On Sunday, the peloton faced their first real test in the Pyrenees with Stage 15 of the Tour de France, which began in Ceret and ended in swanky Andorra. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) became the first American to win a stage in the Tour de France in ten years with an impressive finish at Stage 15 Andorre-La-Vielle.

Sepp Kuss Le Tour de France Stage 15 Andorra American Jumbo Visma
Sepp Kuss from Jumbo-Visma wins Stage 15 of the Tour de France during a difficult mountain stage in the Pyrenees, which ended in Andorra. (Image: Getty)

Kuss, originally from Durango, Colorado, became the tenth American to win a stage on the Tour de France. Tyler Farrar was the last rider from America to win a stage back in 2011.

2021 TOUR de FRANCE – STAGE 15 RESULTS
  1. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) 5:12:06
  2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:23
  3. Wout Poels (Baharain Victorious) +1:15

The 191 km route for Stage 15 began in Ceret before ending in the principality of Andorra, which is a tax haven nestled in the Pyrenees in between France and Spain. Many riders on the tour reside and train in Andorra in the offseason to train, including Kuss.

The rider who reaches the summit of the highest point of the Tour de France wins the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, a prestigious honor named after the godfather of Le Tour. This year, the summit of Port d’Envalira in Andorra marked the highest point at 2,409 meters. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) was the first rider to reach the top of Port d’Envalira and he won his third Henri Desgrange trophy.

Stage 15: Ceret > Andorre-La-Vielle

The toughest part of Stage 15 were back-to-back ascents of Category 2 Col du Puymorens and Category 1 Port d’Envalira in Andorra. The summit of Port d’Envalira marked the high-point before the riders faced a long descent before the final climb of the day at Category 1 Col de Beixalis and a downhill finish at Andorre-La-Vielle.

Quintana eluded the original breakaway group of 32 riders and crushed the ascent of Port d’Envalira and reached the summit before Van Aert and Wout Poels. On the descent, Julian Alaphilippe attacked in hopes to trimming Quintana’s lead. The chase pack caught Quintana, and he was dropped by Kuss and David Gaudu with 20km to go.

Kuss took over a solo lead shortly before the summit at Col de Beixalis with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alaphilippe chasing him down on the sharp hairpin turns. Kuss held off Alejandro by 23 seconds as he reached the finish line at Andorre-La-Vielle to win Stage 15.

“It’s incredible,” said Kuss. “I was really suffering in this Tour. I didn’t feel I had the spice in the legs. Today I knew we were finishing in the place where I live, and I am so happy. It was a hard day in the breakaway. I don’t know the climb so much from training because it’s really hard. Still can’t believe I am in the Tour, much less winning a stage.”

Kuss, who won a stage at the Vuelta in Spain in 2019, secured his first stage win on Le Tour.

Jumbo-Visma is down to five riders after three exited Le Tour due to crashes. Jumbo-Visma locked up their second stage win on Le Tour, including Wout Van Aert’s victory at Mont Ventoux in Stage 11.

On Deck: Rest Day > Stage 16 Pas de la Case

The peloton has their second and final rest day on Monday, before they finish the final week of Le Tour. There are six more stages remaining in the Tour de France, including two more epic mountain stages in the Pyrenees, one more individual time trial, and two more flat stages.

If sprinter Mark Cavendish survives a few more days in the mountains, he’ll have two more shots at breaking Eddy Merckx’s record for most stage wins with sprint finishes in Stage 19 and Stage 21.

Stage 16 begins on Tuesday in Pas de la Case.and ends 169 km later in Saint Gaudens. This hilly stage is essentially a mountain stage with two Category 1 climbs to the top of Col de Port and Col de la Core.

2021 LE TOUR – OVERALL GC STANDINGS
  1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 62:07:18
  2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) +05:18
  3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +05:32
  4. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +05:33
  5. Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen Team) +05:58

After rocketing into second place with a win in Stage 14, Bauke Mollema dropped out of contention. Tadej Pogacar took another huge step toward slamming the door shut on back-to-back victories at the Tour de France. Pogacar is still a huge favorite at -1420 odds to win the Tour de France.

Pogacar continues to hold a five-plus minute lead over the other GC contenders. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) moved back into second overall, but he trails Pogacar by 5:18.

Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.

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