de Huy in a stage dubbed as La Flèche Wallonne Part Two, while Froome was the best of the chasing bunch and secured enough time to move into the yellow jersey for the first time since his overall win in 2013. Alberto Contador showed signs of weakness, briefly following Froome before losing ground but the major talking point of the stage came with 58km remaining.

A high-speed crash involving race leader Cancellara and a number of other riders led to the race being neutralised on three occasions over the next eight kilometres due to safety concerns after all of the race doctors were busy treating the fallen. Cancellara finished the stage but lost five minutes. He was later diagnosed with broken vertebrae and left the race, while Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin abandoned with a broken collarbone and Orica-GreenEdge lost both Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey to broken bones.

Froome’s performance once again meant that Tony Martin missed out on yellow, this time by a second, as van Garderen moved up into third overall.

He said what? "We started at the bottom of the Mur de Huy, all of us in a very tough pace, I wasn't sure I could win, but I realized I had the chance and I accelerated. It felt as though it was the longest ever I've spent going up the Mur de Huy. It was a really tough stage today. I'll have to wait and see what happens in the following stages. For now. I've lost my fear." - Joaquim Rodriguez.

Stage 3 results | Stage 3 podcast

Stage 4: Seraing – Cambrai, 223.5km

Stage winner: Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep)
Yellow jersey: Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep)

What happened: After a number of near misses Etixx and Tony Martin hit the jackpot on the cobbled stage of the Tour de France with the German attacking from a select group to win ahead of John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Alpecin) and Sagan. That Martin managed to win on his teammate Matteo Trentin’s bike made his triumph all the more impressive.

Before Martin’s attack, the peloton took on seven sectors of cobbles and although the drama of last year may have been missing the GC contenders at least came to the fore with Nibali and Froome sparring as Contador and Quintana held firm. Nibali won the prize as the most aggressive rider but his accelerations were unable to dislodge the intended opposition.

By the end of the stage Martin had moved 12 second clear of Froome with Team Sky the winners having weathered the storm and passed the responsibility of yellow onto another team.

He said what?: "I just hope Tony doesn't want to ride my bike for the rest of the Tour." - Matteo Trentin.

Stage 4 results | Stage 4 podcast

Stage 5: Arras Communauté Urbaine - Amiens Métropole, 189.5km

Stage winner: André Greipel (Lotto Soudal)
Yellow jersey: Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep)

What happened: After three days of intense racing the Tour de France returned to some form of normality with André Greipel claiming his second stage of the race with Sagan and Cavendish finishing second and third.

Once again the German, full of confidence after his earlier win, timed his sprint to perfection, allowing for Alexandre Kristoff and a number of eager opponents to move into a headwind far too early.

The stage wasn’t completely incident-free, though, with crosswinds once again splitting the bunch and Nacer Bouhanni and Jack Bauer both crashing out.

He said what? “You'd do well to speak to Greipel, he’s the guy who won today. I think instead of the news being that I'm beaten again, maybe it should be that Greipel has won. He's a phenomenal sprinter, he's in the green jersey and that's the second stage he won this year.” - Mark Cavendish

Stage 5 results | Stage 5 podcast

Stage 6: Abbeville - Le Havre, 191.5km

Stage winner: Zdeněk Štybar (Etixx-QuickStep)
Yellow jersey: Tony Martin (Etixx QuickStep)

How it happened: The Tour de France’s second uphill finish and yet another jaw-dropping ending that saw Zdeněk Štybar sail away from the rest of the peloton but his teammate and race leader fall with the finish insight. Martin’s tumble appeared to take place in slow motion with the German losing his front wheel on the final climb and falling to his right, causing a mass pile up that took out Nibali and Quintana. Froome skilfully stayed upright despite Nibali making contact but it was Martin who came off worst, shattering a collarbone into several pieces. The sight of his Etixx-QuickStep teammates shepherding him over the line created one of the most poignant portraits of the race.

