The Latest: Tour de France pack sets off for Stage 15
VALENCE, France (AP) The latest from Stage 15 of the Tour de France (all times local):
Mark Cavendish says he was up with stomach problems overnight, and ''felt empty at the start'' of the 15th stage of the Tour de France - in which he lagged far behind his main sprint rivals.
In a statement from his Etixx-Quick Step team, the British speedster said a breakaway left him and other stragglers behind early on, so he decided that after the 30-kilometer (18-mile) mark ''it was about surviving the day.''
Rival sprinter Andre Greipel took his third stage victory of this Tour.
''It was a hard day for us, '' said Cavendish, who is likely to be a contender for a sprint finish on the Tour's final day on July 26 - if he makes it that far. ''I'm looking forward to just trying to get to Paris and I hope I am not ill in the next days.''
About six police officers were deployed near Chris Froome's team bus before the Stage 15 start in Mende on Sunday, a day after the race leader complained about being doused with urine by a spectactor shouting ''Doper!'' in French.
Race director Thierry Gouvenou said organizers didn't ask for the deployment. ''Police are autonomous,'' he said, describing the move as ''a measure taken by local police.''
Thousands of police line the Tour course each year to keep crowds back. But it's unusual to see so many around one team bus.
Froome said he didn't think it was ''bizarre'' that officers were there and noted similar police crowd-control measures in other sports. Froome said it was race organizers' responsibility ''to keep the riders safe.''
Froome's Sky team wasn't alone. French rider Jean-Christophe Peraud, who is nursing crash injuries, got an escort by two running officers after Sunday's stage.
Noisy, hot and no AC: Could a lack of air-conditioning at a hotel where Mark Cavendish's Etixx-Quick Step team slept last night be partly to blame for his lackluster performance in Sunday's Stage 15?
Team boss Patrick Lefevere said the British sprint specialist - who has 26 Tour stage victories to his name - had considered the 183-kilometer (114-mile) from Mende to Valence as a good chance to get another one. A sprinter did win: his rival Andre Greipel of Germany sped to his third stage victory this Tour.
Cavendish struggled on the day's first mid-grade climb, and finished more than 15 minutes back.
''I think a lot of guys were killed by the hotel this night,'' Lefevere said, noting some noise nearby. ''There was no air conditioning. It was 30 degrees (Celsius, 86 Fahrenheit) and everybody was sleeping with the window open.''
Andre Greipel of the Lotto-Soudal team won Sunday's Stage 15 after a sprint for the line between four riders.
Giant-Alpecin's John Degenkolb was second, with Katusha's Alexander Kristoff third and Peter Sagan of Tinkoff-Saxo finishing fourth.
Team Sky's Chris Froome of Britain retains the overall lead after the 183-kilometer (114-mile) eastward trek from Mende to Valence.
French police have boosted security around Team Sky after its riders, including Tour de France leader Chris Froome, complained about aggressive spectators.
A half dozen police officers kept watch outside the team bus at the Stage 15 start in Mende on Sunday.
Froome said a roadside spectator shouting ''doper'' in French splashed him with urine in Stage 14. His teammate Richie Porte said someone punched him on a climb in the Pyrenees last week.
Take a look at a photo of the police deployment here:
Chris Froome of Britain is leading the pack as the Tour de France heads toward the Rhone River valley for Sunday's romp over several hills in a 15th stage that should favor breakaway riders or a bunch sprint at the finish.
The Sky team leader and 2013 Tour champ leads Colombia's Nairo Quintana, who is second, by 3 minutes, 10 seconds heading into the 183-kilometer (114-mile) eastward trek from Mende to Valence.
British riders held sway a day earlier with Froome extending his overall lead and Stephen Cummings of the QTN-Qhubeka team winning the stage by overtaking two French breakaway riders in the final seconds.
Sunday's ride offers one of the last expected chances for sprinters to shine before the race finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 26.