Andre Greipel won a thrilling sprint finish to clinch Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday.
Greipel bossed the final sprint in a way you would expect from a two-time victor whose main opponent was absent – and the victory was well deserved after his Lotto-Soudal team kept to the script and played their hand impeccably.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was second and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) third, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) fourth.
General classification leader Chris Froome made it safely to the line and remains three minutes and 10 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“I would blame some of the reporting on the race, it’s very irresponsible”. Froome repeated that claim at the finish in Valence.
“The race leader and his team-mates reported no new outrages, and they have been heartened by messages of support from rival riders and team managers”.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford wants cycling’s governing body to embed anti-doping officials into teams to help prove riders are clean.
Froome said he spotted the spectator acting bizarrely about a third of the way into the day’s 178km west-to-east ride from Rodez to Mende, France.
The pair hardly went head-to-head on Sunday as Cavendish – who is reportedly unwell – had been left behind on the climb out of Mende at the start of the day and rolled home in a group of 23 riders more than 14 minutes behind the victor. Two years ago, with Froome again leading the race, Contador and the Briton came close to crashing when Contador overcooked a corner. There’s no reason in this day and age for that type of suspicion to continue. There is absolutely no reason.
Because of its flat finish, the stage represented the last opportunity for sprinters to shine before climbers take back the spotlight in the Alps next week.
Telling himself “you have to hang on here”, Greipel managed to stay with the pace. Just as he did in winning the Tour for the first time in 2013, the Kenya-born Briton has faced pointed questions about his dominant performances – and those of his teammates – along with insinuations of doping. As they would: After all, Armstrong used to say that, too.
“As I said yesterday (Saturday), it was particular individuals”. “It’s all about the legs”. “I’m not going to give up the race because a few guys are shouting insults”.
Greipel was the first to launch his sprint, hitting the front with roughly 250 metres to go.
“After two weeks of the Tour de France those things kill you”, Lefevere said.
Team Sky’s sports director Nicolas Portal said the day had seen no problems of any kind.
Commissaire Eric Debugny, head of police operations on the Tour, said there were more officers than usual because they were parked at the start of the team buses lane.
“This is something myself and my team have worked extremely hard for and nothing’s going to change how awesome it would be to win this if we do get that far”.
The sprinters’ last chance for a stage win will be on the Champs-Elysees in Paris next Sunday.