In the post-stage ruckus Froome jumped onto the Astana bus to clear the air with Nibali, who denied accusations of throwing a bottle at the British rider after the crash, while Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN – Qhubeka) made history by claiming the mountains jersey.

He said what? “I was really very angry. In the heat of the moment, I was very angry with him. At the time, I thought he was the one who had hit me and caused the fall, but that wasn’t the case. I’ve watched the video since and I’ve seen that it was Tony Martin’s crash that brought us down. Froome came on the bus to clear things up and I apologised to him as well.” - Vincenzo Nibali.

Stage 6 results | Stage 6 podcast

Stage 7: Livarot – Fougères, 190.5km

Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: You write Mark Cavendish off at your own peril and on the road to Fougères the Manx Missile finally timed it right to win ahead of his main rivals and claim his 26th Tour de France stage. He’s still only 30.

Unlike in his previous two sprints Cavendish waited until the final 150 metres as Greipel opened his sprint. The Etixx rider came through with expert ease, having been dropped off on Kristoff’s wheel by Mark Renshaw. The key moment came when Cavendish spotted a gap between the Norwegian and Greipel, and in the blink of an eye came through to take his first Tour stage in two years. With so few sprint stages in this year’s race the win was all the more important.

The yellow jersey passed to Froome at the end of the stage with Tony Martin an expected DNS, the German already in the operating theatre to repair his shoulder.

He said what? “I wanted it. I had a feeling about the sprint when I was lying in my room with my wife and daughter. I just had this feeling. I was relaxed and knew that I would be okay.” - Mark Cavendish.

Stage 7 results | Stage 7 podcast

Stage 8: Rennes - Mûr-de-Bretagne, 181.5km

Stage winner: Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Another astute finishing move, this time from the young Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz who almost found himself without a contract until AG2R offered him a lifeline.

Vuillermoz attacked twice on the final ascent of the stage, the second acceleration enough for him to gap the main field as Froome set about the pace duties. A late attack from Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) brought the Irishman a well-deserved second place after he found himself boxed in and against the barriers just as Vuillermoz launched his winning attack.

Most of Froome’s main rivals finished in the same time as the race leader but Vincenzo Nibali surprisingly cracked and conceded 10 seconds.

He said what? “I'm not sure that in the mountains I'll be able to take on Chris Froome, but on a finish like this, I'm a puncheur, I can take my chances. It's the sort of climb that suits me, so I feel very good about today. Not in the mountains. Everyone has their speciality, this one is mine. In the mountains I'll be there to help my team leaders.” - Alexis Vuillermoz

Stage 8 results | Stage 8 podcast

Stage 9: Vannes - Plumelec (TTT),  28km

Stage winner: BMC Racing
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: The stage win and the yellow jersey were within BMC’s grasp coming into stage 9 with van Garderen, Froome’s closest GC rival. However, the American team were unable to dislodge Team Sky’s grip on yellow, despite a close finish and eventual stage win for the team time trial world champions.

In fact Team Sky appeared to have the stage in the bag when they began the final climb five seconds up on their rivals. However, the British team came unstuck with the line insight, with Nicolas Roche tightening up and his slowing team missing out on stage by less than a single second.

Nairo Quintana’s Movistar finished an impressive third place at four seconds down, while Contador and his team finished 28 seconds down and in fourth. Nibali once again found himself and his team in trouble with a 35-second deficit to BMC.

He said what? "I expected something similar from Team Sky and BMC. With a difference of point six of a second, we can't know where we've lost and what have we missed. At the end everyone has seen that Nicolas Roche was struggling a bit but this is the nature of team time trial. He has given so much before!” - Chris Froome.

Stage 9 results | Stage 9 podcast

Stage 10: Tarbes - La Pierre-Saint-Martin, 167km

Stage winner: Chris Froome(Team Sky)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Team Sky dealt a huge blow to their rivals’ chances of winning the Tour de France with a supreme ride in the first Pyrenean test. It was as crushing as Froome’s ride on Mont Ventoux back in 2013 with the maillot jaune distancing the rest of the peloton. His first attack came with 6.5km remaining, with Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali already distanced after a relentless pace setting from Richie Porte. Only Nairo Quintana managed to hold the race leader and his lieutenant but when Froome attacked, the Colombian had no response.

