Tour de France: Geraint Thomas wins stage 11 at La Rosiere, takes yellow

If the first Alpine outing of the 2018 Tour de France had seen something of a stalemate, the second helping on Wednesday's stage 11 duly saw the race explode for the first time. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) took the stage victory in La Rosière and moved into the yellow jersey, with his general classification rivals scattered down the mountain below him.

Thomas had played down talk of an internal rivalry within Team Sky on the rest day, but he produced a real statement of intent when he accelerated away from Chris Froome and the rest of the GC group six kilometres from the top of the final climb – the first summit finish of the race. Not that Froome looked any weaker; he played the obvious games with the rest of the overall contenders before riding away from them in the final few kilometres.

The four-time champion placed third on the stage, pipped at the line by Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who had attacked ahead of the final climb and who had been joined by Thomas for a few kilometres before the Welshman ripped away for the line in the final kilometre.

Mikel Nieve placed fifth, having come so close to surviving from the day's breakaway. Fellow escapee Damiano Caruso came around him for fourth, but ultimately this stage was all about the GC riders. Dumoulin and Froome finished 20 seconds behind Thomas, while Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), whose counter-attack had helped Froome to drop many of his big-name rivals, finished at 27 seconds.

Next in was a group containing Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, and Primoz Roglic. Fifty-nine seconds was the damage for them on what must be a significant dent to morale.

Mikel Landa finished at 1:47, the Movistar hierarchy becoming increasingly clear on a day that saw Alejandro Valverde animate the race with a 60km attack before eventually losing more than three minutes. Ilnur Zakarin lost another 1:51, while the damage was more fatal for others –Jakob Fuglsang, Adam Yates and Bob Jungels both losing 4:42. In Yates' case, it must be pointed out that when he was dropped with 10km of the final climb remaining, his teammate Nieve was making his play for the stage win. The writing was already on the wall for Rigobero Uran, Bauke Mollema, and Rafal Majka, but they all lost more than 10 minutes and plummeted definitively out of contention.

Thomas now leads the race by 1:25 from his teammate Froome, with Dumoulin third overall at 1:44. No one else is within two minutes – Nibali at 2:14, Roglic at 2:33 and his teammate Steven Kruijswijk at 2:40. Landa and Bardet then creep in just under three minutes down, with Quintana and Martin rounding out the top 10 at 3:16.

"It is unreal and I didn't expect it at all," Thomas said before his trip to the podium to pull on the maillot jaune for a second Tour in a row.

"We were low on numbers and so it was more instinct, when I went, it was so that we didn't get caught out and have to ride. I got a little gap and then Froomey could follow the other guys. I committed and got across to [Tom] Dumoulin and was able to sit on because Froomey was coming across. I could see Frosty [Mikel Nieve], and it's a shame, but I had to go for that win because it was super nice."

Of the maillot jaune, he added: "I knew there was a good chance, obviously, but I didn't know how anyone else was going to ride. To wear the yellow jersey is always a massive honour. I managed to do it last year, and to do it two years in a row is really nice."

How it unfolded

After watching Julian Alaphilippe go all the way the previous afternoon, there was once again no shortage of interest in the breakaway on the second of three days in the Alps. More than 40 riders managed to escape the clutches of the peloton, though many would fall away once the road began to rise in earnest. One of them was Peter Sagan, who struck out for a second day in a row to collect the points at the intermediate sprint, adding to his lead in the green jersey standings before drifting back through the peloton to the soon-to-be-formed gruppetto.

With Sagan at the intermediate sprint were four other riders: Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic), Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), and Dani Navarro (Cofidis). They led onto the Montée de Bisanne, an hors-catégorie climb 12.4km long and 8.4 per cent steep, but they would soon be joined by the stronger riders of the huge group chasing behind.

In there were: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale), Chad Hagan, Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), Maxime Bouet, Amael Moinard, Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), Mark Soler (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen, Stefan Kung (BMC), Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Valgren, Tanel Kanger, (Astana), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal), Rein Taaramae, Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Jesus Herrada, Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve, Damian Howson (Mitchelton-Scott), Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates), Arthur Vichot, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Guillaume Martin (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac).

