Welcome to live coverage from stage 18 of the Tour de France
Hello and welcome to live coverage from stage 18 of the Tour de France. We're in Briancon, with the start around 30 minutes away. Today's the final day in the Alps, the final summit finish, and the final chance for Bardet, Uran and Aru to drop Chris Froome if they're to keep their Tour de France hopes alive.
So it's all going to come down to the Izoard today. We've just seen the women's La Course finish up there and in a few minutes the men will start there stage. Here's what Cadel Evans, winner of the Tour de France in 2011, has to say about the climb:
"I think the Col d'Izoard on paper isn't that long but it is steep from what I remember. This stage comes the day after the biggest climbing stage of the Tour and I think already the guys would have started the previous stage going into the reserves. Col d'Izoard is going to be another one where they'll go into the reserves and if someone is having a bad day or a good day, maybe it will be a day of drama in the GC
"I think it is most likely that a breakaway will contest the stage as everyone will be pretty exhausted by the time to get to stage 18. If someone is not climbing well, they will be pushed to their limit on the climbs anyway. It's a delicate balancing act as you certainly don't want to lose any time on the climbs but if you limit your losses and save some energy for the time trial that would be ideal. I expect after the solid finish and several hard days close together in the third week that it will be where the third week will count for a lot."
Given how tight the GC standings are coming into the final stage in the mountains, I'm not sure that a break will contents this - not with bonus seconds up for grabs too. Here's how things look on paper ahead of the action - Froome leads but it's so, so close.
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 73:27:26
2 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:27
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:53
5 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:24
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:37
7 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:04:07
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:35
9 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:07:45
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb 0:08:52
Bardet, Uran, Aru, they all need to attack if they are to keep alive their hopes of winning the Tour. They're all roughly on the same level in a TT - maybe Uran is marginally ahead - but they'll need to put close to two minutes into Froome today if they want to win the race in Paris. That's a tall order, and Team Sky will be aware that they just need to control this race for one more day in the mountains. After that, they'll be able to see Paris on the horizon. (Not literally, of course).
What price yesterday?
There will be a lot of tired legs out there today after yesterday's mountain stage and it's worth pointing out that today is just the second time in the race we've gone about 2,000m. The first time was stage 17. You just know that one of the top 10 riders is going to have a real off day. It's up to the others to take advantage of that.
With Kittel out of the race we have a new leader in the Green Jersey. Step forward Michael Matthews, who will ride into Paris as the first Green jersey since.... Robbie McEwen in 2006.
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 364 pts
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 204
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin 158
4 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 143
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 140
The route describes the shape of a horseshoe and the first section should be of little consequence to the peloton, however weary it is at this stage, because it travels south with more down than up along the Durance valley road. The route makes an excursion along the eastern shore of the Lac de Serre-Ponçon and the cat-three Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées before picking up the River Urbaye and heading upstream. It's a very gradual climb up the valley road through Barcelonette and Jausiers – the sort of terrain where big groups get away – before turning off left at Saint-Paul-sur-Urbaye for a rare return to the Col du Vars, last used in the Tour in 2000, but a regular feature of the mammoth north-south stages of the 1950s and 60s.
The Vars is at its most testing during a long middle section that runs for 2km at about 10 per cent. The descent isn't particularly technical but it does bunch up towards Guillestre at the bottom. Finally, the race makes for the big event, not just of the stage but possibly the Tour: the 14km Col d'Izoard. Purists may baulk at finishing a stage on a col -– what goes up should come down after all – but the toughness of the Izoard, with long sections upwards of nine per cent and a short section of 14 per cent near the top, just after the other-worldly dolomite rocks of the Casse Déserte, will provide the penultimate stratification of the GC. The King of the Mountains jersey will also be decided here. It's the only stage where there are double points for the winner.
If you'd like Cyclingnews coming in your ears then why not download the latest podacst. It's packed with interviews with Contador, Dan Martin and Wegelius, as well as race analysis from the CN team.
Most of the riders have signed on and we're just a few minutes away from the roll out. There's a neutralized zone that will take around 10 minutes to cover, before the flag drops. The first section of the course is rolling with the first climb not until 60km into the action.