By the time Froome had reached the summit he had put 1:04 in Movistar’s best hope plus six seconds in time bonuses, while Porte had enough in the tank to claw his way back and finish second on the stage. Van Garderen also suffered but hung onto third, while Nibali and Contador were already out of the picture.

Stage 10 results | Stage 10 podcast

Stage 11: Cauterets - Vallée de Saint-Savin, 188km

Stage winner: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: The Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet failed to see the main GC riders distance each other, although Vincenzo Nibali still managed to lose time on the final climb of the stage after he and his Astana team had set the pace on the Tourmalet. Rafal Majka attacked from the day’s main break to secure Tinkoff Saxo’s first Tour de France stage win of the race, while Dan Martin picked up another second place.

Stage 11 results | Stage 11 podcast

Stage 12: Lannemezan - Plateau de Beille, 195km

Stage winner: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Just as in 2011, the climb up to Plateau de Beille failed to deliver any significant battles between the overall contenders with Froome and his team – most notably Geraint Thomas – fending off attacks from Quintana, Contador and Nibali. The Welshman put in his best ever display in the mountains and in the process solidified his chances of finishing inside the top ten.

The stage honours went to Joaquim Rodríguez who put two poor performances in the Pyrenees behind him to win his second stage of the Tour. The Spaniard made it into the early break and simply had too much for the remaining survivors, Romain Bardet and Jakob Fuglsang.

He said what?: “To win a stage of the Tour is so important. It’s a long time since my first stage win in 2010. I’m like Atlético Madrid – you never really know what to expect from me,” Joaquim Rodríguez.

Stage 12 results | Stage 12 podcast

Stage 13: Muret - Rodez, 198.5km

Stage winner: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: It was a thrilling uphill finish with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) securing his team’s third stage win of the race ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo). The Belgian timed his effort beautifully, allowing the peloton to eat-up the remnants of the early break with less than 200 meters to go before unleashing his sprint for the line. Sagan made it up to the BMC rider’s rear wheel but a combination of hesitation and error gave Van Avermaet the remaining initiative he needed to take his first ever stage in the Tour.

He said what?: “It was mistake because I was waiting for too long. I was pushing out of the saddle and then I came to his Van Avermaet’s wheel and I sat down. That was my mistake because I needed to carry on pushing so that I could win. But it was my mistake and I’m pissed now." – Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo)

Stage 13 results | Stage 13 podcast

Stage 14: Rodez – Mende, 178.5km

Stage winner: Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) looked dead and buried when Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) attacked from the break on the Côte de la Croix Neuve but the canny Englishman dug deep and paced himself beautifully up the climb before making contact with the French pair close to the summit. Seizing the initiative he dove down the inside on the descent to the line and the gap he created was enough to take his and his team’s first stage win in the Tour de France.

When the GC contenders hit the climb Quintana attacked but Froome held firm an even pulled out an extra second when he outsprinted the Colombian on the line. Contador, Valverde, Nibali and van Garderen all lost time with Quintana even managing to move into second at van Garderen’s expense.

He said what?: "I wasn't the strongest, I knew there were better climbers. I knew it would be really difficult to win. I was always waiting in the last 10km for an opportunity, but it was clear that FDJ were going to try and control it for Pinot, so I took advantage of that and waited and waited.” - Steve Cummings.

Stage 15: Mende - Valence, 183km

Stage winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) took out his third stage win of the 2015 Tour de France with a combination of guts and his gorilla strength. The German made it over the category 2 Col de l'Escrinet, where others such as Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) didn't. A late attack by Stybar disrupted any semblance of an organised lead-out, and Greipel was left to freelance his way to the finish.

Greipel followed Kristoff through a series of turns in the final 500m, and then pounced, holding off his compatriot John Degenkolb to make a hat-trick of victories.