At the top of the climb, Alaphilippe, wearing the polka-dot jersey after Tuesday's exploits, sprinted for more points to extend his lead in the mountains classification. Barguil also tried but couldn't match the acceleration, while De Gendt came across in third. Those three took on the descent together, while the riders who'd lost ground on the upper slopes managed to regain contact.

Meanwhile, the gap to the peloton, led by Team Sky and their Classics specialist Luke Rowe, had yawned out to six minutes.

Col du Pré and Cormet de Roselend

By the lower slopes of the Col du Pré, the second HC climb of the day, Alaphilippe, Barguil, and De Gendt had been caught and the leading group had swelled to more than 30 once again. It would soon explode, though, as the double-digit gradients started to bite. Fortuneo would impose a train of their own, setting a pace that would thin the group dramatically.

Back in the peloton, the Sky hegemony was finally broken. Luke Rowe disappeared from the front and Movistar took it up, putting three men in front of that Sky train. The increase in pace was almost immediately evidenced by a number of riders – who'd been able to cope with the more sedate pace until then – falling off the back. Among them were Greg Van Avermaet, who, as he himself predicted, began to slide out of the yellow jersey.

And then came the GC damage. Rigoberto Urán, who'd lost time the previous day and before that on the cobbles, fell away and waved a definitive goodbye to his GC ambitions. It was the same for Bauke Mollema, who has been struggling with back pain. Further up, Rafal Majka showed more signs of weakness.

Half-way up the climb, Valverde made the first real attack of the Tour de France. He quickly opened up a lead of half a minute as Sky were forced back onto the front, and picked off the flailing members of the early break. One of them, of course, was Soler, who got straight to work for his leader.

At the top of the Col du Pré, Barguil – with Alaphilippe dropped – helped himself to the KOM points, ahead of Pauwels, who was by now in the virtual maillot jaune. Valverde and Soler, 3:50 down, had found 1:10 on Sky and the rest of the peloton.

After a short descent, the road reared uphill again to the Cormet de Roselend – a 5.7km climb at 6.7 per cent, rising to an altitude of almost 2000 metres. Not content with Gianni Moscon’s reappearance, Vincenzo Nibali’s Bahrain-Merida put Franco Pelizotti on the front of the bunch and thinned the group to 30. Meanwhile, Valverde was two minutes up the road and now in the virtual yellow jersey, but Bahrain's forcing would shave half a minute off the gap by the top.

In the break, once again it was Fortuneo taking it up, Moinard with Barguil in his wheel ready to help himself to more points at the top. At the crest, there were 13 left out front: Moinard, Barguil, Gesbert, Nieve, Valgren, Kangert, Martin, Caruso, Herrada, Navarro, Frank, Pauwels, and Atapuma.

Valverde and Soler topped the climb just over two minutes in arrears, but their lead over the GC group had been paired back to a minute. A long, 18-kilometre descent followed, used by Tom Dumoulin for a speculative attack, with teammate Kragh Andersen for company.

By the foot of the final climb, the situation was thus: Four leaders in Barguil, Moinard, Caruso, and Valgren, then eight of their previous companions at 30 seconds, then Valverde/Soler at 2:30, then Dumoulin and Kragh Andersen at 2:48, then the Sky-led peloton at 3:20.

Summit finish

Just a kilometre or so into the climb to La Rosière – 17.6km at an average of 5.8 per cent – Soler's work was done, though by this point Dumoulin had pretty much made the bridge, so Valverde tucked in behind the Dutchman, who still had Kragh Andersen to pull for another kilometre or so. When Kragh Andersen went, Dumoulin started pulling and turned round to usher Valverde through, but the Spaniard refused, putting the pressure on Dumoulin with the excuse that he had teammates to fall back on behind. 30 seconds was their gap to the peloton, where there were no more than 20 riders, and six of them wearing Sky jerseys.

