Warren Barguil hugged Sunweb teammate and roommate Michael Matthews behind the podium after the Frenchman won stage 18 at the Tour de France, with each rider ecstatic to have won two stages and secured a classification jersey.
Matthews won sprints in Rodez and Romains-sur-Isere and scored points consistently to take the lead when Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) crashed out on stage 17. Barguil won stages in Foix in the Pyrenees and again in the Alps on the stage to the first ever finish at the summit of the Col d'Izoard.
Barguil did enough to secure victory in the mountains' competition during the stage, but still hungry for success and still confident of his ability, he attacked from the peloton and powered across and past Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) to win alone. Barguil has joined fellow Breton Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon in the exclusive club of double stage winners while still under 26 and has become an idol for French fans, who have admired his comeback from a fractured hip at the Tour de Romandie.
"I can't believe it. It's a dream for me. It has been a dream for three weeks for me and the team," he said while sat down in the road after his huge effort.
"Last night I was discussing it with Michael, and we'd never expected that we could win the polka-dot and the green jersey and win two stages each. It's just unbelievable. This team is like a family. Michael Matthews worked for me one day, and then I worked for him. With our win at the Giro d'Italia with Tom Dumoulin and this Tour de France, it's a special moment.”
Barguil emotionally pointed to the sky as he crossed the finish line, dedicating his second victory to his grandparents, who helped him and encouraged him during his early career in Brittany. He was emotional on the podium and afterwards.
"It's a huge day for me," he said. "I'm living in a dream at the moment. I'm on a cloud and my feet aren't touching the ground. It's crazy after all the bad luck I had. I think I showed my true ability to everyone, and my work paid off."
An instinctive attack
Barguil revealed that he initially attacked with seven kilometres to go in an attempt to gain time and move up in the overall classification. However, he soon had Atapuma in his sights and passed the Colombian with 1.5km to go. He went deep during the chase but was clearly inspired.
"It was an instinctive attack. I wanted to take some time on Contador and maybe gain one place overall. I waited for steepest part of the climb to start, and I saw that nobody wanted to set the pace, so I attacked and kept going all the way to the line,” Barguil explained, clearly enjoying the opportunity to relive his move.
"I lost to Atapuma at the Tour de Suisse last year; I failed to catch him by four seconds. I was thinking I didn't want that to happen again, so I was determined to catch him. I held with my pace and I won. It's crazy.
"I was waiting to see how it went. I attacked and we came to Mollema and I heard him say 'slower' to Mollema when he was pulling, and I passed him and I made my pace to the top. In the last kilometres, I saw Atapuma ahead. I was behind him in the Tour de Suisse and I closed the gap in the last climb, and today I made it. It's just crazy."
Targeting overall success in the 2018 Tour de France
Despite not initially targeting the overall classification due to his late return from his hip fracture, Barguil is now ninth overall, 8:22 down on Team Sky's Chris Froome. He was given some freedom early in the race but has proved he can climb with the best overall contenders. Despite having Tom Dumoulin as a teammate at Sunweb, Barguil is determined to have a shot at overall success in 2018.
"I think I can fight for the GC if I have the same legs I have now, I think it's something I can do," he said, wolfing down forkfulls of pasta as a post-stage recovery meal during the press conference.
"The role of the attacker suits me if I don't have to fight for the GC on every stage. Riding this way I can avoid the pressure and stress of the GC. Maybe I can race the same way next and target the GC."
Before thinking about 2018, Barguil wants to reach Paris and celebrate being the third Breton to win the polka-dot jersey after Louison Bobet and Bernard Hinault.
"I want to enjoy all this success because you never know what happens, a crash can always be around the corner. I don't think I'll change as a rider. I'll target the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France. I love this race and it seems to love me."
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