Click here for our report, results and photos from La Course. It was a great race in the end, made by a superb attack from the winner (don't worry I won't spoil it for you), and some questionable tactics from one particular team.
Before the stage start you can catch up on all the latest transfer news from within the peloton.
"This is the last big test. There's no hiding and this is the Mont Ventoux equivalent," says Froome at the start.
He's not won a stage yet and he'll be desperate to stamp his authority on this year's race. A win today would all but seal a fourth yellow jersey in Paris. He's not won a race all year so will finishing in Paris be his first win of the season?
Blue skies greet the riders as they wind out from the neurtralized zone. Team Sky have hustled to the front and have Froome well placed. So many teams haven't won a stage yet in the race that we're likely to see a huge number of attacks early on as the break looks to establish itself.
And Sadhbh O'Shea will take live for the next few minutes.
Hello everybody. Lars Bak and Thomas Voeckler are trying to get a gap on the peloton. Voeckler is smartly using the slipstream of the much taller Bak.
176km remaining from 179km
Astana also has a rider in the mix as rider upon rider streams off the front of the peloton. This looks far too big to stick.
Most of the would-be attackers have been brought back. It is Voeckler, Grivko and Bak just ahead of the bunch but the elastic has not snapped just yet.
The trio are caught, but Voeckler doesn't give up straight away. He rides as if he's trying to rip his handlebars off as he digs in, but he can't hold off Thomas De Gendt, who is at the front of the peloton.
The efforts of De Gendt has forced a four-man breakaway. It was less of an attack, but a gradual surge in pace until they broke clear. He has Clamejane, De Marchi and Gesbert with him.
Astana and Katusha are driving the front of the chase group. A large group of about 50 riders has slipped off the front of the peloton. Astana in particular seem to want to get someone in the breakaway. Fabio Aru dropped off the podium yesterday after being distanced on the Galibier and having someone up the road could be a good tactic for the Kazakh team.
Astana and Katusha are driving the front of the chase group. A large group of about 15 riders has slipped off the front of the peloton. Astana in particular seem to want to get someone in the breakaway. Fabio Aru dropped off the podium yesterday after being distanced on the Galibier and having someone up the road could be a good tactic for the Kazakh team.
That chase group is growing ever bigger as riders continue to shoot off the front. Michael Matthews and Andre Greipel are among those having a dig. The four leaders have 49 seconds on the peloton.
That chasing group has ballooned to 47 riders and they're about to make contact with the four leaders. They must have done a double take as they looked over their shoulder to effectively see a peloton taking them back.
Stephen Cummings is one of the riders who has made it clear in that group. Nils Politt is in there, as it Jurgen Roelandts. We'll bring you a full list of riders when we can get it.
We've got some of yesterday's escapees in there with Mollema and Atapuma making it in. Ben Swift is in there and Cannondale have three riders with Andrew Talansky, Pierre Rolland and Simon Clarke.
This group is going to be very hard to control for Team Sky and with it at this size it looks like the stage winner is going to come from the breakaway.
Buchmann and Burghardt have been trying to get across the gap but it's not working and they're being slowly brought back to the peloton. It's not the first time that we've seen them do this during this year's Tour de France. They just don't seem to be able to get their timing right.
The gap to this monster 51-rider group has gone up to 2:41 as Team Sky puts the whole team onto the front of the peloton. The riders in the bunch look relaxed and Nairo Quintana has a chat as they ride along some flatter roads.
Only three teams don't have any representation in this front group. They are Team Sky, Bora-Hansgrohe and LottoNL-Jumbo. That means that almost all of the GC contenders have a teammate up there and that could be crucial later in the race.
30 kilometres into the stage and the gap to the breakaway has just gone above the four-minute mark. Luke Rowe is on the front in the peloton, as he has been throughout much of the Tour de France.
Handing back to Daniel Benson now for the remainder of the stage.
Team Sky have settled things down on the front of the bunch as a few riders take a moment to drop back, pick up a few instructions from the team cars, and a few more bidons. The break has 4'14 over the bunch at the moment and it's continuing to grow out. This is a huge move and although there's no danger for the GC contenders, there are some handy climbers up the road.
Froome is coming back through the team cars and he looks comfortable enough as he taps out a gentle pace. The gap to the break is edging out to around five minutes with Astana, BMC and AG2R driving the pace.
