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Tour de France 2019: Stage 17

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of stage 17 to Gap.  

The 200km stage heads towards the Alps for the big showdown. 

The riders are in Pont du Gard just outside Nimes for the start.

The sun is out and its a scorching 35C!

 

The final riders are signing on and are about to line-up for the roll out.

 

We're expecting a huge fight to get in the breakaway today. The racing will be fast and furious right from the start.  

 

With three race-deciding mountain stages just beyond it, the only concern for Julian Alahpilippe and his GC rivals will be to reach Gap without suffering any mishaps and having expended as few resources as possible.

 

Similarly, the sprinters are unlikely to instruct their teammates to chase down any escapees thanks to the presence of the third-category Col de la Sentinelle little more than a dozen kilometres from the finish.

 

Topping out at just under 1,000 metres, it's not featured on a Tour stage into Gap since 2006, when French baroudeur Pierrick Fédrigo outwitted Italian galloper Salvatore Commesso.

 

After playing cat and mouse with each other, the pair finished a few seconds ahead of a large chasing group mainly comprising GC riders, which highlights the difficulty of the Sentinelle as the final obstacle.

 

Since Fédrigo's victory, all four stages into Gap have been won by riders who were members of the day's break. Sergio Paulinho won in 2010, Thor Hushovd a year later, Rui Costa in 2013 and Rubén Plaza rode in alone in 2015.

 

If there is a ray of light for the sprinters, it comes from the fact that each of those stages came into Gap via the Col de Manse, a second-category ascent that is almost 300 metres higher than the Sentinelle.

 

The organisers' choice of the Sentinelle may be a consequence of the Manse's tendency to produce an unexpected twist in the GC battle. In 2003, Joseba Beloki crashed out on the descent.

 

In 2011, race leader Thomas Voeckler and contenders Andy and Frank Schleck all lost time to their rivals descending the Manse in the wet, while in 2015 Geraint Thomas crashed spectacularly when descending it after being accidently clipped by Warren Barguil. The Sentinelle should provide a testing, but more straightforward gateway to the high Alps, where the battle for the yellow jersey will be decided.

 

As the CN blimp takes height over the Pont du Gard, the riders roll out. 

They face an extra 7.7km of neutralised riding before the flag drops and the stage officially starts. 

 

The riders are packed tight behind the red race director's car, ready to go on the attack. 

 

The intermediate sprint comes after just 62km and that's why Peter Sagan is up front. Her might jump into the break to take the points and even chase the stage victory.

 

We're underway on stage 17 and @EganBernal has matched his white jersey to his @ScienceinSport gels today. Always… https://t.co/3BbNGd4P93

@TeamINEOS Wed, 24th Jul 2019 10:30:44

This is the map of the stage. The route cuts across the southern Vaucluse and Drome regions before climbing gradually into the lower Alps.

The stage passes behind Mont Ventoux but fortunately for the riders the race avoids the legendary climb. 

 

 

1km until the flag drops! 

 

The riders are in the vineyards of Gard, north of Avignon. The speed is about to explode when the flag drops.   

 

200km remaining from 200km

Here we go! They're off!

 

The only non-starters today are LL Sanchez (Astana) and Cees Bol (Sunweb).

 

As the road kicks up, guess who is on the move? 

 

Yep, it's Thomas De Gendt (Lotto). He's lined out the peloton to test the legs of his rivals. 

 

Boom! De Gendt's surge has split the peloton.

 

194km remaining from 200km

Six riders are a move, with others trying to go across. 

 

A group of 20 or so riders form and begin to work through and off to distance the peloton.

 

Race on! 

 

The flag has dropped + the 17th stage of #TDF2019 has begun. With the stage start, the fight to get into the break… https://t.co/kTaodUrxn0

@EFprocycling Wed, 24th Jul 2019 10:44:02

There are perhaps 30+ riders in the move. They lead by 25 seconds but the elastic has still to snap.  

 

In there are Greg van Avermaet, Bauke Mollema, Nico Roche, Jasper Stuyven, Matteo Trentin, Rui Costa, Thomas De Gendt, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Daniel Oss. 

 

However the Total and Arkea teams have missed the attack and so have been ordered to chase by  their DS. 

 

The gap is only 30 seconds.

 

182km remaining from 200km

The chase is still on but the 34 attackers are stronger than the chase. 

 

Behind, the teams of the attackers are sat behind the Arkea and Total riders leading the chase. It be hard for them to close down the attack.

