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Tour de France 2018: Stage 18

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The riders are signing on in the tiny village of Trie-sur-Baise. they face 171km in the rolling countryside before the finish in Pau.

Tom Dumoulin gets a huge cheer as he signs on. He's seen as the biggest challenge to Team Sky's dominance.

Team Sky are next on stage. They won the team prize yesterday and so get a special banana prize. 

Geraint Thomas seems as cool and collected as ever in the leader's yellow jersey. 

Thomas said:

Thomas kept his feet on the ground.

Lawson Craddock of EF Drapac signs on for another day. He is still in the tour, despite crashing hard on stage 1 and suffering a micro-fracture in his shoulder.

Peter Sagan has yet to sign on but we've been told he will race on despite his high-speed crash yesterday.

Julian Alaphilippe signs on next. He's covered in polka-dots as leader of the climber's competition.

He said he hopes to recover from his efforts during today's stage so to be ready to defend the polka-dot jersey on Friday.

All the talk at the start is if the sprinters will try and be able to stop a break stating away today. 

The riders have signed and lined up. We're seven minutes from the roll out. 

Here's Sagan. 

He's wrapped in bandages but races on.  

"I'll hope I'll be okay, we'll see during the stage. Tomorrow will be harder," Sagan said. 

To read about Sagan's crash, click here.

Sagan and the other jersey wearers move to the front of the peloton for the roll out. 

This is the overall classification as the riders prepare to roll out. Thomas leads by almost two minutes now. 

To catch up on all the racing and news from Wednesday's 65km stage in the Pyrenees, click here.

The riders have left the start area and are riding to the official start 2.9km out of town. 

It's hot out there, close to 30C, with riders putting small bags of ice under the neck of their jersey to try to stay cool. 

Olivier Le Gac has suffered a puncture and so the race director extends the neutralised sector a moment.  

Allez! Christian Prudhomme waves the flag and they're off! 

169km remaining from 171km

The country roads are slightly downhill for 15km and so it is a very fast start.

The early attackers are: Terpstra, Van Keirsbulck, Hayman, Durbridge and Boudat.

164km remaining from 171km

Bora, Groupama-FDJ and Team Emirates have lead the chase, with the peloton closing down the chasers.

This is the map of the 171km stage. The route rolls through the Gers, Hautes-Pyrenees, Landes and Pyrenees-Atlantique departments of southern France. 

157km remaining from 171km

The gap is rising. Has the peloton let them go? 

The peloton reacts, with several counter-attacks off the front.  

Also in the attack are Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty) and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie). 

152km remaining from 171km

This is a screen grab image of the attackers.

And this is the peloton chasing hard.

Marcus Burghardt suffers a rear flat but tries to ride along on the tyre till his Bora car arrives. 

145km remaining from 171km

143km remaining from 171km

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Speaking before the start, Chris Froome has confirmed that he and the team will ride 100% for Geraint Thomas. 

Froome insisted that he was not too disappointed to miss out on the chance of a fifth Tour de France. 

Emirates and Bora-Hansgrohe are helping Groupama with the chase of the break. 

The peloton refuses to let the five open a big gap. Their lead is a down to 1:00.

We see the usual picture of Sky leading the peloton, followed by Sunweb. What is unusual is the inclusion of a Movistar rider.

Team Sky refuses to admit that they have now won the Tour -- tomorrow's final mountain stage could be crucial. Read about it here. 

122km remaining from 171km

Yesterday's short but highly mountainous stage was one of those "You might now win the race here, but you sure can lose it." That turned out to be true for Romain Bardet (AG2R), who finished 2:35 down and now has to face he has virtually no chance of repeating his podium appearance of the last two years.

Speaking of Bardet, he is coming back to the field from the team cars.

UAE Emirates and Groupama-FDJ have now sent several riders each to the head of the peloton.

Terpstra rolls over the line first for the mountain ranking, but we can't say that there was any interest or competition in picking up the point.

110km remaining from 171km

Bad news for women's cycling. The Wiggle-HIgh5 team is stopping at the end of the season. 

AS the gap has dropped to just under a minute, two Trek riders and an EF rider have jumped from teh field. There is no effort to chase them.

A crash in the field takes down a handful of riders, including Nario Quintana, yesterday's stage winner. He seems to have some problems with shoulder, hand or arm, but is of course on his way back up to the field.

Yates was also involved in that crash, but is ok. Quintana seems to have problem with a finger.

