The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 18
1st – Arnaud Demare (Groupama - FDJ)
2nd – Chrostophe Laporte (Cofidis, Solutions Credits)
3rd – Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates)
Stage 18 provided a brief respite from the GC battle with a 171km sprint stage from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau. With less than 1500m of climbing and only two categorised climbs, it wasn’t a super difficult course. However the last of the two Cat 4 climbs came with only 20km to go, providing the opportunity for late drama that might worry the sprinters. The Cote d’Amos was 2.1km at 4.6%, with a false flat plateau over the top that finished with 12km to go. A downhill run in the final few kilometres made for a quick finish, with several roundabouts in the finale.
Yellow – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Green – Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe)
Polka Dot – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors
White – Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
There was heavy competition to get in the break, and it took 20 minutes for them to go away. We did see a 5 man break go, with Luke Durbridge, Mat Hayman, Niki Terpstra, Nicholas Boudet and Guillaume Van Kiersbulck all making it.
Groupama-FDJ were particularly keen to keep the break on a short leash, with the gap getting to a maximum of just over 2:00 and floating down to 1:00 at times. With such a small gap, we saw several attempts by riders trying to break across, but none were successful.
A hard pace on the Cote d’Amos killed the break, they were caught just after cresting the climb.
The peloton did split as they crested the Cote d’Amos, an attack by Simon Clarke took six riders across to the break, but that move was nullified with 15km to go. Groupama-FDJ were still controlling the peloton, confident in their man Arnaud Demare.
It was a quick run down into Pau, with Bora – hansgrohe highly visible. Despite Peter Sagan’s crash yesterday, they were confident in the World Champ. UAE-Team Emirates and Trek were also towards the front, helping to control the pace.
Into to the final few kilometres and Peter Sagan slipped back, clearly off the pace, but FDJ were at the front again, and giving Demare a perfect lead out. He opened the sprint with 250m to go, and despite Christophe Laporte’s best efforts, nobody could come around. It’s Demare’s second TDF win and first this year, a great reward for suffering through the mountains when many counted him out.
Laporte in second was followed by Alexander Kristoff, with Edvald Boasson Hagen in fourth
The Next Stage
Stage 18 is one of the toughest in the tour, with six categorized climbs on the 200km route from Lourdes to Laruns. Though the first two are small, it gets tough after that, with the Category 1 Col d’Aspin (12km at 6.5%), the HC Col du Tourmalet (17.1km at 7.3%), the Cat 2 Col des Borderes (8.6km at 5.8%), and the double climb made up of the Col de Souler and the Col d’Aubisque (16.6km at 4.9%). They’ll then take a descent down into Laruns for the finish.
With such a hard day on the cards, a breakaway win could be likely. Look for some of the names we’ve seen frequent the front of the race in the last few days; Bauke Mollema, Adam Yates, or Rafal Majka. I’ll take Marc Soler who’s been slipping in there nearly every day. He’s been hugely impressive in the past three weeks, and it would be good to see Movistar reward him by letting him chase his own goals for the day.
See you back at the social club,