Up front, Moinard pulled over and almost ground to a halt, leaving Barguil to fight mano a mano with Caruso, Nieve, and Valgren, though the latter was done for after seven kilometres. The Cofidis duo of Herrada and Navarro led the chase and produced a remarkable effort to bridge across to the three remaining leaders with 9km to go. As soon as they'd made the junction, however, Nieve attacked. He was clearly all-in for a stage win and not a bridge for Yates, as the attack coincided with the Mitchelton leader losing contact with the GC group. Nieve's move stuck, and spelled an end to Barguil's hopes, with Caruso the chief chaser followed by the Cofidis duo.

Meanwhile, Dumoulin had too much for Valverde and dropped the Spaniard, who fell back to the peloton and then out of the back of it, his GC hopes and Movistar's 'three cards' approach taking a major hit. By now Castroviejo had pulled over and Kwiatkowski was doing the damage for Sky, and following Yates and Valverde out of the back door were Ilnur Zakarin, Jakob Fuglsang, and white jersey Pierre Latour.

With six kilometres to go, Nieve had one minute on the advancing Dumoulin, with the peloton at 1:35. Kwiatkowski dug in and caused enough damage to take Egan Bernal – Sky's next in line to pull – out of the equation.

With just over 6km to go, Thomas made his move. Froome pulled over and waved the others through, but they began to call his bluff. Bardet cracked first, dragging Froome with him and establishing a selection with Quintana, Nibali, Roglic, and Martin, who would dangle off the back. By this point, Landa and Zakarin had lost contact, and Yates a few kilomtres before that.

Froome then made an attack of his own. He risked dragging the others over to Thomas, but he sensed weakness in his rivals. He was well marked, with Bardet putting in a couple of short-lived accelerations. Another big acceleration from Froome kept everyone on their toes.

With 4km to go, Thomas reached Dumoulin and sat in, but they would soon be hunted down by Froome. Martin, having clawed his way back, made a big attack and Froome, scarcely able to believe his luck, jumped on board. Quintana, Bardet, Nibali, and Roglic let it go, and as they looked around at each other, the duo eased clear. Kruijswijk then got back in to make it a group of five.

With just over a kilometre to go, and with Dumoulin and Thomas almost in sight, Froome attacked Martin. As he did, Thomas made an equally stinging acceleration to jump clear of Dumoulin and pass Nieve en route to the stage win.

Though Sky didn't quite manage a one-two on the stage, they nevertheless now sit one-two on GC. Alpe d'Huez awaits tomorrow, as do the inevitable leadership questions, but for Sky it was a near-perfect day, while for everyone else a tough task just got even tougher.