 

They should have been in it, not chasing it.

 

The 33-man move has 28" on the bunch, being led by Direct Energie and Sunweb. We have @SimoClarke and @_TomScully_… https://t.co/eKdt8bonYk

@EFprocycling Wed, 24th Jul 2019 10:55:36

The stage switches to narrow roads now. This could be a key moment. 

 

176km remaining from 200km

It's 100F or 37C out there today. To help the riders, the race judges have allowed feeding from KM0 instead of from 20km. The 'bar' will be open until 8km from the finish, at the top of the last climb, the Col de la Sentinelle.   

 

The time limit will be based not off the time of the first rider at the finish but the time of the first bunch should their be a difference. 

 

That will help riders if the break away goes clear by a big margin. 

 

The team who missed the break are running out of riders to do the work. 

 

Two from Total and Arkea are trying to go across but the peloton is chasing down.  

 

The desperate duo are Anthony Turgis (Total) and Elie Gesbert (Arkéa) 

 

This is the full list of the 34 attacker. It's a fascinating list of strong riders. 

 

Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Simon Clarke and Tom Scully (EF Education First), Chris Juul-Jensen and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg van Avermaet and Michael Schär (CCC), Sven Erik Bystrom, Rui Costa, Sergio Henao and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Bauke Mollema, Thomas Skujins and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Natnael Berhane, Jesús Herrada, Anthony Pérez and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), Thomas de Gendt and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Xandro Meurisse and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben King (Dimension Data

 

According to Letourdata, Thomas De Gendt and the front group averaged 55.1km/h in the first 20km so they could open a 1:00 gap.


The Belgian baroudeur hit a top speed of 74.3km/h on a fast descent.

 

167km remaining from 200km

The 34 riders in the break are still working hard to carve out their lead. It's up to 1:45 but Total are still trying to chase.

 

160km remaining from 200km

The elastic is stretching more and more. The Total riders will surely soon crack, allowing the peloton to ease up. 

 

The gap is now 2:00. 

 

156km remaining from 200km

Ouch! The Total riders aren't giving up the chase. They must have ben given a real blasting from their DS in the car.   

 

Five teams are not represented in the breakaway: Jumbo-Visma, Total, Groupama-FDJ, Ineos and Arkea but only Total and Arkea are chasing.

 

33 riders in the breakaway: 33 coureurs dans l'échappée :

Breakaway 2/2 Échappée 2/2

154km remaining from 200km

Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) is the highest ranked of the 33 escapees in the GC. He's 19th at 28:25 and so not a threat to Alaphilippe. 

 

It's hot in the break and the peloton. The riders are on the exposed roads between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine but there is no time for them to enjoy the stunning views.

 

148km remaining from 200km

The break pushes out its lead to 3:00 but are still not given their freedom. 

 

This fast start to the stage will hurt a lot of riders in the break and in the peloton.

 

146km remaining from 200km

Finally! The elastic has snapped and the peloton has eased up. 

 

After racing at over 50km/h for the first hour, 60 riders, including Alaphilippe have stopped for a natural break and to take on bidons.  

 

The gap is up to 4:30. 

 

Lots if riders also have ice-packs on their necks to try to stay cool. 

 

Thibaut Pinot and Geraint Thomas also stopped for a break and ride through the team cars. 

 

The chasers have thrown in the towel. @SimoClarke, @_TomScully_ and company have 4'25 with 143km left to race. Dece… https://t.co/rl28YOnVb9

@EFprocycling Wed, 24th Jul 2019 11:47:05

136km remaining from 200km

The peloton reaches the intermediate sprint after 62km and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) wins the dash to the line.

 

134km remaining from 200km

The peloton has eased up and the gap to the break is already 6:15.

The 33 riders in the break will surely fight for the stage victory now. 

 

The peloton reaches the sprint point 6:30 behind the break. 

 

Deceuninck-QuickStep is leading the peloton.

 

129km remaining from 200km

The pace has dropped now as riders suffer in the mid-day heat. 

The peloton is at 7:25. The final gap to the peloton could be huge today.

 

126km remaining from 200km

We can see the summit of the Ventoux in the distance. It is no doubt cooler at the summit but it would be a hard ride to the summit. 

 

It's been a hectic start but with the race settles, it's a great chance to catch up with the great news on Cyclingnews.

 

Team Ineos may not be the dominant force of recent years but they remain in the thick of the action as this year’s Tour de France heads towards a conclusion in the Alps over the coming days.

