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Sepp Kuss broke away on the final climb to win stage 15 of the Tour de France, as Tadej Pogacar strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey.

The American rode clear on the ascent of the Col de Beixalis and comfortably held off Alejandro Valverde.

Pogacar repelled several attacks on the punishing 191.3km stage to Andorre-La-Vieille as he extended his race lead.

French hope Guillaume Martin was the big loser dropping from second to ninth in the general classification.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish rolled over the line with just under nine minutes to spare from the cut-off time and will retain the green jersey as the points classification leader when the race resumes after Monday’s rest day.

Kuss, 26, who showed considerable promise with a near faultless ride in the 2020 edition of the race while supporting Primoz Roglic, becomes the first American since Tyler Farrar in 2011 to win a stage at the Tour.

“It’s incredible,” said Kuss.”I was suffering a lot in this Tour, I just didn’t feel I had the spice in the legs but today I knew it was finishing where I live and I was really motivated for that.

“I know the final climb fairly well but I don’t ride it so much in training because it’s so hard. I knew in the beginning it’s really tough so if I got a gap there I could try to hold it to the finish.”

Pogacar stays cool under pressure

Meanwhile, Pogacar delivered a performance befitting his status as the defending champion.

Despite being isolated as Movistar and then Ineos Grenadiers upped the pace on the final two climbs, the Slovenian remained vigilant and shut down repeated attacks as Jonas Vingegaard, Richard Carapaz, Ben O’Connor and Rigoberto Uran, all attempted to drop him.

“We were expecting attacks and Ineos started to do a hard pace pretty soon, but I felt good,” Pogacar said. “I had no worries for the last climb, I just followed the others, it was all okay.

“I’m really happy the time gap didn’t come down because today was one of the hottest days for sure. I felt good and I’m really looking forward to the next week.”

Stage 15 results

1. Sepp Kuss (US/Jumbo Visma) 5hrs 12mins 06secs

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +23secs

3. Wout Poels (Ned/Bahrain-Victorious) 1mins 15secs

4. Ion Izagirre (Spa/Astana) Same time

5. Ruben Guerreiro (Por/EF Education-Nippo)

6, Nairo Quintana (Col/Arkea-Samsic)

7. David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ)

8. Dan Martin (Ire/Israel Start-Up Nation) 1mins 22secs

9. Franck Bonnamour (Fra/B&B Hotels) Same time

10. Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Fra/AG2R Citroen)

General classification after stage 15:

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 62hrs 07mins 18secs

2. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education Nippo) + 5mins 18secs

3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo Visma) +5mins 32secs

4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu/Ineos Grenadiers) +5mins 33secs

5. Ben O’Connor (Aus/AG2R Citroen) +5mins 58secs

6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Bora-Hansgrohe) +6mins 16secs

7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz/Astana) +7mins 01secs

8. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +7mins 11secs

9. Guillaume Martin (Fra/Cofidis) +7mins 58secs

10. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Bahrain-Victorious) +10mins 59secs

SOURCE: BBC Sport – Cycling RSS   (go to source)
AUTHOR: By Steve Sutcliffe
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