Here's the complete list of today's break. Around 50 riders.
Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Carlos Betancur (Movistar), Teisj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Guillaume Martin (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Jan Bakelandts (AG2R La Mondiale), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Lilian Calmajane (Direct Energie), Amael Moinard (BMC Racing), Robert Kisterlovski (Katusha), Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Marco Minaard (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates), Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale), Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates), Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott), Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors), Michael Valgren (Astana), Simon Geschke (Team Sunweb), Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo Oscaro), Tiago Machado (Katusha), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie), Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing), Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), Nils Politt (Katusha), Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo Oscaro), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo Oscaro), Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana), Andrey Grivko (Astana), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Dion Smith (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Dmitri Claeys (Cofidis)
@Lotto_Soudal Thu, 20th Jul 2017 11:44:35
143km remaining from 179km
Over 30km into the stage and the patter is well set for now. The first climb is coming up but it won't have a major impact on the rest of the action - it's just a third cat ascent as we see Uran moving towards the front of the bunch. He's sitting second on GC and Froome has earmarked the Cannondale rider as his most dangerous rival. Few would disagree at this point.
Our Patrick Fletcher spoke to Uran earlier this morning. Here's what the Cannondale leader had to say:
Today is a pretty important day for me because with the summit finish, it’s an important one if I want to win this Tour. It will be difficult but today, I believe, is the day I have to try something.
It’s complicated and you never know [when Froome is having a bad moment]. We have to wait and see how, in the high mountains, he reacts, and how everything plays out. He has a lot of experience, he’s won multiple Tours, and we’ll have to see what he can do today.
[Time needed before TT] I don’t like to set myself an exact amount seconds or minutes or anything, but it’s clear that I want to have a good chunk of time.
[Independence Day in Colombia] Today is the day in Colombia, and I hope it’s the day for me too.
Luke Rowe, who has suffered the last few days, is back on the front and setting the pace for Team Sky. Astana might have four men in the break but is that aggression or defence? It all depends on whether Aru has the legs on the final climb of the day. He too has been found wanting in the third week and he's dropped from yellow to fourth as a result.
132km remaining from 179km
It's hard to describe just how important today is, not just for the this race, but for the Tour de France and French cycling. They've not been this close to yellow jersey, at this point in the race, since perhaps Voeckler in yellow in 2011 and that year it was only a matter of time before he cracked. Bardet, if he can do the job today, could go a long way to sealing France's first Tour win since Hinault. He's 27 seconds down on Froome so probably needs a good two minutes today to stand any chance. It's a huge ask but he AG2R will believe.
125km remaining from 179km
Some cross winds out there but nothing too serious as the break hold their near five minute lead over the Team Sky-led peloton. 4'51 with 125km to go.
Voeckler's last stand? I'm sure that he will lead the peloton onto the Champs Elysees on Sunday (Horner isn't there to chase him down) but for now he's in the break. Few would begrudge him a win today. Expect, maybe, the 53 other riders in the break.
121km remaining from 179km
There's an attack from the break with Direct Energie and Thomas De Gendt going clear as we hit the first climb of the day. The break have exactly five minutes on the main field.
It's Calemejane who attacked. A stage winner already in the race and someone tipped as the next Hinault by the home media. It's a good move because that main break is far too big. He and De Gendt are working well but they'll want a few more riders to bridge over and help with the workload.
A rider from Katusha has bridged over, so we now have three leaders with 119km to go. De Gendt will want the points at the top of the climb as we see Rolland also try and make contact with the leaders.
De Gent is first over the top. Bargui will not be worried about in the slightest, that competition is done and dusted. Sorry it's a Cofidis rider, not a Katusha rider.
Don't forget you can download our recent podcast. We hear from Contador, Wegelius and Dan Martin after yesterday's finish.
It's Danny Navarro, once a top ten finisher in the Tour, once a Vuelta stage winner and once in the break (yesterday), who has made contact with Calmejane and De Gendt.
115km remaining from 179km
Wrong again. Race radio had it as Navarro but that looks like Edet. Either way the entire move is about to be caught, just as Rolland made contact. 5'12 for the break with 115km to go as further down the road Rowe continues to set the pace for the peloton. Knees is waiting in the wings.
