Tour de France 2019: Stage 15: Bernal to assert Ineos leadership

Team Ineos at Tour de France
Team Ineos will be keen to reassert their dominance on this year's Tour
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Another wide-open stage where the efforts of previous days could catch up with the favourites, writes Jack Houghton, who thinks Bernal most likely to endure

"Don't assume this stage will necessarily favour those who dominated on the Tourmalet: they may well do well, but at mush lower altitudes, this stage presents a different challenge.

What's the stage like?

With nearly 5,000 metres of cumulative vertical ascent packed into its 185.5km, it's another hard stage. Riders who have emptied themselves in the time trial of Stage 13 and on Stage 14's Tourmalet will be vulnerable as they are asked to peak again.

The route takes in four categorised climbs, with three Category Ones coming in the last 70km. The finish is a 12km climb up the 7% Prat d'Albis - making its debut in the Tour de France - for another summit finish.

To encourage attacks before that final climb, organisers have made bonus seconds available on the penultimate climb up the Mur de Peguere, which has some 18% sections.

It's the last climb that will provide the main action, though. It has a narrow and twisting ascent, which will have a sense of isolation to it (organisers are only taking a skeleton finish set-up to the mountaintop, because there isn't the space or infrastructure to cope with the usual paraphernalia). Don't assume it will necessarily favour those who dominated on the Tourmalet, however: they may well do well, but at mush lower altitudes, this stage presents a different challenge.

Who are the favourites?

After his redemption ride on Stage 14, Thibaut Pinot is the obvious favourite for a repeat here at around [7.00]. He certainly has the motivation to try. He is still over three minutes down in the GC and this is one of only three or four opportunities he has left in the Tour to gain time on the rivals above him.

The worry is that, despite Pinot's obvious form and desire, he's had back-to-back days of intense effort and will be vulnerable to fresher riders here.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

A valid case can be made for any of those riders who were in the final selection on Stage 14. Julian Alaphilippe ([14.00]) is increasingly looking like a GC superstar, with the only question now being his ability to sustain his efforts for another week. Egan Bernal ([16.00]) looked relatively effortless and could have perhaps claimed a win without the confusion of whether he had the freedom to ride for one. Emanuel Buchmann ([30.00]) and Steven Kruijswijk ([24.00]) are both riding stealthily effective races and might choose to make their mark before the rest day, whilst Mikel Landa ([16.00]), Rigoberto Uran ([50.00]) and Warren Barguil ([21.00]) all demonstrated their form, even if they weren't quite up to keeping with Pinot on that last steep kilometre on the Tourmalet.

And don't forget Geraint Thomas ([20.00]). It would be easy to think that his capitulation on Stage 14 was evidence of his waning powers, but he wasn't that far behind, had ridden a hard time trial the day before, and may have simply suffered more than the others at the altitude.

To complicate matters further, there are now a host of previous GC favourites out of contention for overall honours, but all of whom are capable of winning these kinds of mountain stages. Romain Bardet ([40.00]) will probably want to get in on the action of pleasing an adoring French crowd, Nairo Quintana ([50.00]) could easily reappear as a rider to fear after his "day off" on the Tourmalet, and Simon Yates ([11.00]) may now go after more stage glory now that his brother Adam is clearly in no form to mount a challenge for the Yellow Jersey.

On another open stage, I'm going to have a small interest in Egan Bernal at [16.00]. If Thomas is suffering, Team Ineos will be keen to reassert their dominance, and the climb to Foix Prat will suit the Colombian.

What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?

Peter Sagan will look to be in an early breakaway again, allowing him over the first climb of the day with a clear sight on maximum points at the intermediate sprint in Tarascon. He is now around [1.07] in the Points Competition, which are effectively odds on whether he'll survive to Paris, because no one can challenge him on the road now. But most eyes will be glued to the race for the Yellow Jersey, where the key narrative will revolve around whether Julian Alaphilippe can sustain his efforts.

*Odds correct at the time of writing

Jack Houghton,

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