Alexander Kristoff gained his second victory of the Tour de France on Sunday, winning the 222km 15th stage from Tallard to Nimes ahead of Australian Heinrich Haussler.
The Norwegian powered through in a sprint finish to deny New Zealander Jack Bauer, who came within 100 metres of winning after a breakaway of more than 200km.
Haussler, rebuilding his career with second-tier Swiss team IAM after a hip injury, was second ahead of sprint category leader Peter Sagan of Slovakia.
It was Sagan’s eighth top-four finish at this Tour and 10th inside the top nine, but he still hasn’t won a stage.
Vincenzo Nibali kept the overall lead after finishing in the main pack.
While Katusha’s Kristoff was celebrating, it was cruel luck for tearful Bauer.
Alongside Swiss champion Martin Elmiger, the Kiwi had spent almost the entire race in an escape.
They took off from the start and within 25km had a lead of more than eight minutes. That eked out to almost nine minutes before the chase began.
It seemed to be all over when the gap came down to 3min with still 60km to ride but the chase was disjointed. With 8.5km left they still had 45sec on the bunch and it seemed like they might hold on.
Into the final kilometre they had around 12sec and it looked touch and go.
The two riders kept collaborating right to the end and, when they launched the sprint, the peloton was right on their heels.
Bauer had the stronger legs but kept glancing over his shoulder and agonisingly was caught in the last 100m to finish 10th, bursting into tears after crossing the line exhausted.
“It’s just bitter, bitter disappointment. It’s a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour and for a domestique, like myself, I’m normally working for others,” said the 29-year-old.
“This was my first chance to be up the road and with the chance in the wind and the weather, me and Martin realised we had a chance for the win.
“I faked to be tired but felt I had more punch left. I left it until 400 metres to go. I thought I had it but then I realised in the last 50 metres, that I had nothing.”
Kristoff, who also won Thursday’s 12th stage in Saint-Etienne, said he thought the peloton had left it too late.
“I was scared of course that they would keep ahead but there were some strong pulls at the end by Giant-Shimano to pull them back,” said the 27-year-old.
“At the end I had the best lane but I wasn’t sure I’d win until 100 metres to the finish.”
Race leader Nibali had a relatively calm day in the saddle, maintaining his 4:37 lead over Spain’s Alejandro Valverde with French rider Romain Bardet still third at 4:50.
Nibali may not have been in the action much but he did impress in one instance on a day of strong winds, rain, storms and generally awful weather.
The BMC team of American Tejay Van Garderen had taken up pace-setting duties on a stretch of road where crosswinds were a risk.
Realising the danger, Nibali accelerated alongside the long line of riders to get up to the front and tuck in behind the leading BMC men.
“I didn’t want to lose the right moment to get up front because when there’s wind, you have to be at the front,” he said.
Monday is a rest day and the race finishes in Paris on Sunday.
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