 

The British squad has defending champion Geraint Thomas sitting in second place overall, 1:35 down on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), with Egan Bernal hovering in fifth at 2:02.

 

 

 

Team manager Dave Brailsford believes that two races are going in in this year’s Tour: the first of which revolves around dismantling Alaphilippe’s GC lead, while the second centres on what he sees as the battle for victory from behind between the more experienced contenders.

 

Click here to read the full story and read what Brailsford said.

 

This is a shot of the breakaway, with one of the favourites for the day - Greg van Avermaet - on the front. 

 

 

114km remaining from 200km

These are the 33 riders in the break today. Several teams have several riders and so can ply different strategies in the final.

 

Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Simon Clarke and Tom Scully (EF Education First), Chris Juul-Jensen and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg van Avermaet and Michael Schär (CCC), Sven Erik Bystrom, Rui Costa, Sergio Henao and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Bauke Mollema, Thomas Skujins and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Natnael Berhane, Jesús Herrada, Anthony Pérez and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), Thomas de Gendt and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Xandro Meurisse and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben King (Dimension Data). 

 

 

We've upped our tech coverage in recent weeks and Josh Evans and Josh Croxton were on the ground checking out the shoes, sunglasses, helmets and aero socks in the Tour de France peloton.

 

Click here to see the 50-photo gallery. 

 

 

 

 

 

110km remaining from 200km

The riders are close to the only feed zone of the 200km stage. The 33 riders in the break will be happy to get cold bidons, ice packs and food in their musette. 

 

Deceuninck continue to lead the peloton. Today the sprint lead out riders Max Richeze and Michael Morkov have to do the heavy lifting and hard miles on the front. 

 

.@yveslampaert, @MichaelMorkov and @MaxRicheze are setting a steady tempo at the head of the bunch on this hot day to Gap. #TDF2019

@deceuninck_qst Wed, 24th Jul 2019 12:27:41

The Tour de France dominates the news but there are other minor races going on.  

The Adriatica Ionica Race starts in Italy on Wednesday evening, with Mark Cavendish returning to competition at the after having been left off Dimension Data's squad for the Tour de France.

 

The race starts with an evening circuit race around Mestre near Venice.  

Click here for more info on Cavendish's return to racing.

 

 

105km remaining from 200km

Riders in the peloton grab their musette. Most are heavy with extra bidons due to the heat. 

On average, teams gave out 130 bidons during Tuesday's stage. Today it is likely to be just as many.

 

103km remaining from 200km

Fortunately the stage heads into the hills for the second half. The riders are near the top of the Cote de la Rochette du Bois. It's at 756m, and so it should be a little cooler.

 

98km remaining from 200km

The break approaches the base of the category 4 Cote de la Rochette-du-Buis (2.3km at 6.2%) with a lead of 10:20 over the peloton.

95km remaining from 200km

Thomas De Gendt climbs from the saddle and claims the mountain point on offer atop the climb. 10:32 the gap to the bunch, where Deceuninck-QuickStep set a steady rhythm.

 

The road descends gradually over the next 40 kilometres or so. There is no particular urgency in the peloton, which has now slipped to 11:06 behind the large breakaway.

 

91km remaining from 200km

The pace is still relaxed in the main peloton, where yellow jersey Alaphilippe shares a joke with a television cameraman. It remains to be been if there will be any skirmishes among the GC men on the final climb of the Col de la Sentinelle given the difficulty of the three days that follow in the Alps.

 

87km remaining from 200km

Max Richeze and Michael Morkov came to this Tour to serve as Elia Viviani's lead-out man in the bunch sprints, but they have since added the defence of Alaphilippe's yellow jersey to their duties. The pair set the tempo at the head of the bunch, which is now 12:00 down on the escapees.

 

83km remaining from 200km

Dark clouds had been looming for some time, and now leaden drops of rain are falling over the breakaway.

 

The rain is falling rather more heavily over the break. The peloton, meanwhile, has yet to reach these wet roads. 12:45 the gap.

 

78km remaining from 200km

A reminder of the names in this breakaway, which is 12:56 up on the peloton:

 

Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Simon Clarke and Tom Scully (EF Education First), Chris Juul-Jensen and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg van Avermaet and Michael Schär (CCC), Sven Erik Bystrom, Rui Costa, Sergio Henao and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Bauke Mollema, Thomas Skujins and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Natnael Berhane, Jesús Herrada, Anthony Pérez and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), Thomas de Gendt and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Xandro Meurisse and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben King (Dimension Data).

