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CARCASSONNE, France, July 17 (Reuters) – Belgian Jasper Philipsen claimed his first Tour de France victory by winning a bunch sprint on stage 15 as overall leader Jonas Vingeard and his team suffered a bad day sunday.
Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Philipsen timed his effort perfectly to beat compatriot Wout van Aert and Dane Mads Pedersen to second and third respectively.
“It’s the biggest win you could hope for. I came close several times last year and our ambition was to win this year. There were very few opportunities for the sprinters, so we had to be patient,” Philipsen said.
Vingaard retained the yellow jersey but hit the bridge and lost two of his Jumbo-Visma teammates as Steven Kruijswijk crashed and Primoz Roglic did not start the 202.5km journey from Rodez after failing to recover from his injuries.
With the temperature over 40 degrees Celsius, organizers sprayed parts of the route with water to cool the melting tar before riders passed.
Ineos-Grenadiers runner Tom Pidcock even threw himself into a fountain to cool off after the finish.
Nils Politt and Mikkel Honoré built an advantage of around 2:30 over the peloton while Michael Morkov was dropped early and suffered a test alone at the back.
The breakaway was slowed down with 50km to go, shortly after Vingaard crashed with teammate Tiesj Benoot.
Vingegaard, who appeared to be injury-free, returned to the field and still leads defending champion Tadej Pogacar by two minutes and 22 seconds.
“It wasn’t a memorable day. Today wasn’t the best day with Steven and Primoz dropping out,” the 25-year-old said.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. Tiesj fell in front of me and I couldn’t avoid it. It’s cycling, I just have a few bruises on my left side. I’m fine but it was a bad day.”
Vingegaard will be without two key climbers in his squad for two grueling stages in the Pyrenees that could decide the outcome of the Tour next week.
“If we hadn’t lost Vegard Stake Laengen and George Bennett (with COVID-19) we would be in a different situation,” Pogacar said.
“Now we are on an equal footing. It will be interesting next week.”
Two Frenchmen, Alexis Gougeard and Benjamin Thomas, attacked 48 kilometers from the end.
Thomas, a track pursuit specialist, went solo in the final but was caught 500 meters from the line, leaving the French riders still waiting for their first stage victory in this edition.
His Cofidis team has not won a stage on the Tour since 2008.
“I believed I could do it. If we could have stayed with Alexis, maybe it would have been different,” Thomas said.
“I’m completely dead, I see stars. I didn’t think anymore.”
Monday is a rest day on the Tour de France.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis
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