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Tour de France 2018: Stage 14

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Hello and welcome to our full coverage of stage 14 to Mende.  

Today's stage is 188km across the Massif Central before the tough uphill finish to Mende.

The minutes are ticking down to the roll out of the stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux.  

It's another hot day in France and there is also a strong wind blowing. It could be a very interesting day.

Speaking before the start, Dan Martin and Romain Bardet both confirmed that today is a 'GC day'.  

This is the current GC standings. 

The Alps have shaken up and spread out the GC but so much more could happen before the riders head to Paris in eight days time.

The riders click in and roll out. They face 3km of neutralised roads before the flag drops and the 188km stage begins. 

The 188km stage features rolling terrain followed by four classified climbs.

To read more about the stage and Sunday's ride to Carcassonne, click here to read Sadhbh O'Shea's excellent preview feature.

188km remaining from 188km

The riders cross the canal at speed as other attacks try to inspire the break of the day.  

There's a strong cross wind and so we immediately have echelons!  

These early kilometres are on flat exposed roads. We could see some splits in the peloton.

Wow! There are four echelons spread down the road! 

We can see Thomas in yellow in the front echelon but Landa is back in the fourth echelon.

179km remaining from 188km

Yates, Valverde and Bardet are in the second echelon.

175km remaining from 188km

The hills are protecting the riders from the wind and so Team Sky have eased up and let the break go clear. 

171km remaining from 188km

There are another 25 riders in a chase group, with the peloton at 3:00 now. 

The seven are: Andrey Amador (Movistar), Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step), Omar Fraile (Astana), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Lilian Calmejane and Jérôme Cousin (Direct Energie) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis). 

Peter Sagan is in the chase group at 35 seconds. He's perhaps hoping to pick up points at the intermediate sprint but it is after 90km today. 

This shot shows the echelon attacks early in the stage.

The main peloton is now back together with Sky riding tempo. Their GC rivals will be happy they avoided any problems.

158km remaining from 188km

From the Cyclingnews blimp, we can see the race on the edge of the Ardeche gorge. It's yet another spectacular moment of the Tour de France. 

For now the 32-rider group is riding together but not every rider is doing turns on the front. 

150km remaining from 188km

This is the stunning terrain the riders are enjoying today. 

144km remaining from 188km

Amongst the 32 riders up front are Quick-Step Floors trio Julian Alaphilippe, Philippe Gilbert and Yves Lampaert. 

The average speed for the first hour is a fast 43.1km/h. Ouch. 

The best placed rider in the break is Damiano Caruso (BMC) but he's 39:18 down on Thomas.     

The riders are passing the Pont d'Arc, where ancient cave drawings from 5000 years ago were discovered. 

133km remaining from 188km

128km remaining from 188km

There is still a lot of debate and controversy about Vincenzo Nibali's crash on the climb to L'Alpe d'Huez. 

120km remaining from 188km

The riders have left the Ardeche gorge region now and are enjoying some rare flat roads. 

Luke Rowe is doing a lot of the work for Team Sky at the head of the peloton.

111km remaining from 188km

The peloton is strung out in a narrow line but we can't really say they seem to be in much of a hurry to catch the break group.

The lead group heads up the day's first climb, the cat. 4 Cote du Grand Chataignier.

That climb marks the end of the flattish early part of the stage. From here there is a long gradual climb up to the day's next obstacle, the Col de la Croix de Berthel.

The peloton has finally made its way to the climb.

101km remaining from 188km

The next excitement will be the intermediate sprint coming up shortly. But since green jersey Peter Sagan is in teh lead group, we doubt there will be much question as to how gets the 20 points. 

That gives him something like a zillion points. There seems to be no way he can lose this green jersey, assuming he finishes the race.

The teams are all nicely lined up in the peloton: Sky, Sunweb, and LottoNL-Jumbo. 

Only now is the field approaching the sprint. The gap has fallen, though, from a high of 7:12 all the way down to 6:57.

The lead group hits the feed zone and we wish them Bon Appetit!