 

The escapees are back on dry roads for the time being, but dark clouds remain overhead. Given the soaring temperatures these past two days, few will be unhappy at the thought of a definitive break in the weather. 

 

68km remaining from 200km

The break and now the peloton hav now emerged from the rain storm and the roads are dry. 

Th gap is up to 13:25. 

The rain storm means the clouds are blocking the sun for now s the riders go through the Gorges de la Meouge.  

 

59km remaining from 200km

The high speed in the opening two hours means the riders are well ahead of schedule today. They are set to race at over an average of 44km/h today. 

 

54km remaining from 200km

The peloton is at 14:00 with 54km to race. They could finish 20 minutes back at this rate. 

 

Up front in the break, the 33 rider are waiting for the final climb. They know it will shake out the break and reveal who has a chance of final victory. 

 

As ever, Julian Alaphilippe was asked about his form, his plans and his hopes.  

 

 

 

46km remaining from 200km

Riders are still taking bidons of water to spray on their legs and necks to try to stay cool.  

 

Tom Scully is in the break of the day for EF long with Simon Clarke.

Scully is likely to work for his older teammate.

 

 

Trek have three riders in the 33-rider attack: Jasper Stuyvens, Toms Skujiņš and Bauke Mollema.

 

 

"The best outcome would be to have several teammates with you, then be the strongest on the climb, drop everyone, go full gas on the downhill and win alone," Skujiņš suggested to Eurosport.

 

"During the day you need to see who is the strongest. You have to hope you’re good enough to drop them or follow them and then beat them in the sprint," he added. 

 

"I’ll have to see hope it’s not just me in the break, that way we can try to move on climb and Jasper can wait for the sprint, to cover the bases."

 

34km remaining from 200km

Here we go! The first attack from the break comes.

 

Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) attacks first to try to split the break. 

 

Thomas de Gendt is with him. Race on!

 

30km remaining from 200km

The attack is splitting under the attacks.

 

Ben King goes and others come across.

 

Van Avermaet is there too. 

 

A group has 15 seconds on the others.

 

27km remaining from 200km

There are 11 riders up front. 

 

Most of the strong men of the 33 re up front, including Trentin, van Avermaet, Oss, King, Skujiņš and others.

 

The riders missing out on the move include Costa, Clarke, De Gendt and Boasson Hagen. 

 

22km remaining from 200km

Nils Politt recognises the danger and tries to go across to the front group alone. It's a big ask. 

 

20km remaining from 200km

Interesting to see Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck in the attack and now the front group. 

He didn't have to work earlier and could be fresh for the finish.

 

Gougeard drops back from the break, so the leading group is down to 10 riders.


They only have 35 seconds on the rest of the breakaway.

The cat 4 climb is coming in around 5km and will be decisive.

 

Scully is there for EF. 

 

The ten riders on the attack are: Oss, Asgreen, Izagirre, Scully, Trentin, Van Avermaet, Laengen, Skujins, Périchon and King.

They're all working hard together to extend their lead past 40 seconds. 

 

The third-category Col de la Sentinelle is a dozen kilometres from the finish and so about to start.

 

Topping out at just under 1,000 metres, it's not featured on a Tour stage into Gap since 2006, when French baroudeur Pierrick Fédrigo outwitted Italian galloper Salvatore Commesso.

 

 

The organisers' choice of the Sentinelle may be a consequence of the Manse's tendency to produce an unexpected twist in the GC battle.

In 2003, Joseba Beloki crashed out on the descent. In 2011, race leader Thomas Voeckler and contenders Andy and Frank Schleck all lost time to their rivals descending the Manse in the wet, while in 2015 Geraint Thomas crashed spectacularly when descending it after being accidently clipped by Warren Barguil.

 

The Sentinelle should provide a testing, but more straightforward gateway to the high Alps, where the battle for the yellow jersey will be decided.

 

The climb is about to start and an attacks has split the group even more.

 

14km remaining from 200km

There are six up front now.

 

Now Trentin goes solo! He's trying to get a lead. 

 

Trentin has his jersey open as he tries to open a gap on the lower slopes of the 5.2% climb. 

 

12km remaining from 200km

Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) ids chasing the Italian. 

The others seem tired and have missed their chance,

 

10km remaining from 200km

Périchon is 20 seconds down on Trentin as Oss drags the chasers up the climb. 

Van Avermaet seems cooked as Trentin pushes on alone. The stage is now his to lose.

