For the second straight day in this year's Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) proved that he was on another level to his rivals with a stage win at Luz Ardiden to follow his victory on stage 17.
The Slovenian’s win not only gained him the king of the mountains competition but also saw him put even more time into his main rivals Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), with the race leader finishing two seconds clear.
Enric Mas (Movistar) fought to take fourth on the stage at 13 seconds, while Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) limited their losses to 34 seconds. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) and Guillaume Martin (Bora-Hansgrohe) did the same to finish 45 seconds down, while Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-PremierTech) cracked briefly and dropped just over a minute.
The only significant loser on the day, in terms of the battle for the overall standings, was Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo). The Colombian, who was second in the 2017 Tour, started the day in fourth overall at 7:17 after he had cracked on the Col du Portet and dropped from second to fourth.
Worse was to follow for him on stage 18, with the veteran all-rounder distanced on the first major ascent of the Col du Tourmalet. He would limit his losses to under two minutes there but on the final climb the gap grew to a final 8:58, to leave Urán now 10th at 16:25. He is still over two minutes clear of David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) in 11th and should remain inside the top-10 all the way to Paris.
With a time trial to come on stage 20, Lutsenko in seventh is still in with a chance of leapfrogging Mas into sixth, while Kelderman in fifth could do the same to O'Connor in fourth.
Pogačar leads Vingegaard by 5:45, with Carapaz a further six seconds back, meaning that the final two steps on the podium could still alter – although the Dane is arguably far stronger against the clock and should even extend his advantage over the Ineos rider on Saturday.
|Pos.||Rider (Country) Team||Gap to leader||Time lost stage 18|
|1||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates|
|2||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma||0:05:45||-0:06|
|3||Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers||0:05:51||-0:08|
|4||Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team||0:08:18||-0:44|
|5||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:08:50||-0:44|
|6||Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team||0:10:11||-0:23|
|7||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech||0:11:22||-1:18|
|8||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis||0:12:46||-0:55|
|9||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:13:48||-0:55|
|10||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo||0:16:25||-9:08|
|11||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:18:42||-3:00|
|12||Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:23:36||-3:55|
|13||Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange||0:32:07||-3:25|
|14||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:35:55||-1:53|
|15||Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||0:37:21||-5:33|
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