It was the end of the road for some; Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel - along with their lead-out men Mark Renshaw and Rick Zabel - finished more than 30 minutes down and missed the time cut.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky3:29:36
2Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb0:00:20
3Chris Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 2 - Cell 2
4Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:00:22
5Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-ScottRow 4 - Cell 2
6Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates0:00:27
7Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:00:57
8Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:59
9Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 8 - Cell 2
10Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar TeamRow 9 - Cell 2
11Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-JumboRow 10 - Cell 2
12Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:01:07
13Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:47
14Egan Bernal (Col) Team SkyRow 13 - Cell 2
15Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:01:58
16Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:51
17Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:02:59
18Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:03:06
19Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert0:03:08
20Warren Barguil (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 19 - Cell 2
21Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:03:30
22Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 21 - Cell 2
23Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 22 - Cell 2
24Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates0:03:41
25Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team0:03:53
26Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors0:04:42
28Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-ScottRow 27 - Cell 2
29Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data0:07:10
30Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:08:59
31Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team0:09:49
32Arthur Vichot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:10:40
33Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana Pro Team0:10:56
34Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:11:29
35Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 34 - Cell 2
36Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 35 - Cell 2
37Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 36 - Cell 2
38Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 37 - Cell 2
39Ian Boswell (USA) Katusha-Alpecin0:12:02
40Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 39 - Cell 2
41Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:12:31
42Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:14:21
43Wout Poels (Ned) Team SkyRow 42 - Cell 2
44Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team SkyRow 43 - Cell 2
45Romain Sicard (Fra) Direct Energie0:15:03
46Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Sunweb0:15:29
47Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:16:31
48Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team SunwebRow 47 - Cell 2
49Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 48 - Cell 2
50Simon Geschke (Ger) Team SunwebRow 49 - Cell 2
51Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 50 - Cell 2
52Elie Gesbert (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 51 - Cell 2
53Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 52 - Cell 2
54Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 53 - Cell 2
55Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo0:17:25
56Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 55 - Cell 2
57Rein Taaramäe (Est) Direct Energie0:17:51
58Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 57 - Cell 2
59Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 58 - Cell 2
60Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 59 - Cell 2
61Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo0:18:42
62David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:20:07
63Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJRow 62 - Cell 2
64Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 63 - Cell 2
65Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:21:17
66Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 65 - Cell 2
67Rory Sutherland (Aus) UAE Team EmiratesRow 66 - Cell 2
68Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb0:22:02
69Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:22:23
70Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 69 - Cell 2
71Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 71 - Cell 2
73Yoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 72 - Cell 2
74Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 73 - Cell 2
75Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing TeamRow 74 - Cell 2
76Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 75 - Cell 2
77Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-JumboRow 76 - Cell 2
78Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 77 - Cell 2
79Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto SoudalRow 78 - Cell 2
80Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:23:51
81Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team0:24:38
82Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 81 - Cell 2
83Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:24:51
84Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 83 - Cell 2
85Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 84 - Cell 2
86Maxime Bouet (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 85 - Cell 2
87Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 86 - Cell 2
88Chad Haga (USA) Team SunwebRow 87 - Cell 2
89Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 88 - Cell 2
90Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates0:26:05
91Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:26:07
92Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-ScottRow 91 - Cell 2
93Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension DataRow 92 - Cell 2
94Edward Theuns (Bel) Team SunwebRow 93 - Cell 2
95Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 94 - Cell 2
96Simon Gerrans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 95 - Cell 2
97Florian Vachon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 96 - Cell 2
98Laurent Pichon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 97 - Cell 2
99Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 99 - Cell 2
101Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 100 - Cell 2
102Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 101 - Cell 2
103Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 102 - Cell 2
104Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 103 - Cell 2
105Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-ScottRow 104 - Cell 2
106Anthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 105 - Cell 2
107Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 106 - Cell 2
108Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step FloorsRow 107 - Cell 2
109Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 108 - Cell 2
110Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 109 - Cell 2
111Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 110 - Cell 2
112Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 111 - Cell 2
113Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 112 - Cell 2
114Mathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 113 - Cell 2
115Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 114 - Cell 2
116Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 115 - Cell 2
117Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 116 - Cell 2
118Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-SegafredoRow 117 - Cell 2
119Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 118 - Cell 2
120Jerome Cousin (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 119 - Cell 2
121Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-HansgroheRow 120 - Cell 2
122Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar TeamRow 121 - Cell 2
123Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 122 - Cell 2
124Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin0:26:44
125Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data0:27:25
126Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 125 - Cell 2
127Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 126 - Cell 2
128Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 127 - Cell 2
129Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJRow 128 - Cell 2
130Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 129 - Cell 2
131Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 130 - Cell 2
132Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 131 - Cell 2
133Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 132 - Cell 2
134Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 133 - Cell 2
135Jay Thomson (RSA) Dimension DataRow 134 - Cell 2
136Romain Hardy (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 135 - Cell 2
137Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension DataRow 136 - Cell 2
138Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 137 - Cell 2
139Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 138 - Cell 2
140John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-SegafredoRow 139 - Cell 2
141Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 140 - Cell 2
142Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 141 - Cell 2
143Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-MeridaRow 142 - Cell 2
144Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team EmiratesRow 143 - Cell 2
145André Greipel (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 144 - Cell 2
146Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 145 - Cell 2
147Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension DataRow 146 - Cell 2
148Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 147 - Cell 2
149Roberto Ferrari (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 148 - Cell 2
150Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie0:27:45
151Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ0:27:56
152Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie0:27:58
153Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie0:28:31
154Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors0:29:05
155Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step FloorsRow 154 - Cell 2
156Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:29:18
157Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:29:22
158Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 157 - Cell 2
159Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) LottoNL-JumboRow 158 - Cell 2
160Timo Roosen (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 159 - Cell 2
161Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal0:29:25