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Tour de France 2018: Stage 15

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Bonjour and welcome to our live coverage of stage 15.

It is yet another testing stage, with some testing climbs early, on, mid-stage and in the finale. 

Tom Dumoulin has signed on. He is third overall, 1:50 down on Thomas. 

From the CN blimp we can see Geraint Thomas is about to sign on. 

Thomas gets a quiet welcome from the crowd. 

Saturday's stage winner Omar Fraile signs on and gets a special award and photo book from technical director Thierry Gouvenou.

Today's stage takes the riders southwest from MIllau to Carcassonne at the foot of the Pyrenees. 

We can expect lots of sunflowers, wheat fields, rolling roads and perhaps some wind.

It's another day for a breakaway – arguably even more so than the previous day.

The local rider in the Tarn department nowadays is Direct Energie's Lilian Calmejane, who won stage 8 to Les Rousses in his first Tour de France participation last year.

Some riders signed on early today and are now on the rollers warming up for the expected fast and aggressive start.

Next to sign on is Peter Sagan. He is again in green.

Asked if he will go inn the break, Sagan said:

Were 7 minutes away from the roll out of the stage.

The sun is out in Millau as the riders begin to line-up for the start of the stage.

This was the stage result yesterday. The main peloton finished 18 minutes behind.

The climb up to the Mende airstrip sparked some gaps amongst the GC riders. This is the current top ten. 

Even Thomas and all of Team Sky warmed up for the expected fast start.

The riders roll out from Millau. Here we go!  

This is the Millau viaduct.  Fortunately for any riders who suffer with heights, the stage passes underneath.

As usual, the riders are packed tight  behind the race director's red car waiting for the flag to be dropped.

The riders can see the viaduct and so know the start is only 1km away.

181km remaining from 181km

And the attacks come. 

The stage starts with three short but steep climbs. It's ideal for a break to go away. 

Adam Yates kicks clear but is alone. 

The peloton is lined out behind him, with some riders already suffering. 

Yates is hoping other riders will join him. He's no longer a GC contender - he's down to 27th at 39 minutes and so is keen to bounce back and is trying to win a stage.   

176km remaining from 181km

Ouch. Demare is struggling behind whenever the road heads upwards.

Warren Barguil attacks on the climb to try and take the points. Pozzovivo and Van Garderen react, so do the rest of the peloton. 

The high speed means that several riders are being spat out the back.

There's a headwind on the climb but Alaphilippe is on the move.

Alaphilippe takes maximum points but the peloton reacts.

Alaphilippe scored just two points but they could be precious if Warren Barguil goes on the attack in the Pyrenees to try and take the polka-dot jersey.  

There is now 18 points between the two in the mountains classification/

Anthony Perez (Cofidis) is the next to attack on the descent. 

We stand corrected on the mountains points. Alaphilippe now leads Barguil by 22 points. 

164km remaining from 181km

Team Sky and Geraint Thomas are covering accelerations at the head of the peloton. 

Adam Yates and Barguil try again.  

The third early climb is helping Yates, Barguil and Muhlberger of Bora extend their gap. 

22km remaining from 181km

154km remaining from 181km

150km remaining from 181km

Edvald Boasson Hagen makes a second attempt to go across the gap.

147km remaining from 181km

144km remaining from 181km

143km remaining from 181km

When one attacks is caught, another goes clear.

Alaphilippe has dropped back to the team car and DS Bramati makes it clear he has to stay relaxed and focus.

137km remaining from 181km

Peter Sagan was caught behind but made a huge effort to get across the gap. 

This time the peloton seems to have let them go. 

There are some talented breakaway riders in the 29-rider move.

131km remaining from 181km

The break is riding smoothly together, pushing the gap up with every pedal stroke.

There is a slight cross wind and so Team Sky is spread across the road at the head of the peloton.

Two idiots on the roadside light flares but a rider tries to knock it to the ground.

124km remaining from 181km

122km remaining from 181km

As the stage rolls on, Lotto Soudal have surprisingly announced that Andre Greipel will not be with the team in 2019.