Fabio Aru (seemed a little demoralised and maybe ill with a cold at the start)
'We’ll see how I feel during the stage. Yesterday was a tough day but they can happen during a Grand Tour.
'I had a bad day but I wasn’t that far form Froome and the other guys near the top of the Galibier. I actually thought I’d lose a lot more but I managed to lint the gap on the climb and on the descent.
"Today I’m relaxed but focused like always. I’ll give my best and sees what happens.
109km remaining from 179km
We've another split from the break and now Swift and Chavanel are in a seven man move. Brambilla is also there. Pauwels is there too and Simon Clarke.
101km remaining from 179km
Almost seven minutes for the lead seven riders, with Knees on the front now for Team Sky.
The seven leaders are Brambilla, Chavanel, Clarke, Pauwels, Swift, Tulik and Vachon and they have 25 seconds on the main break.
It's another impressive ride from Pauwels, who was in the break yesterday. He's the only rider sitting on the back and not taking a turn at the moment. For now that's not causing any friction.
Enough is enough and Pauwels is called through. He pounces to the front and starts taking his turns with the rest of the break.
The gap between the seven leaders and the main break hasn't really changed in the last few kilometres but the peloton are now over seven minutes in arrears.
And with 90km to go the seven man move has been caught. So we're back to having 50 riders clear, with the the gap to the peloton at 7'36.
De Gent lifts the pace at the front of the break and a few riders sprint to hold his wheel. Eight minutes now for the leaders over the peloton.
Cobrelli takes 20 points at the intermediate sprint. That will push him into third, and above Kristoff in the Green jersey standings.
83km remaining from 179km
The gap is holding at 8 minutes now as we see the break hit a long flat section before the road starts to rise once more. It's looking increasingly likely that the winner will come from the break but there's still a long way to go.
@Lotto_Soudal Thu, 20th Jul 2017 13:11:47
Through the feedzone for the bunch as we see Froome tuck into his lunch and toss away items that don't take his fancy. As we see Bora hit the front of the peloton, having missed the break earlier today.
10 riders have jumped out the main break with 71km to go. The gap is only around 10 seconds as we see a reaction from the rest of the break. The Col de Vars isn't too far away as we see more Bora riders flood the front of the peloton.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Thu, 20th Jul 2017 13:24:05
We're just a few minutes away from the Col de Vars and the main break has split in two. Twenty-five riders from the original move have gone clear with Talansky, Molard, Benoot, Chavanel, Swift and Clarke among the new leading group. Bora continue to lead the chase from the peloton.
I know Bora have missed the break but this effort is borderline pointless. Who are they setting up the stage for other than the GC contenders? It looks like the riders are being punished for missing the break. The gap is at 7'17 with 59km to go.
Onto the climb, it's 9.3km in length and has a gradient of around 7 per cent. This is going to cause some major splits in the main break as we see Swift take a long pull on the front. Roelandts then takes over, followed by Pauwels.
Here are the leaders:
Bakelants, Gautier, Roche, Grivko, Kozhatayev, Valgren, Atapuma, Durasek, Marcato, Swift, Molard, Impey, Pauwels, Venter, Stybar, Lammertink, Benoot, Roelandts, Edet, Navarro, Voeckler, Chavanel, Clarke, Talansky and Minaard.
58km remaining from 179km
Voeckler, tongue wagging, moves to the front of the break and takes a short pull on the front. Bora are still riding as we see Yates and D Martin move up to the front of the peloton with 56km to go.
1'05 gap between the two lead groups. For anyone from the break to survive they probably need four minutes at the foot of the Izoard. So far so good.
Still 5.4km to climb on the Vars and Edet attacks. He is followed by Ulissi and two other riders, one of them Simon Clarke.
Froome at the start of the stage this morning:
his is the third week, the last big test in the mountains. There is no hiding on a stage like this. It is this year’s equivalent of Mont Ventoux - the Izoard is a brutal climb, and we’re going to have to see what everyone has on that last kick. I’d love to go for the stage today, that would be incredible. If I get the chance, I will certainly go for it.”
Edet and Clarke drop back but Ulissi and a rider from Astana keep clear as we see riders popping off the back of the peloton as they start the climb.
As Ben Swift is dropped by the break. Luke Rowe, on the other hand, keeps the pace high for Team Sky.