The GC men remained in the main bunch.

He said what?: “The peloton never slowed down and I was hanging on as long as possible. It was dangerous with the cross winds and everything. But in the end the team put me in the perfect spot to launch my sprint. In the end, when I can see the finish, I can always find some extra power. I’m really happy that I could make it.” – Andre Greipel.

Stage 15 results | Stage 15 podcast

Stage 16: Bourg-de-Péage - Gap, 201km

Stage winner: Ruben Plaza (Lampre Merida)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Ruben Plaza (Lampre Merida) soloed to the win on stage 16 of the Tour de France into Gap after jumping clear of the day’s main break on the final climb of the Col de Manse.

Stage 16 results | Stage 16 podcast

Stage 17: Digne-les-Bains - Pra-Loup, 161km

Stage winner: Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: The Tour moved back into the mountains with the first major test in the Alps. Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) was the surprise winner, attacking from a large but uncoordinated breakaway just before the foot of the category 1 Col d’Allos, before holding his lead down the mountain and up the short final climb to Pra Loup.

Stage 17 results | Stage 17 podcast

Stage 18: Gap - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 186.5km

Stage winner: Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: Romain Bardet had been in a number of breaks in the Tour but had yet to come away with a stage win to salvage his race. That all changed on stage 18 when the French climber attacked near the crest of the Category Col du Glandon. What followed was a descending masterclass full panache, risk taking and adrenaline enducing speed. The win also moved Bardet into the top ten. There were no major changes inside the top five.

He said what?: “It was a very tricky start today. I think everyone was pretty tired at the start of today, so it was tough for everyone. I’m a good descender so I had just enough energy left at the end to get across the line. I knew the end of this stage really well. We took it on at the end of the Dauphiné as well, so I know this route by heart. The last kilometres, even though I knew them well, were very long.” Romain Bardet.

Stage 18 results | Stage 18 podcast

Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - La Toussuire - Les Sybelles, 138km

Stage winner: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

In the race for yellow Nairo Quintana finally put time into Froome on the final climb but his 30-second gain still left him 2:38 behind the yellow jersey with just one mountain stage remaining. Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas, fourth as the day began, was distanced definitively on the Col de la Croix de Fer and would end up losing more than 22 minutes to slip to 15th overall.

He said what?: “He did see what he was doing, I’m pretty sure he looked around, saw I was in trouble and attacked. In my opinion you don’t do that to the race leader, it’s not sportsmanlike.” Froome.

Stage 19 results | Stage 19 podcast

Stage winner: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: The final battleground of this year’s race saw Pinot claim the biggest win of his career and Froome hold firm in the face of Movistar’s and Quintana’s full might. The Spanish team hit Froome with a series of attacks on the first climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer but Team Sky pulled the race back together before the final ascent to Alpe d’Huez. Once again Quintana and Valverde looked to put Froome on the back foot and they succeeded, with the race leader needing his team to help limit his losses. Despite a valiant effort from Quintana the maillot jaune held firm and finished the stage with 1:12 of his lead intact. For Pinot, who had been on the attack throughout, it was a fabulous win for him, FDJ and France.

Stage 20 results | Stage 20 podcast

Stage 21: èvres - Grand Paris Seine Ouest - Paris Champs-Elysees, 109.5km

Stage winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal)
Yellow jersey: Chris Froome (Team Sky)

How it happened: André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) secured his fourth stage win of this year’s Tour de France with a comprehensive sprint win in Paris on Sunday. The German edged out Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) on the Champs-Élysées in a thrilling finale to this year’s race.

Further back in the peloton, Chris Froome crossed the line arm in arm with his Team Sky teammates and celebrated his second Tour de France title in three years.

He said what? "The maillot jaune is special, very special. I understand its history, good and bad. I will always respect it. Never dishonour it, and I will always be proud to have won it. Thank you very much." - Chris Froome

Stage 21 results | Stage 21 podcast




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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.