Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) is determined to view his glass as being half full rather than half empty after stage 18 of the Tour de France. The Dutchman slipped from third to fourth in the overall classification after being overtaken by late-race attacker Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), but he was still able to climb with the main contenders over the decisive final Col du Galibier.
Kruijswijk did not put in any attacks on the final climb, which topped out 19km from the finish line in Valloire. He did, however, look strong, even though Bernal proved to be a cut above the rest of the other overall favourites. When Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) attacked, and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDj) responded, Kruijswijk responded, too, and that initially left race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) behind. The Frenchman was able to catch back up on the descent, however.
The yellow jersey is still within sight for Kruijswijk as there is 1:47 separating him from Alaphilippe, and two more mountain stages to come. A Dutch rider hasn't won the Tour de France since Joop Zoetemelk in 1980. National media are interested in Kruijswijk's chances in the overall classification before the race ends in Paris on Sunday.
The 32-year-old barely caught his breath in the cramped stage 18 finish area in Valloire before he was surrounded by a small sea of Dutch and international reporters. Fortunately, the post-stage torrential rain showers held off just long enough for him to give some brief race analysis.
Kruijswijk has dropped one spot in the overall, but his options remained intact.
"It wasn't so bad, Bernal took some time back, and the other guys were not able to follow him. I did what I could to stay with the favourites, and that was good," Kruijswijk said.
"I can't say I felt great, but at the end of the day, I did OK, we went full-on to minimize Bernal's margin, and that worked out. I am pretty tired, though, that was a long day."
A stalemate materialised on the race up the Galibier, and on the climbs that preceded it, but Kruijswijk recognised that amongst the top favourites few riders had the energy to make a move.
"We were all on the limit," he said. "That's why there were no early attacks."
Kruijswijk said he was surprised that Team Ineos sent one rider, Bernal, up the road and then attacked with another, Thomas, but that, "if it works, it works."
"Thomas didn't put Bernal in danger because he was already out of sight. If he could come across, that would have been great, but it didn't work out for him."
Rather than working out Team Ineos' objectives, Kruijswijk is focussed on regaining time on Alaphilippe. He still believes that to be more than possible.
"I know what's yet to come tomorrow and on Saturday," said Kruijswijk, who was fifth in the 2018 Tour de France. "Next time, there'll be no downhills for him to come back."
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