53km remaining from 179km
The two lead groups are coming back to each other - the gap at 25 seconds but we've still got 3.5km to climb until we hit the summit of the col de Vars.
The main break is back together once more but Navarro isn't happy. He jumps clear but Pauwels pulls him back. The Belgian has been a consistent presence in the break this year. Top marks for effort.
@quickstepteam Thu, 20th Jul 2017 14:02:07
Luke Rowe is still pulling the bunch along on this first cat climb. He's close to limit though as we see Matthews and a few others slip out the back of the peloton.
Sicard has attacked and Lutsenko is quickly on his wheel and marks the Direct Energie rider.
50km remaining from 179km
Gallopin is giving chase, with 1km to go until we hit the top but big news down the climb and AG2R have hit the front.
Gallopin has made contact and so has Atapuma, so we have four riders as Knees is now dropped.
The four leaders have about 15 seconds on the main break, or what's left of it, with the peloton at 6'47.
AG2R have raised the pace significantly though as Lutsenko takes the points at the top of the climb.
Bardet has put his entire team on the front in a bid to shed Froome of his Team Sky squad. So far they've only dropped Rowe and Knees and if they're to isolate the maillot jaune then they'll need to drop Landa and Kwiatkowski.
AG2R have reduced the yellow jersey group to less than 30 men but Froome still has four riders with him as the leaders sweep down this long descent.
Naesen is doing all the damage on the front of the yellow jersey group as riders from Movistar, UAE and Cannondale slip off the back.
Way out in front and Gallopin has dropped the rest of the break on the descent. He has 6'24 on the bunch.
Now the bunch are tearing down the descent with AG2R keen to ensure that none of the dropped riders can make it back into contention. Gallopin is being chased by Lutsenko, Atapuma and Sicard. They have around 30 seconds on the chase.
144km remaining from 179km
Inside the final 35km of the stage and the gap between the break and the peloton is 6'10. It's still touch and go with regards to the stage win but AG2R are throwing everything at this descent as they look to unsettle Aru, Froome and Uran.Naesen is still the one doing all the work.
Even though the Izoard is about 15km from this point the riders are already climbing on a long false-flat section. The four leaders have 5'51 on the main field.
Four more riders have made contact with the leaders out from. Edet is there for Cofidis once more as AG2R finish the long descent and begin the false flat section before the Izoard.
The gap between the now eight leaders and the AG2R-led peloton is holding at just under six minutes with just 26km of racing left, 15km of those all uphill. Navarro, Grmay and Hardy are the other riders who have made contact with the leaders.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Thu, 20th Jul 2017 14:35:04
As back with the bunch Team Sky can take a backseat and save their legs as Bardet's team set the pace. More and more riders are making contact with the lead group, which has now swelled to about a dozen riders.
Gallopin is giving out to the rest of the break because three riders have gone clear. The Lotto rider is furious and takes it out on Navarro, which isn't very nice if you ask me. Navarro seems like a lovely chap - and he has a teammate up the road with Edet, Lutsenko and one other rider clear. Hardy.
AG2R line the bunch out and the gap drops to 4'59 as Pantano calls for the team car. Contador is quite far back in the GC group, which isn't a great sign.
Still five men for Bardet though on the front with 21km to go for the leaders. Dan Martin is already on his own.
Edet and Lutsenko are still leading but Hardy has dropped back as we head into the final 19km of today's stage. The final 19km in the Alps.
Edet takes a gel from the Astana team car as Lutsenko continues to set the pace as further down the climb Gallopin leads the second group at 32 seconds. The Ag2r bunch are at 4'26.
What was in that gel because Edet is sinking and fast. Lutsenko is powering clear as the road begins to rise. He has 4'17 on the bunch with 15km to go. Touch and go for the stage win.
13km remaining from 179km
The lone leader is on the climb proper as the Gallopin group starts to attack each other. Atapuma was on his own but has now linked up with both Cofidis riders and Gallopin. They're chasing Lutsenko, who continues to impress as he battles with the lower slopes of the Izoard.
AG2R are on the climb as well and the gap is down to 4'03. Chaves is dropped, Naesen too, as the yellow jersey group is reduced to less than 20 riders.