Quintana also has a blood-smeared left elbow.

Van Keirsbulck picks up 20 points at the intermediate sprint. Back in the field, Degenkolb wins the sprint of the bunch.

Quintana at the medical car, getting that left arm cleaned up and looked at. 

89km remaining from 171km

The Movistar team posted this screen grab shot of Quintana getting treatment on his left elbow. 

85km remaining from 171km

84km remaining from 171km

Hayman is back up front. That was quick! Fortunately the break is on a slight climb and so the speed is lower. 

The peloton also hits the feed zone, with riders taking their musettes.

80km remaining from 171km

This southern area of France is famous for its food and wine. 

Pau is the birthplace of 16th-century king Henri IV.

71km remaining from 171km

68km remaining from 171km

Romain Bardet is riding in the depth of the peloton. He had a difficult day yesterday in the mountains but talked about his race post-race. 

The Cofidis team is also helping with the chase of the break. With Nacer Bouhanni not selected for the Tour, they are perhaps hoping Christophe Laporte can win. 

Cyclingnews Editor Daniel Benson caught up with race leader Geraint Thomas at the start.

Thomas was more relaxed at the start after extending his overall lead to 1:59 on Tom Dumoulin and distancing teammate Chris Froome, who is now at 2:31.

He added: 

Thomas knows that he faces one final mountain stage and then Saturday's key time trial stage before the parade stage into Paris.

54km remaining from 171km

50km remaining from 171km

Kristoff finished second in Valence behind Peter Sagan and was fourth in two other sprints. 

45km remaining from 171km

The GC riders are enjoying a quiet day in the peloton before Friday's final mountain stage. 

Peter Sagan had a nasty crash yesterday but he’s still racing today, even he is wrapped in bandages like a mummy and in pain.

32km remaining from 171km

Arnaud Demare is a big favourite for the expected sprint today. 

25km remaining from 171km

21km remaining from 171km

21km remaining from 171km

19km remaining from 171km

Here we go! Simon Clarke ups the speed and a group goes off the front of the peloton. 

17km remaining from 171km

Jack Bauer is there for Mitchelton-Scott and tries to push on. 

Gruppo compatto.

12km remaining from 171km

Bora is also leading the peloton. They know the finale is technical and so suits Sagan's bike handling skills. 

7km remaining from 171km

The peloton is lined out on the main road into Pau.

4km remaining from 171km

There are several pinch pints and a final left turn before the final kilometre. 

EF Drapac also has a small train going for Scully. 

Trek are riding for Degenkolb.

3km remaining from 171km

Sagan is on Laporte's wheel. Where is Demare? 

1km remaining from 171km

They sweep through the last corner. Sprint!

Cofidis lead it out!

Demare kicks!

He stayed on the barriers and won it well.  

Demare moved to the centre of the road but held off Laporte and Kristoff. 

Demare distanced the other sprinters when he opened up. Kristoff was several lengths behind at the line.  

This is the top ten on the stage.

Geraint Thomas finished in the peloton and so remains in yellow.

Demare was out of position before the final kilometre but got back on Jacopo Guarnieri's back wheel, who produced a perfect lead out.

Laporte waved his arm in protest at Demare moving to the centre of the road but the race jury is unlikely to overturn the result.

Demare was delighted to win after suffering the Pyrenees. 

Demare waves and smiles as he climbs on the podium. It's a big day for the French rider after suffering so much to get this far. 

Geraint Thomas pulls on the yellow jersey again. He enjoyed a quiet day in the peloton today.

There is a quiet applause but no boos for Thomas on the podium.

This is the first shot of Demare winning the stage.

Demare's win has boosted his moral for the final sprint in Paris after he suffered so much in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Geraint Thomas was happy to survive the hot day in the south of France.

The Team Sky leader is sticking to his daily routine.

Demare let out his emotions after winning the stage.

There was some concern at the Movistar bus about Nairo Quintana after his early crash.

Nairo Quintana was angry to be in pain.

This was the moment Quintana picked himself up after his crash. 

To see more of our great photos from today's stage and to read our full report, click here.

The south of France near Pau offers some stunning postcard shots with sunflowers and vines.

There has been lots of talk of rivalry in Team Sky but this shot shows both Thomas and Froome in a good mood.

Stay with our live coverage as we publish rider reactions and interviews from our reporters in Pau.

To read initial rider reaction, click here.

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