Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried to shake up stage 18 at the Tour de France with an attack over the Col du Glandon. His effort proved to be fruitless in the end, however, as many of the main overall contenders crossed the finish line in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne together three minutes behind the day’s solo winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale). The two-time winner of the race said the attacks were driven more by "heart than legs.”
With seven categorised climbs along the 186.5km stage from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Contador said it was bound to be a tough day on the bike for everyone. Team Sky set to pace for much of the day once the 29-rider breakaway made its way off the front, but it wasn’t until 40km to go, over the Col du Glandon, after series of attacks from Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), that Contador made his move and bridged across to a group up the road.
Team Sky didn’t initially react to Contador’s attack, and they also gave some leeway to Vincenzo Nibali’s subsequent move near the top of the Glandon. The fast pace saw Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) fall off the back, and although Valverde was able to get back on, Mollema did not.
In the end, the yellow jersey group caught Contador on the descent. "This was one of the toughest days on the bike,” Contador said in a team press release. “ I wanted to try things and see what could be done but at the end we didn't achieve anything in particular. I dropped Valverde on Glandon, this always brings confidence, but the only thing I now focus on is to recover.
“It was a very hard stage and my attacks were more driven by the heart than the legs”
There are two Alpine stages left in this year’s Tour de France, starting with Friday's 138km stage 19 jaunt from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire. During this stage the field will face in succession the Col du Chaussy, the Col de la Croix de Fer, the Col du Mollard and La Toussuire. They will then take on stage 20’s 110.5km race from Modane Valfrejus to the iconic l’Alpe d'Huez on Saturday.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) has a firm hold on the overall classification, leading by 3:10 over runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 4:09 over third placed Valverde, 6:34 over his teammate Geraint Thomas in fourth and 6:40 over Contador in fifth. The Spaniard’s dream of achieving a Giro-Tour double has since faded, and he is realistic about his chances of standing on the podium in Paris.
“I was able to observe a few things [during stage 18] and we will now see how I recover for tomorrow,” Contador said. “In order for Valverde not to be on the podium, a catastrophe must take place.
“He has an incredible opportunity and just by doing things the right way it’s impossible for him not to reach the podium. The sport of cycling is like this and we will have to take it day by day.”