Froome still has numbers around him though, as we see one rider with Aru, none with Uran, and none with D Martin. 12.5km to go.
Lutsenko looks down at his geas but he's pushing on as we see Edet totally crack. Ulissi, Atapuma, Gallopin, Navarro are still in the chase as we see Cummings drop off the back of the earlier break. It looks like Bardet has been dropped as Atapuma and Navarro attack together. Gautier has been dropped from the Bardet group.
And Aru's last man has been distanced too as we see Lutsenko push on and hold a lead of '3'52. He has 40 seconds on the chase of Navarro and Atapuma.
AG2R continue to put the pressure on, further down the climb as Aru almost struggles to hold the wheels. Up the road and Gallopin has attacked from the third group on the road. So we have the Lotto rider, Atapuma and Navarro chasing Lutsenko as we see Pantano slip out of the peloton.
Dan Martin has Stybar with him, who was in the break, as De Gendt and Barguil shake hands. Nice little bit of sportsmanship as we see the Frenchman still in the yellow jersey group.
Lutsenko is putting in a real shift here and is hold the yellow jersey group at 3'32 with 10km to. We're about to hit the steepest section of the climb though.
9km remaining from 179km
Tailwind for the yellow jersey group as we see Contador drift a little further back in the yellow jersey group. No sign of Quintana but we've not seen him dropped either. Lutsenko has 43 seconds on the chase group, and 3'26 on the bunch.
And Atapuma attacks and Gallopin is forced to respond but it looks like Navarro is cooked.
1400m separate Lutsenko with the AG2r train, with the gap to 3'16.
Contador is right at the back of the yellow jersey group as Atapuma tries to bring Lutsenko back with the gap starting to drop. 8km to go.
Lutsenko powers on as Rolland is caught by the yellow jersey group. He will look to support Uran for as long as possible. Bonne chance!
2'50 now for Lutsenko with 7km to go as the road hits the 10 per cent ramps. Atapuma vs Lutsenko. Not the battle we were expecting at the start of the day but both riders are keeping the stage alive as AG2R continue to grind away on the front of the bunch. And Henao has been dropped. He's been poor the last couple of days it has to be said.
And Frank has cracked. AG2R then lose another rider but they lift the pace and Aru is being dropped. Nieve is with him.
AG2R have all cracked but for Bardet but we still have 6km to go as Atapuma catches, and the drops Lutsenko. Wow.
As down the climb Bardet attacks and Team Sky set the pace but then Contador attacks.
Contador catches Bardet and Sky looks troubled for a moment.
Aru is still fighting but he's losing ground slowly as we see Yates, Quintana, D Martin all still there.
Correction. It's Barguil who attacked, not Bardet. It's Barguil and Contador who are clear and they've linked up with Mollema.
Martin looks like he's about to crack as Aru makes it back. Froome still have two men with him with Uran also there with Bardet. Meintjes is also there too. No Caruso.
5km remaining from 179km
Just over 5km to go and Atapuma has 1'50 as we see Barguil drop Mollema and Contador.
Froome has three men, he had two a minute ago but it looks like Nieve has recovered. 1'45 for Atapuma with 5km to go. Barguil has 30 seconds on the yellow jersey group.
The Sunweb rider is skipping by riders from the early break as we see Martin attack. He gets 10m but Team Sky are not going to let him go. Caught.
And Aru is dropped again with 4.5km to go.
Quintana dropped as Aru fights back once more.
Kwiatkowski, Nieve, Landa, Froome. How do you take that on? Meanwhile Gallopin is second on the road at 35 seconds. Atapuma has 55 seconds on Barguil. 4km to go as Contador is caught by the Froome group.
Kwiatkowski has cracked and has stopped by the road.
Landa has attacked.
He looks back and Froome is waiting to see if anyone responds.
Dan Martin chases. Are Team Sky just playing with the opposition?
Dan Martin leads the chase as Barguil goes by Lutsenko. Then he catches and drops Gallopin.
Eh Landa isn't waiting and Froome is marking by chasing D Martin.
Landa is 1'24 down on Froome.
Landa wants the stage but he's closing in on yellow as Aru slips off the back once more.
3km to go and Barguil has 30 seconds to make up on Atapuma.