119km remaining from 181km

116km remaining from 181km

Today's stage is strangely reminiscent of yesterday's stage -- large group, large gap, Sky keeping the peloton under strict control. We wonder if the gap will explode to 20 minutes as it did yesterday?

With 111km to go, the gap to the Sky-led peloton is up to 6:33.

Meanwhile, Calmejane topped the Col de Sie alone and took the five points. 

Arnaud Demare, Ramon Sinkeldam and Guillaume van Keirsbulck have taken advantage of the relatively slow pace of the peloton and have now caught up again, making up a deficit of some five minutes. 

Direct Energy DS Benoit Genauzeau tells letour.fr that Calmejane's solo attack was not part of the team plan. “Lilian knows the roads at perfection”, he said. “He has taken a big risk. The other breakaway riders can’t be underestimated. There are three strong teams there. But there wasn’t much to do to stop him.”

Calmejane's lead over the large group has fallen to only 28 seconds, but the peloton is still 6:37 back.

101km remaining from 181km

Chad Haga (Sunweb) falls back to the team car. Near the front of the field, Tom Dumoulin has four teammates with him.

Looks like quite a parade of teams in teh peloton: All of Sky, followed by (almost) all of Sunweb, followed by all of LottoNL-Jumbo.

The lead group is on the descent and who has taken a short lead? None other than green jersey Peter Sagan!

Thomas, Zakarin and a handful of others making their way up through the team cars, probably after a nature break. 

Andre Greipel is not the only one leaving Lotto Soudal. His buddy Marcel Sieberg has confirmed on Twitter that he too is leaving the team at the end of the season. He will announce his new team, rumoured to be Bahrain-Merida, in August. 

Six riders have tried to jump from the lead group and tried to get away, including Sagan and Terpstra. That didn't work, and they are all together again. 

81km remaining from 181km

Skijuns, van Avermaet and a Direct Energy rider are the next to take off.

The Direct Energy rider is Grellier, as the gap has now grown to 8:20.

One reason, no doubt, that the gap has suddenly blown up is that the peloton has just gone through the feed one. Takes time to gather those bags, and inspect and stow the contents!

76km remaining from 181km

The trio has been caught. The chase led to a break in the large field of 29, but it looks like they are now all back together.  At least for the moment.

Grellier takes off again.

Grellier is having more luck alone. He now has 11 seconds on the group.

66km remaining from 181km

The peloton is now 10:15 behind the break. They eased up at the feed zone and like many of us, seem to been enjoying a long Sunday lunch. 

Julien Bernard and Fabien Grellier are off the front, 3km from the intermediate sprint in Mazamet.

Soon after the Pic de Nore -the big climb of the stage kicks in. 

Julien Bernard and Fabien Grellier roll through the sprint, with Sagan taking third. 

Julien Bernard and Fabien Grellier start the Pic de Nore.

The Pic de Nore has a huge red and white tower at the barren summit. The winds could also be a factor today. 

There are reports of strong winds in the valley road to Carcassone after the climb. 

This is a screen grab shot of the summit. 

49km remaining from 181km

Sagan has cracked after the surge in pace. He's 2:00 down on the lead riders now.

There are again huge crowds on the climb. Fortunately they are well behaved today.

Rafal Majka (Bora) attacks the chasers. He seems to have been the green light to attack from Sagan.  

Here we go! We also have attacks in the GC group. 

With 10km of the climb to go, Dan Martin (UAE) accelerates away. 

Majka has caught and passed the attackers and so now leads the race with Bernard.

Majka is alone with 5km of the climb to go, he can enjoy the easier gradient and would be wise to wait for the chasers. Mollema, Pozzovivo and others are only  20 seconds back.  

Dan Martin has opened a gap and seems committed to trying to gain time and move the GC. He flatted at the foot of the climb to Mende yesterday, losing time. 

44km remaining from 181km

42km remaining from 181km

Majka is at the summit of the Pic de Nore. He has to fight a strong side wind.

Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) and Bauke Mollema (Trek) are chasing Majka.

The GC riders are 45km from the summit, with Martin a minute clear on his own. 

Majka and his chasers face a very technical 17km descent now. The road weaves through the forest before the fast road to Carcassonne. 

Wout Poels is leading the chase of Martin for Team Sky.

Martin reaches the summit of the Pic de Nore. 

He is timed at 1:05 ahead of the chasers.

27km remaining from 181km

Martin's gap has reduced to 40 seconds. He's not giving up yet but Team Sky are keeping him in check, while also controlling their GC rivals.

20km remaining from 181km

Majka leads the chasers by just 20 seconds. But he refuses to ease up. 

16km remaining from 181km

Finally Majka realises its useless to fight on alone. He sits up and waits for the 7 chasers.

13km remaining from 181km

10km remaining from 181km

8km remaining from 181km

Astana, Bahrain and Trek have two riders in the attack but can they make their advantage work? 

Nielsen, Izagirre and Mollema have a gap and their teammates are refusing to work with Calmejane. 

Majka is also there but was not able to help Calmejane after his earlier attack.

4km remaining from 181km

The peloton is at 15km to go and hit the exposed roads.

2km remaining from 181km

1km remaining from 181km

Sprint finish!

Nielsen is forced to lead out. 

Nielsen leads through the last curve and is stronger and faster.

The chasers come in some 30 seconds down, with Valgren celebrating his teammates win.

Izagirre took second and Mollema third.

The rest of the 29-rider break comes in but some have crashed in the final metres.

Several of the attackers went down like skittles in the finishing straight. 

Movistar is leading home the GC peloton. 

This is the stage result.

The GC peloton is 3.5km from the finish but riding steady with Sky on the front. 

Cort Nielsen took his first stage victory at the Tour in Carcassonne. He was the fastest finisher of the three and had little problem out sprinting Izagirre and Mollema.

Team Sky bring home the peloton, ensuring that Geraint Thomas stays in the leader's yellow jersey for the second rest day in Carcassonne.

Peter Sagan bring up the rear after being caught by the GC group. 

This is a screen grab of the peloton finishing 13:09 down on Cort Nielsen.

This is the GC after stage 15.

We have the first photographs from the sprint finish. 

This is the moment Magnus Cort Nielsen hits he line.

The Dane celebrates his win on the podium. It is Denmark's 19th stage victory but the first since 2009. 

Magnus Cort Nielsen said of his win:

He was inspired after Astana won on Saturday with Fraile.

Geraint Thomas also waves and smiles on the podium as he pulls on the yellow jersey again.

Thomas again has to autograph a number of yellow jersey.

Team Sky enjoyed a relatively quiet day controlling the peloton.

Peter Sagan got a huge cheer on the podium as Le Tour celebrated his 100th day in the green jersey.

Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) spoke about his solo attack on the last climb. It didn't work out but he was not afraid to try to shake up things.

Martin won the stage to Mur-de-Bretagne in the first week but crashed in Amiens and lost time and lost tine on Saturday with a flat at the foot of the climb to Mende. 

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) spoke briefly about the stage after pulling on a clean yellow jersey.

Thomas, like many in the peloton, is looking forward to Monday's second rest day.

At the start of the stage, Thomas and Sagan chatted while showing off their special jerseys.

Sadly the Dimension Data team have confirmed that Serge Pauwels is out of the Tour after fracturing his right elbow in the crash near the finish.

French journalist Patrick Chasse took this photo of Pauwels as he emerged from the mobile x-ray truck.

The Mitchelton-Scott team has confirmed that Damien Howson has a small fracture  in his pisiform bone in his right hand after the crash near today's finish.

It was another day of stunning scenery at the Tour de France, click here to read our full stage report and full results, and to see out growing photo gallery. 

Geraint Thomas also spoke about the comments made by former teammate Bradley Wiggins on Saturday.

Thomas did not seem impressed with Wiggins' comments. 

Today is the sixth anniversary of Bradley Wiggins' 2012 Tour de France victory. 

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