 

10km remaining from 200km

Trentin still has 1.5km to climb but then has a 8.5km descent to the finish.

 

Trentin holds his tongue out. He wants a bidon.

 

Asgreen attacks from the chase group but he's left it late.

 

8km remaining from 200km

European champion Trentin reaches the summit and can start the descent.

 

Asgreen has caught Perichon. Wow, that was a  quick step and jump. 

 

#TDF2019

Here's Trentin on the attack alone. 

 

 

6km remaining from 200km

There were 33 riders on the attack today but now there's only Trentin.

 

Asgreen is 30 seconds behind him.

 

The peloton is 18 minutes back and so has still to start the final climb.

 

3km remaining from 200km

This could be Mitchelton's fourth stage win at this year's Tour de France. Adam Yates struggled to fight for the GC but they riders never gave in.

 

Trentin has closed his jersey and is time trialing to the finish. Asgreen is not closing the gap, indeed, he's losing time.

 

Asgreen was second at the Tour of Flanders and is again showing his talents.

 

1km remaining from 200km

Trentin is in the final KM. 

 

This is his third Tour de France stage victory.

 

Trentin eases up and celebrates his solo victory in Gap.

 

Asgreen takes second at 36 seconds.

 

Van Avermaet brings home the others to take third but he won't be happy.

 

Trentin waves to the crowd in celebration and also takes several drinks. It was hot out there. 

 

This is the top ten for the stage: 

 

1 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott 4:21:36
2 Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:37
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team 0:00:41
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:41
5 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:41
6 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:41
7 Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:44
8 Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:50
9 Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:50
10 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:55

 

This image sums up Greg van Avermaet's day: a huge effort for little reward. 

 

 

"Today was all in: everything or nothing," Trentin explained. 

 

Meanwhile, the GC peloton is 9km from the finish. They are at least 18 minutes back. 

 

Julian Alaphilippe is up front to avoid any attacks and risks on the descent.

 

"I was scared of Asgreen and I was right because he finished second after getting a free ride in the break," Trentin explained.

 

"His tactic was to wait and wait and so I went for it because h's also strong on the climbs and fast in a sprint." 

 

 

"There was a headwind on the climb but I got up it well. I was always up there in this Tour but never got the results. This win makes up for it all. I had good legs but never finished it off. Today was: "all in:  everything or nothing."  

"I suffered like a dog  but it was worth it all."

 

The GC riders are 4km from the finish after safely descending towards Gap.   

 

Alaphilippe is in second place, tucked behind  teammate.

 

The Alaphilippe peloton crosses the line 20:10 down on Trentin. 

They look relaxed but suffered in the heat today. Tomorrow they head into the high Alps for the final 3 key stages.

 

Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) finished 20th on the stage but he was well placed overall and so moved up into the top 20 with the peloton so far back. 

 

Another group comes into the finish, 26 minutes down. However due to the heat, the time limit has been calculated on the peloton today, rather than the stage winner.

 

Sagan rolls home, waving to the crowds. 

 

Yesterday's winner Caleb Ewan also crosses the line.

 

This is the moment Trentin won in Gap. 

 

 

Here Trentin celebrates his win and walks to the podium area. 

 

 

Julian Alaphilippe climbs on the podium and waves to the crowd. 

He had a quiet day in the peloton today but faces three days in the Alps from Thursday. Three days which will reveal if the Frenchman can hold into the yellow jersey. 

 

This is the new GC after stage 17.

 

General classification after stage 17
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 69:39:16
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos 0:01:35
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:01:47
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:50
5 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos 0:02:02
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:02:14
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:54
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:00
9 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First 0:05:33
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo 0:06:30

 

As expected, Meurisse moved up from 19th to 13th overall. He is now 11:08 down on Alaphilippe. 

 

For the full stage results, our growing photo gallery and a superb full stage report by Barry Ryan, click here.

 

 

This was Matteo Trentin's third stage victory at the Tour de France. He won in Lyon in 2013 and Nancy in  2014.

 

He's had to wait five years for his third win in Gap. But he has now won 23 races, including four stages at the Vuelta, Paris-Tours twice and last year's European road race championships.

 

As the riders head to their hotels around Gap, all thoughts turn to the Alpine stages and the fight for the yellow jersey.

 

We've hoovered up the best quotes from the finish line to get the inside story on the stage. 

 

Click here to read what Trentin, Asgreen, Sagan and more had to say.

 

 

It was a hot day out there. 

 

 

That was Vegard Stake Laengen after being in the break and finishing 14th. 

