Colombian jags maiden stage win as Froome maintains Tour lead
A DARING descent at breakneck speed has delivered Colombian Jarlinson Pantano his maiden Tour de France stage win, but Briton Chris Froome remains firmly in control of the race after the mountainous 15th stage.
Part of an initial breakaway group of 30, Pantano reeled in and then outsprinted Tinkoff's Rafal Majka after the Pole had shaken off Russian Ilnur Zazkarin in the steep final ascent on the Lacets du Grand Colombier.
"I dreamt of this all my life, I'm so happy," Pantano told media after delivering the IAM Cycling team its first victory on the Tour.
"I was wary of him (Majka) in the finale but ... I knew that if I was catching him in the descent I'd have a good chance to win."
Two-time Tour winner Froome was surprised at the lack of urgency from his main rivals.
Bauke Mollema and Nairo Quintana pretty much stuck to Froome's back, and his Sky team easily dealt with lacklustre challenges from top-10 riders Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet.
Froome acknowledged the strength of his team.
"That's one of the things I said coming into this race - I'm in such a privileged position having such a strong team around me, possibly the strongest team Sky have ever put in the race," he said.
"Wout Poels, he's not just any other rider. He won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, one of the biggest classics in the world.
"Of course it must be quite demoralising for other people to have to think of attacking knowing that this calibre of rider will be chasing, riding behind at a tempo that will neutralise their attacks."
With only five stages to go, Froome has already shown enough to say only bad luck can prevent from claiming his third victory in the Tour.
Quintana, the man many expected might offer a challenge, was in fourth place after the 15th stage, 2min 59sec off the pace and with a mighty job in front of him to reel in Froome.
Tonight's 16th stage is a 209km ride from Moirans-en-Montagne to Bern, with a rest day to follow before the final week in the Alps.