Denmark‘s Magnus Cort Nielsen won the 15th stage of the Tour de France in a three-man sprint finish at the end of a long breakaway.
The Astana rider was the overwhelming favourite as a sprint specialist in the finale and he duly delivered, comfortably beating Spain‘s Ion Izagirre and Dutchman Bauke Mollema, who were second and third, respectively.
It is Cort Nielsen‘s third grand tour win after he won two stages in the Vuelta a Espana in 2016, and Astana‘s second in this year‘s Tour after Omar Fraile won Saturday‘s 14th stage.
Briton Geraint Thomas retained the overall lead after a 181.5-km hilly ride from Millau through the vineyards of Minervois, Corbieres and Cabardes in Southwestern France.
He leads Team Sky mate and defending champion Chris Froome by 1:39 and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin by 1:50 before tonight‘s rest day as the race heads to the Pyrenees.
A 29-man breakaway took shape early on, and after they had built an advantage of more than 10 minutes to make sure the win would be decided between them, the fireworks started.
Tour debutants Fabien Grellier and Julien Bernard, the son of Jean-Francois, third overall in the 1987 race, attacked with 70 kilometres left.
But Poland‘s Rafal Majka, who has three Tour stage wins to his name, jumped away from the group and chased the duo down, whizzing past them to reach the top of the Pic de Nore, a 12.3-km climb at an average gradient of 6.3 per cent, in first position.
He had a 30-second lead, but with a flat, crosswind-exposed stretch leading to the line, his chances were slim and he was caught by a group of seven chasers.
France‘s Lilian Calmejane, in his home region, had no team mate in the group unlike Cort Nielsen, Mollema and Izagirre. He was isolated when things heated up and had to concede defeat, breaking down in tears after crossing the line in seventh place, 34 seconds off the pace.
The peloton crossed the line 13:11 behind with no incident being reported.