CULOZ, France — Colombian rider Jarlinson Pantano won the brutal 15th stage of the Tour de France through the Jura mountains after a long breakaway on Sunday.
Pantano outsprinted Polish rider Rafal Majka to the finish line in Culoz.
On a day featuring hardly any flat stretches, there were plenty of attacks but only a few skirmishes between the main contenders. Race leader Chris Froome finished slightly more than three minutes behind in a group including the other main contenders and kept the yellow jersey.
Majka, who started an early breakaway soon after the start in Bourg-en-Bresse, moved away on his own in the final of six categorized climbs on the day’s agenda.
A third-place finisher at the Spanish Vuelta last year, he accelerated in the punishing 8.4-kilometer climb of the Lacets du Grand Colombier to drop Pantano. But Majka made a mistake on the descent and allowed his rival to rejoin him.
The two breakaway riders did not collaborate well on the flat roads to the finish, with Majka refusing to take relays. They were almost caught by Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz, who finished third, six seconds back.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pantano, who rides for the IAM team. “I had good feelings today, I knew that if I was able to join him in the downhill I had good chances. And in the end the best rider won.”
Froome kept his 1:47 lead over Dutch rider Bauke Mollema intact, with Adam Yates in third place overall, 2:45 back. Colombian climber Nairo Quintana lags 2:59 behind.
After Majka and Ilnur Zakarin attacked on the first climb, a group of 30 riders gathered at the front. With no overall contender in the leading pack, Froome and his Team Sky teammates seemed happy with the breakaway and did not chase.
On a constantly undulating course, Dutch rider Dylan van Baarle made the most of the lack of cooperation in the breakaway to try his luck soon after the feed zone but was quickly joined by Tom Dumoulin, who countered him in the Cote d’Hotonnes.
The move sparked a reaction from former Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, who jumped out of the chasing group alongside Pantano and Alexis Vuillermoz.
The quartet was caught at the foot of the grueling ascent of the Grand Colombier, with the peloton of main favorites 8:30 back. Featuring some very steep ramps at an average gradient of 6.8 percent, the 12.8-kilometer climb was too much to take for Nibali, who immediately got dropped.
Majka and Zakarin once again accelerated and reached the summit with a 30-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe, who caught his rivals in the technical downhill to Anglefort but saw his hopes of victory destroyed by a crash. The Frenchman escaped unscathed and was back in the race with a spare bike.
Back in the pack of favorites, Astana riders moved to the front to set a faster tempo. The sudden change in pace left Froome unfazed while Yates was seen struggling at the back. American Tejay van Garderen could not follow and dropped to eighth overall, 4:47 behind Froome.