Tour de France: Atapuma comes close on Col d'Izoard

UAE Team Emirates rider continues search for breakthrough Grand Tour stage win

Darwin Atapuma may lack the palmares of his Colombian compatriots at the 2017 Tour de France but that didn't stop him on stage 18 from very nearly claiming victory on the iconic Col d'Izoard.

UAE Team Emirates' Atapuma made his way in the day's mega break from Briancon and rode a canny race to ensure he was in contention for the win on the Izoard.

While his breakaway companions were gesturing for the 29-year-old to contribute more to the chase as the yellow jersey group upped the pace, Atapuma took no notice. With Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), and Dani Navarro (Cofidis) for company, Atapuma attacked to bridge across to Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) on the lower slopes of the Col d'Izoard. He quickly rode away from Lutsenko to become the leader on the road with 6km to race. While the lure of a debut Tour stage win was driving Atapuma, so was the crowd support of his Colombian compatriots on the national day of independence.

"I was racing flat out knowing that the whole Colombia was paralyzed today with everyone watching the Tour and having a huge party for our national day," he said.

Under the flamme rouge and dreaming of the stage win, Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) closed in on Atapuma before skipping away. Atapuma couldn't react to the Frenchman's pace but had created enough of an advantage to hold off Romain Bardet and Christopher Froome on the line and claim second place, 20 seconds in arrears to Barguil.

"Today we did a great work with the team. We gave it all. We've tried to win this stage. But it's a second place at the end that has the same meaning as a stage win for me," he said.

Atapuma has now finished second in at least one stage in his last three Grand Tours after the 2016 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Still yet to claim a Grand Tour stage, Atapuma has the consolation of wearing the leader's jersey at the 2016 Vuelta and was rewarded on for his Tour efforts with the combativity prize for stage 18.

With the mountain stages of the Tour done and dusted for 2017, Atapuma's quest for a Grand Tour stage win will continue at August at the Vuelta. 

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