Traditionally, the race for the Green Jersey takes three weeks to decide, often with the final sprint on the final stage deciding the contest. Today, the peloton acknowledged that Peter Sagan has ridden away with the jersey on the 158.5km (99mi) road from Samatan to Pau.
While the opening two hours saw plenty of spirited racing, with attack after attack materializing and foiled by an active peloton, the right combination of riders finally materialized and the six rode away. At first their gap was held to six minutes, but then the sprinter teams called off the chase and the lead ballooned. The leading sextet went through the intermediate sprint without contest, and when the field tempo'ed through, they allowed Sagan to take seventh place points without a fight. Another nine points in the bag.
With ten kilometers remaining and the lead over ten minutes, the day's breakaway decided it was time to start battling for stage honors. FdJ-Big Mat's Pierrick Fedrigo sped away and only Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp had the legs to join. The two rode into Pau together, where two years ago Fedrigo also won a stage of the Tour. Vande Velde forced Fedrigo to lead out the sprint, but when he tried to come around, Fedrigo easily upped his effort and won the sprint easily.
Back in the field, Sky led into the final kilometers, with Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol team taking over at the end. They put their big German into ideal sprinting position and he exploded to the line, holding off Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar for seventh, Sagan one place behind Farrar in ninth.
After Pau, Sagan has a 102-point lead for the Green Jersey, and, barring injury, should not be challenged for the jersey the rest of the race. After cooling down, he reflected on the day. "I was surprised, but also, happy. Now I know other riders don't want more of the battle and I will have another two days of the mountains and come into Paris with the Green Jersey."
The race for the Yellow Jersey has remained unchanged. Sky Procycling's Bradley Wiggins still leads his teammate Chris Froome by 2:05 and Liquigas-Cannondale's Vincenzo Nibali by 2:23.
Tomorrow is another well-earned rest day, the second and final rest of the Tour. Teams will stay in and around Pau tonight, sleep in, do laundry, get in a few hours of riding, and prepare for the final push through the Pyrénées into Paris. Wednesday's Stage sixteen will take the riders 197km (123mi) from Pau to Bagneres-De-Luchon. Vincenzo Nibali and the others are looking at their final chances to dislodge Wiggins from the race lead, and this day that has two hors category and two first category climbs, is going to be full of opportunities.
Stage 15 Results--Samatan to Pau 158.5km
1. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 3:40:15
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Sharp same time
3. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:12
4. Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff same time
5. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:21
Stage 15 Liquigas-Cannondale
9. Peter Sagan (Svk) 0:11:50
24. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) same time
39. Kristijan Koren (Slo) same time
64. Federico Canuti (Ita) same time
105. Dominik Nerz (Ger) same time
112. Ivan Basso (Ita) same time
121. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) same time
144. Daniel Oss (Ita) same time
156. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:15:31
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 68:33:21
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:02:05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:23
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:19
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:48
29. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:45:13
32. Peter Sagan (Svk) 0:47:32
61. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) 1:16:18
62. Dominik Nerz (Ger) 1:18:57
95. Federico Canuti (Ita) 1:50:21
101. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 1:53:38
105. Kristijan Koren (Slo) 1:54:52
119. Daniel Oss (Ita) 2:06:24
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 356 pts
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 254
3. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 203
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 130