Adam Yates has punctured, but is back on his way again. It looks like he has quite a way to go to catch the field. But now he is back at the team car for another adjustment. 

Now it is the peloton's turn to deal with musettes and sandwiches and bidons and so on. 

Things are going up again. As we said, there is a long way up now to the next mountaintop.

The gap has gone back up to 7:07. Sky is obviously determined to keep it that way.

This huge lead group is working well together. They know now that they have excellent chances to go for the win. 

Dumoulin moving his way up from the team cars to the peloton. Presumably he made a nature break as so many other riders are doing at the moment. 

The gap is slowly inching its way up again, now at 7:27, with 78 km to go.

WE have now passed the eight minute mark!

And now approaching nine minutes. We can only assume there will be some activity and fireworks within this group on the final climb. 

Sagan drops back to his team car for some bidons and a small chat. 

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) goes one better. He has donned a vest full of bidons! 

The gap is now 9:02. BMC's Patrick Bevin is dropping off the back of the peloton, but it is surely not due to the high pace of the field.

Slagter had a turn at the front of the lead group, then Geschke, now Alaphilippe. They are all co-operating very well.

The climb up the Col de la Croix de Berthel has now officially begun -- 9.1 km to climb, please!

Bevin was falling off the back of the peloton at last report, and has now climbed off his bike. 

Bevin is said to be ill. We hope he gets well soon. 

64km remaining from 188km

The Col de la Croix de Berthel comes with 59km to race. It's 9.1km long at 5.3%.

There is also the Col du Pont sans Eau with 46km to race. It's 3km long at 10.2%. 

Of course the GC teams are looking at the final climb up to the Mende airstrip. 

Team Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal expects the break to be successful, but it won’t be a day off for the general classification riders.

To understand more on the stage and the testing weekend in the Massif Central, click here. 

Back at the head of the race, Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) is on the move. 

The Spanish national champion is trying to make up for the loss of team leader Vincenzo Nibali, and perhaps start a run at the polka-dot climber's jersey.

Izagirre is the first to the summit, with Slagter of Di Data just behind.

Alaphilippe takes third to add a little to his lead in the polka-dot jersey. competition.

The roads are in the barren hilltops of the Massif now. There are few trees and locks of rocks in this remote central part of France. 

Izagirre has been joined by Slagter and Jasper Stuyven (Trek). 

Behind the peloton is at 13:00 minutes. 

There are other attacks from the break but the riders are chasing each other down, as the trio up front push on together.

48km remaining from 188km

The peloton on the Berthel climb is huge but very well behaved as the peloton reaches the summit more than 14:00 after the break. 

Yves Lampaert is giving his all to pull the trio back and indeed, the gap is down to 35 seconds.

Izagirre leads Stuyven and Slagter over the top of the climb, with Slagter grabbing a bidon over the top. 

Behind Alaphilippe sweeps up more points at the head of the attack group. 

45km remaining from 188km

Other riders to watch include Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Omar Fraile (Astana). 

However they and their teammates up front will have to close down the three up front.

38km remaining from 188km

De Gendt opened the gas on a steep section, spitting several riders out the back.   

There were 21 riders in the move until recently. 

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) attacks now but the head wind is making is hard today. 

36km remaining from 188km

Up front there is some tension as Izagirre shouts at Slagter. The Dimension Data riders seems to be tired and so is not working.

Indeed when Izagirre kicks away, Slagter is distanced.

The rolling exposed roads and the attacks in the front group is making the racing very, very hard.

33km remaining from 188km

29km remaining from 188km

The peloton is at a massive 17:30. Team Sky seem to be trying to hypnotise their GC rivals into defeat.   

The distance between Stuyven and the peloton is some 11km. 

24km remaining from 188km

Seeing Stuyven up front reminds us of the Cobbled Classics. 

Stuyven is on the new Trek Madone disc aero bike. He'll need every second he can get on the 10% climb to the Mende airstrip.

