Jonas Vingegaard recovered from a heavy crash to maintain his lead over the UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar on Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday.
But it will still count as a bad day for Jumbo-Visma’s Vingegaard as he lost two key teammates – Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk – ahead of the final week of the Tour.
Slovenian Roglic pulled out because of the injuries he suffered in a crash back on Stage 5 and Dutchman Kruijswijk was taken to hospital after a heavy fall with 63 kilometres to go on Sunday.
Despite those setbacks, Vingegaard hung on bravely to maintain his 2 minutes 22 seconds advantage over Pogacar with Briton Geraint Thomas a further 2:43 down in third in the General Classification.
Belgium's Jasper Philipsen sprinted to take the stage victory in a tight finish ahead of Wout van Aert and Mads Pedersen.
“I crashed today but I’m OK and I just hope that [teammate] Tiesj [Benoot] is OK. He crashed worse than me. I have a bit of road rash but nothing serious,” Vingegaard said.
“We really had a bad day today and it affected us. We lost two very, very important helpers but we’ll keep on fighting and do our best.
“That’s probably the worst thing about today, I’d say. Steven and Primoz were very important teammates and so it’s a very bad day for us.”
The 202.5km stage, however, belonged to Philipsen, who was recording his first stage win in the Tour de France.
The Alpecin–Fenix rider went early for the line, and just about held off Van Aert by a wheel with Pedersen close in third.
“I know what losing is like in the Tour, I have lost many, many times, but how it worked out today was incredible,” an emotional Philipsen said.
“It's been massive search for this victory. We've worked really hard for it. I'm super proud we can finally finish it off after a tough Tour.
“We had to wait till stage 15 with the team but everyone still believed it was possible. I'm super happy. I knew I had good legs but we just had to wait until the right moment and the right opportunity and today was the day.”
On the sprint to the finishing line, Philipsen, 24, added: “I felt Wout was coming close but I also knew the finish line from last year.
“We got boxed in a little bit before the final corner and I knew it was not long any more after the last corner. I knew I had to make up some positions. It was good that I could pass Mads.”
After Monday’s rest day, the riders will resume for the Stage 16 from Carcassonne to Foix – a 179km route.
The Tour lost two stage winners in Magnus Cort and Simon Clarke after both tested positive for Covid-19.
Stage 15 results
1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck 4 hrs 27 mins 27 secs
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma Same time
3. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo Same time
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) TotalEnergies Same time
5. Danny van Poppel (Ned) BORA-Hansgrohe Same time
6. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team BikeExchange-Jayco Same time
7. Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl Same time
8. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM Same time
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarche-Wanty Same time
10. Fred Wright (GB) Bahrain Victorious Same time
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 60 hrs 00 mins 50 secs
2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates +2mins 22 secs
3. Geraint Thomas (GB) Ineos Grenadiers +2mins 43 secs
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM +3mins 01 secs
5. Adam Yates (GB) Ineos Grenadiers +4mins 06 secs