Alexander Kristoff wins 15th stage of Tour de France
Second stage win for Norwegian sprinter
Jack Bauer close to victory after being in two-man breakaway
Vincenzo Nibali retains yellow jersey
Cycling can be the cruelest of sports and just when New Zealand’s Jack Bauer was ready to celebrate a Tour de France stage win it was snatched away from him in an instant.
Out in front of the peloton for over 200km, Bauer was desperately holding on to his lead as he approached the finishing line in Nimes only for Alexander Kristoff of Norway to lead a surging group of sprinters past him.
Kristoff took the victory, Bauer could only finish 10th and with tears in his eyes.
The Garmin-Sharp rider had been in the breakaway with Swiss champion Martin Elmiger and on the run from Tallard built a lead of over eight minutes.
But slowly it was whittled away and with a kilometer to go was down to just over 10 seconds. Bauer was the stronger of the duo and made his run for the finish to be denied by Katusha fast man Kristoff, who was claiming his second stage win of the 2014 Tour.
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali retained his four minutes 37 second advantage over Alejandro Valverde after an uneventful stage for the yellow jersey contenders following two days in the Alps.
It left the way clear for the sprinters but Bauer looked set to spoil their day with his gallant but in the end fruitless effort.
“It’s just bitter, bitter disappointment,” he told the official Tour de France website.
“It’s a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour and for a domestique, like myself, I’m normally working for others.
“This was my first chance to be up the road and with the chance in the wind and the weather, me and Martin realized we had a chance for the win.
“I faked to be tired but felt I had more punch left. I left it until 400. I thought I had it but then I realized in the last 50m that I had nothing.
German Heinrich Haussler finished second behind Kristoff, with green jersey holder Peter Sagan in third.
Monday is a rest day as the contenders take stock ahead of the challenge of the Pyrenees and the only time trial of the race which may well decide the podium positions.