15km remaining from 188km

The 19 chasers are working together but not everyone is giving their all. This is helping Stuyven.  

This is the short but steep climb Stuyven faces up to the finish.

9km remaining from 188km

Peter Sagan is still in the chase group. He checks his pockets are empty and smiles at the Tv camera.

6km remaining from 188km

Stuyven is in the centre of Mende. The road is about to kick up at 10%. 

Stuyven is in the small ring, trying to spin and save his legs.

The chasers hit the climb and De Gendt goes clear. But he's 1:30 down on Stuyven. 

The peloton is 20:00 back, so we can enjoy the fight for the stage victory and then follow the GC battle.

3km remaining from 188km

Fraile is leading the chase of Stuyven but other riders are closing too.  

Fraile has just 3 hard kilometres to catch Stuyven. 

Dani Martinez of EF kicks off in pursuit of Fraile and Stuyven.

He needs to reach the top of the climb and then find some speed on the flat final two kilometres.

Attack Alaphilippe! He's in pursuit of Fraile and Stuyven. 

Fraile catches and passes Stuyven.  

Alaphilippe is trying to catch him.

But Fraile could do this.

Alaphilippe catches Stuyven but can he get up to Fraile. 

1km remaining from 188km

Fraile gasps for air as the road descends. 

Fraile holds on to win the stage. 

Alaphilippe takes second, Stuyven third and incredibly Sagan is fourth!!

Fraile can hardly believe he held on to win.  

This is the top ten for the stage.

Fraile went early in his pursuit of Stuyven but he timed it well. He needed time to catch him and to push on alone.

The peloton is a 4.5km from the finish. Dan Martin flats. That could cost him time. 

The GC riders hit the climb to the finish.

Adam Yates is distanced.

AG2R set the pace but Thomas and Froome are there.

All the GC riders are waiting for the big acceleration.

Landa ups the pace but no attacks yet. 

Now Roglic goes but Sky is tracking him. Kwaitkowski is trying to close the gap.

Jungels is distanced.

Froome is a little down the line.

Bernal leads the chase for Thomas.

Dumoulin is also gapped slightly.

Froome and Dumoulin are back with Thomas. 

Bardet is distanced.

Quintana, Froome and Thomas are the only ones with Dumoulin.

Thomas kicks hard and Quintana is gapped.

Roglic leads them by 100 metres.

Roglic finishes alone, some 18:00 down on stage winner Fraile.

Froome, Thomas and Dumoulin finished eight second down on Roglic.

The rest of the riders are spread over the climb and final kilometre.

Here comes Dan Martin. He finishes almost 2:00 down on his GC rivals.

Jasper Stuyven spoke briefly post-stage.

This is the GC after today's stage.

This is the first shot of Fraile winning in Mende.

As they say, there's never a quiet day at the Tour and even the steep climb shook up the break and the GC contenders.

Tom Dumoulin talked briefly post-stage. HE is seen as the biggest threat to Team Sky now.

The riders were able to ride to their team buses parked beyond the finish. The airstrip finish makes it easy for everyone today.

 

Thomas and Froome again finished together. Their joint team leadership/rivalry continues for another day.

Times for the final climb have revealed the nature of the performances today but must of course be seen in context.

Geraint Thomas remains in the leader's yellow  jersey.  

Fraile was in shock after his stage victory. He crashed hard and hurt his shoulder in the first week but timed his pursuit of Stuyven perfectly. 

This is a great shot of Fraile realising his big moment had come true. 

To read our full report and see our photo gallery from the stage, click here.

Tom Dumoulin launched the attack that split the GC contenders near the top of the climb to the Mende airstrip. 

It's a big day at this year's Tour de France but 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins has also been making waves. 

In his defence, Wiggins seems to be trying to fully understand what happened during his time at Team Sky. 

The other big story away from today's racing was that Bahrain-Merida is considering legal against the Tour de France after he crashed on L'Alpe d'Huez. 

To see our daily video highlights of stage 14, click here.

There were echelons and attacks early on.

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