Stage 18 of the Tour de France saw Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) take a solo victory in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne on Thursday. He finished 33 seconds ahead of compatriot Pierre Rolland (Europcar), making it a 1-2-finish for France, and 59 seconds ahead of Winner Anacona (Movistar).
There were no changes to the top three of the overall classification, Froome continues to lead the race by 3:10 over Nairo Quintana and 4:09 over Alejandro Valverde, both from Movistar.
“It was a very tricky start today. I think everyone was pretty tired at the start of today, so it was tough for everyone. I’m a good descender so I had just enough energy left at the end to get across the line. I knew the end of this stage really well. We took it on at the end of the Dauphiné as well, so I know this route by heart. The last kilometre, even though I knew them well, were very long.
“To start, getting the breakaway was really hard. It was a fast pace but it was tough to get involved in it. I wanted the victory, so I just had to go through that pain. It’s been amazing, phenomenal, the crowds… it was like being in a football stadium, there was that much noise generated. I felt really supported by the crowd today.”
"Today [Joaquim] Rodriguez and [Jakob] Fuglsang were there and actually Rodriguez was stronger, he climbed better and sprinted better. Then on Glandon, in the last kilometre, I saw that he gave up fighting, so there I also took some points. I'm super happy with my stage because I was fighting all day.
"This is a Tour for guys who want to go on the attack, and I'm just one of them. As long as I feel good, I want to try."
"[It was] perfect, ideal really. Again the team was really strong, we had good numbers, we didn’t panic when the guys were attacking. Contador is like six minutes [behind] so we didn’t have to react straight way - we knew the other teams would be worried about him more than us. Ideal really, we just had to follow them over the top. That last climb was pretty tough with all those hairpins but yeah, good, two more days to go.
"Morale is good, everyone’s really up for it now, we can see the finish, Froomey’s in great form, so everyone’s buzzing off that and everyone can get that little bit extra out.
"If you look at it for Froomey, it's an hour and a half of racing left, it’s down to the team to make sure it’s all together for the bottom of those climbs."
Mickael Chérel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), teammate of stage winner Romain Bardet
"It feels amazing. It was a great performance today. Romain was so determined today. Of course, we’re motivated every day, but today was something else. He won as a champion, he descended so well and I’m so happy for the team.
"It’s part of bike riding; you have to know how to climb and you have to know how to descend. He does it really really well, and it allows him to win big stages like today. For the team it’s just a great day."
Nicolas Portal (Team Sky, DS)
"It’s hard to control things in these mountains. The Glandon is very hard but I think the team did very well to hold off the attacks that were made against us. The 20-second gap that we let Alberto get, I think that’s pretty decent. There were a lot of attacks today, we did well to weather the storm. It was very hard to control everything."
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