Landa looks back. He has about 20 seconds as Froome again looks for others to do the work.
The stage should come down to Atapuma and Barguil as Landa takes a drink and pushes on. And now Bardet attacks. Froome has to chase.
Only Uran can follow. Bardet, Froome, Uran as Martin tries to chase.
Aru is losing more and more time and now Froome attacks.
Bardet tries to chase but that's a huge gap.
Froome is clear and racing up to Landa. Uran and Bardet are chasing together with 1.6km to go.
Uran. Impressive. He catches Froome with Bardet.
And Barguil is about to catch Atapuma with 1.5km to go.
Barguil makes the catch but Atapuma is digging in. Aru is over 30 seconds down on Froome, who has linked up with Landa. Uran and Bardet can only follow at the moment.
The two leaders have 29 seconds with 1,1km to go. Barguil needs to attack again if he wants the stage, as that's not enough time if it all kicks off again.
Atapuma has cracked. Barguil pushes on and with 900m to go the stage should be his.
Back down the road it's Landa, Froome, Uran and Bardet. Martin and the rest are losing time. Aru is way, way down.
Aru could drop to fifth at this rate, with Landa moving up on GC as we see Yates and Contador ride together. Further down the climb Aru is with Quintana but the Italian isn't getting any help.
Less than 400m to go for Barguil.
Froome is forced to chase.
Barguil though takes the stage. What a Tour it's been. Atapuma takes second, Bardet third.
Uran takes fourth with Landa and then Martin a few seconds later. Yates loses a few seconds but he should keep white as Contador crosses the line. Then Quintana.
Aru loses around a minute.
1 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb 4:40:33
2 Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:20
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
5 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:22
6 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:32
7 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:37
8 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:39
9 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:00:59
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:09
And the new GC is here:
General classification after stage 18
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 78:08:19
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:23
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:29
4 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:36
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:55
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:56
7 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:04:46
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:52
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb 0:08:22
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:08:34
A fascinating stage for a number of different reason but in terms of GC what does it mean?
Froome is on course to win his fourth Tour but the battle for the podium places will come down to the wire. Can Landa put in enough time to take second? It's not an impossible task given how strong he has looked over the last few weeks and how sketchy Bardet can be in time trials.
Aru has crumbled in the Tour for the second time in two years - although this is a much better performance than twelve months ago. He's dropped to fifth and should finish there come Paris.
Barguil: It’s really fantastic. I can’t believe it it’s a dream for me. It has been a dream three weeks. Last night I was discussing it with Michael and we never would have expected that we could have the polka-dot and the green jersey and to win two stages for him and one for me, now two. It’s just unbelievable.
I was waiting to see how it went. I wanted to take some time on Contador to maybe win one spot. 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.
Yates: I had better legs today. For sure, it’s still going to be difficult. You can never say I’ve definitely got this. We’ve still got to be careful, but much better than yesterday.
I was trying to do my own ride and keep my own rhythm. I think that’s really important on a climb like this. I gave it everything, so I’m happy.
It was very, very hard stage with the climb to the finish, I have to congratulate Warren Barguil on his win. I’m happy with today. My teammates did a very good job in the finale to control the break.
I tried to drop Uran and Bardet but it was virtually impossible today.I’m happy to have got through the Alps this year without a problem. They’ve always been more difficult for me. Now we’ll see what happens in the time trial in Marseille. We’ll see what happens.
I’ll do my best to try to win the stage and ride for the jersey. I’ve already seen the time trial course. It’s a very fast 22km course. I’ll do my maximum for sure.
You can find our brief report, results and more excellent photos from the stage, right here.
Come this way for our post-stage quotes.
AG2R certainly showed intent today and looked to set up Bardet for the final climb but they were a spent force by the time they reached the foot of the Izoard. At that point Froome still had three men with him and again Team Sky won the battle in terms of numbers and you'd have to say tactics too. Sending Landa up the road meant others had the chase. The only downside for Froome is that he wasn't able to drop his rivals and he lost two seconds to Bardet in the sprint. He's not been at his best in this year's race but he hasn't needed to be.
Heartbreak for Atapuma though. He was the last man standing from the break and almost pulled off an incredible win. He was on the attack in stage 17 too but came up against a determined Barguil today, who was not to be denied.
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