THE brutal Col du Galibier was meant to test the Tour leader but he survived to ride on in yellow. JOHN TREVORROW reports:
STAGE 18 of the Tour de France lived up to all the hype. A brutal stage of 208 km with a category three, a category two, two HC monster climbs and a total of 5,200m of climbing.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) got clear in the early breakaway and thanks to losing significant time earlier in the Tour was allowed a fair bit of rope. He rode aggressively in the final 50 km to claim his first victory in this Tour and managed to restore some of his diminishing reputation.
But the real race was happening five minutes back in the peloton with leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck Quickstep) under immense pressure and expected to lose his hard-earned Maillot Jaune.
But that didn’t happen, despite him losing contact with his rivals in the final kilometre of the demanding Col du Galibier.
On the 18 km descent to the finish in Valloire, Alaphilippe dropped like a stone and caught most of the GC favourites. The Frenchman went straight to the front and lost only a manageable 32 seconds to Colombian powerhouse Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) who had stormed clear of all the other GC contenders.
It was a magnificent display of dogged persistence by Alaphilippe but even though he still leads by one min 30sec, I can’t see him holding on to the yellow jersey over the next two days. I may have called today brutal, but Friday and Saturday are positively the stuff of nightmares.
“I gave everything and I’m still in yellow, so I can be satisfied,” Alaphilippe said. “I didn’t feel too bad until the attacks from Bernal and (Geraint) Thomas. That’s what changed things, but I hung in there.
“I took a lot of risks on the descent. I think it was impossible to go faster but I absolutely wanted to save my jersey.”
Australia’s only overall contender Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) matched it with leaders to near the final summit of the Col du Galibier but soon scrambled back on the long descent to the finish.
“It was a hard day. It was ‘on’ there on the Col d’Izoard and the Galibier — it was probably the queen stage so it’s nice to have that one finished,” Porte said after finishing five min 18sec back with the group of contenders.
“I felt pretty good until Bernal attacked. I was dagging off the back a little bit there over the top, but I was lucky to come back on the downhill and it got a bit dicey there with the rain, but it was all good.
“Tomorrow is another really hard day, high altitude and I think this race is far from done.”
Porte was asked why he didn’t try to join the breakaway. “The thing is, they’re never gonna let me do that,” Porte said.
“Everyone writes me off and doesn’t rate me, but the bunch don’t let me go anywhere.”
The break eventually got clear ahead of the day’s first major climb, the 2,109m-high Col de Vars. Quintana was the highest placed rider but not really a threat to the leaders. The group swelled to 33 riders including Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida), Michael Woods (EF Education First), Adam Yates, (Mitchelton-Scott) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC).
Bernal was the biggest mover in the overall classification taking 32 seconds from all the GC favourites and moved in front of his Team Ineos leader Geraint Thomas, albeit by only five seconds. He looked quite strong as he descended very quickly into Valloire and it will be very interesting to see what happens with the internal battle that looms as the race within the race for this title.
“I felt good and I’m happy that, in the end, we’ve gained time on Alaphilippe. That was our number one goal,” Bernal said afterwards. “G [Geraint Thomas] told me to attack and make that jump and he said that then he’d try. We’re a team and everything we do is because the directeur sportif in the car tells us to do it.”
Teammate and defending champion Thomas launched his own attack nearing the top of the Galibier, as Alaphilippe started to show signs of cracking. Actually the signs were there for the final five kilometres of the dreaded climb, but he just refused to give in.
“We wanted it to be hard, but the pace wasn’t there,” Thomas said. “The call was made for Egan to go and hopefully that would kick if off a bit, but it didn’t really.
“That’s when I went as well, just to test. But at least Egan gained some time on everyone else.
“I was feeling pretty good today. Two big days to come now. We kind of knew that today wouldn’t be a huge difference, but it’s certainly going to put some fatigue in everyone for the next two days.”
There now look to be five riders who can win this year’s Tour. Current leader Alaphilippe, his fellow Frenchman Pinot, the Team Ineos duo of Bernal and Thomas, and dogged Dutchman Steven Kruisjijk (Jumbo Visma).
If Alaphilippe cracks as expected, then the four vultures right on his heels will be attacking as only 20 seconds separates second from fifth. Australian sprint sensation Caleb Ewan got through another very tough assignment and has two more to survive before he can ride into Paris as favourite to take his third stage win and the sprinters dream stage on the Champs Elysees.
Tour de France Stage 18 ResultsStage 18 Results
|Position||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||5:34:15|
|2||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:35|
|3||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:02:28|
|4||Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb||0:02:58|
|5||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||0:03:00|
|6||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:04:46|
|7||Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First|
|8||Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos|
|9||Serge Pauwels (Bel) CCC Team|
|10||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:05:18|
|11||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|12||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|13||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos|
|14||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|15||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First|
|16||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team|
|17||Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo|
|18||Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic||0:05:43|
|19||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:06:16|
|20||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert||0:06:47|
|21||Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:07:24|
|22||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:08:22|
|23||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||0:08:53|
Overall ResultsOverall standings after Stage 28
|Position||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||75:18:49|
|2||Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos||0:01:30|
|3||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos||0:01:35|
|4||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:01:47|
|5||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:50|
|6||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:02:14|
|7||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||0:03:54|
|8||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team||0:04:54|
|9||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First||0:05:33|
|10||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:05:58|
|11||Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:30|
|12||Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic||0:07:47|
|13||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert||0:15:11|
|14||Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:16:21|
|15||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Dimension Data||0:17:00|
|16||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:18:37|
|17||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Gobert||0:22:43|
|18||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:23:39|
|19||Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates||0:34:23|
|20||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||0:35:52|
|21||George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:36:13|
|22||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:36:27|
|23||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:42:30|
|24||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis Solutions Credits||0:45:45|
|25||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team||0:47:13|
|26||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:48:18|
|27||Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott||0:49:35|
|28||Enric Mas (Spa) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:49:41|
|29||Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Education First||0:56:46|
|30||Laurens De Plus (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:58:26|