 

 

He said post stage: 

 

"The final attacks started quite early and the DS told us to keep an eye on the moves. So I followed and ended up in the front group. It was super hard out there all day and near the finish my legs seized up and I dropped back and waited for Henao. I did a pull for him before rolling in to the finish."

 

Regarding the race for GC, Ineos team manager Dave Brailsford believes that two races are going in in this year’s Tour: the first of which revolves around dismantling Alaphilippe’s GC lead, while the second centres on what he sees as the battle for victory from behind between the more experienced contenders.

 

“There are two challenges. One is the effort needed to get rid of Alaphilippe. If they don’t make it hard enough then he’ll stay there and win the race," he said in this story on Cyclingnews.

 

"Equally no one wants to make that effort and then not have the energy to do the GC. It feels like there are two different races. One to win the race and then taking responsibility to get rid of Alaphilippe. So far no one has. That’s why Elia Viviani was riding over the mountains but if that continues Alaphilippe could win the race.” 

 

Team Ineos doesn't have the yellow jersey but has Thomas second 1:35 down on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), with Egan Bernal hovering in fifth at 2:02.

Neither have looked super strong but Brailsford is upbeat.  

 

“We’re the only team with two riders high up on the GC. I think you’ve just got to adapt to the situation. There’s not a single tactic that you can just deploy,” Brailsford said concerning the situation that sees Thomas and sixth-placed Emanuel Buchmann separated by just 39 seconds.

 

“It just evolves as the day evolves. It’s almost minute-by-minute. You’ve got to be opportunistic with it. On the one hand we want to put time into Alaphilippe and on the other hand we still want to race against the other guys in GC. It’s interesting, to be honest. And challenging. It’s a nice position to be in."

 

We';ll find out if that is the case on Thursday.  

 

This is the profile of stage 18 to Valloire. 

 

 

Our stage preview text calls it the stairway to heaven stage.

 

There are four climbs, each higher than the last, the final three topping out at 2,109 metres, 2,360 metres and 2,642 metres, respectively.

 

In other words, at the finish in Valloire the identity of the remaining contenders for the yellow jersey will be confirmed, and one outstanding candidate may well have stepped forward or strengthened their position as the king of this mountainous Tour.

 

Extending to more than 200 kilometres, this will be a long day in the saddle. The third-category ascent of the wonderfully named Demoiselles Coiffées (ladies with hairdos), describing the unusual rock formations above Embrun, provides an early opportunity to warm the legs before a trio of legendary ascents in the shape of the Vars, Izoard and Galibier.

 

Approached from Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye, the first in that triptych is not especially long, but becomes extremely difficult after the brief plateau at its halfway point. The Izoard has a similar profile but, at 14.1km, is a good deal longer and climbs significantly higher. Its final 7km, which include the passage through the magnificent Casse Déserte, average 9%.

 

After plunging down into Briançon, the riders then tackle the Galibier. Once again, this is a giant that holds back its fiercest sections until late on. Essentially a long upward drag, often into a headwind, as far as the Col du Lauteret, it kicks up more steeply as it twists up the mountainside to the summit, the location of the penultimate point-bonus. With the very fast drop into the finish at Valloire to follow, the first rider across the summit could very well scoop 18 seconds in bonuses in addition to the stage win

 

As with every stage, we'll have full live coverage of all the action, plus special content, interviews and previews from our reporters on the road: Editor Daniel Benson, Alasdair Fotheringham and Patrick Fletcher.

 

There's been quite a kerfuffle over the argy-bargy between Luke Rowe and Tony Martin.

Both riders have been expelled from Tour de France

The Ineos, Jumbo-Visma riders clashed while leading peloton on stage 17.

Team Ineos said they were looking to appeal against Luke Rowe's expulsion from Tour de France

'It feels incredibly harsh' says Brailsford

Rowe and Tony Martin apologised for Tour de France incident in joint statement in a video

The incident overshadowed a fine victory by Matteo Trentin

The third Tour de France stage win of his career

'Today was all in – everything or nothing' says Italian all-rounder

You can view the video highlights from the stage here

With that done, we'll look ahead to the three big stages in the Alps, where Julian Alaphilippe will attempt to defend his race lead.

Alaphilippe defiant and ready for Tour de France yellow jersey defence

'I've never been this motivated before' says overall leader ahead of the Alps

Follow again on Thursday for the most critical stage of the race for Alaphilippe. Cyclingnews will have full coverage all day long. Thanks for reading!

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