Tour de France: Quintana wins stage 18

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) claimed victory on stage 18 of the Tour de France after he soloed clear of the day's early break on the Col du Galibier, but not for the first time on this race, the day's drama centred on Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who retained his yellow jersey following a breathless descent into Valloire.

Alaphilippe was distanced by his direct rivals near the summit of the Galibier, but he scrambled down the other side to recoup his 20-second deficit and keep a hold of the maillot jaune. Just two days from Paris, Alaphilippe remains on course for a most improbable overall victory, though Egan Bernal (Ineos) reaffirmed his credentials on the first of three consecutive Alpine stages by gaining more than half a minute on the yellow jersey to move up to second place overall.

Bernal accelerated forcefully a little over three kilometres from the summit of the Galibier and quickly established a sizeable advantage over the yellow jersey group. At this rarefied altitude, the Colombian looked rather more at ease than most and when his lead yawned out towards 45 seconds, it appeared as though he might be placing a down payment on final overall victory.

Bernal's gains might even have been greater had his teammate Geraint Thomas not launched an acceleration of his own closer to the top that had the collateral effect of slicing his initial advantage to half a minute or so. When Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) took over the reins in the yellow jersey group in the final kilometre, his forcing proved too much for Alaphilippe, who was shaken loose on the last ramps before the summit.

It briefly looked as though Alaphilippe's unexpected adventure in yellow might be coming to an abrupt halt, but the Frenchman was unfazed, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the descent. He caught Pinot, Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) with 8km remaining and even defiantly tried to distance them on the last hairpin bends before the road flattened out in the finale.

"I took a lot of risks on the descent. I think it was impossible to go faster but I absolutely wanted to save my jersey," Alaphilippe said afterwards.

Up ahead, Quintana had long since sealed stage victory, 1:35 ahead of a battling Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and 2:28 up on Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), while the lone Bernal was gamely picking his way through the remnants of the early break as he looked to maintain his advantage over his podium rivals.

Bernal came home 8th on the stage, 4:46 down on his fellow countryman Quintana, but 32 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group. That performance was enough to lift him to second place overall, 1:30 down on Alaphilippe, with Thomas a further 5 seconds down in third. Kruisjijk and Pinot drop to 4th and 5th overall, respectively, still 1:47 and 1:50 behind Alaphilippe, while Buchmann remains in 6th place at 2:14.

"I felt good and I'm happy that, in the end, we've gained time on Julian Alaphilippe. That was our number one goal," Bernal said afterwards. "G [Geraint Thomas] told me to attack and make that jump and he said that then he'd try. We're a team and everything we do is because the directeur sportif in the car tells us to do it."

In the Pyrenees, all the momentum had looked to be with Pinot, but the Frenchman acknowledged that he had suffered on the first instalment of the Alpine tripleheader. "I wasn't on a good day," Pinot said. "I tried to follow the best. I didn't manage to go with Egan Bernal who was very strong. Geraint Thomas did a big attack too, but I was able to get back on at the top of the Galibier. Now we've got two summit finishes where more things should happen and where above all I hope I have better sensations."

Bernal and Thomas' accelerations on the upper reaches of the Galibier that put Alaphilippe into difficulty will give Ineos optimism that they can finally unseat the Frenchman on the summit finishes to come. Alaphilippe, for his part, will be buoyed by the fact that Thursday's stage was the longer and more demanding than the two Alpine days ahead. This most unpredictable of Tours remains as delicately balanced as it ever was.

"I gave everything and I'm still in yellow, so I can be satisfied. I didn't feel too bad until the attacks from Bernal and Thomas. That's what changed things, but I hung in there," Alaphilippe said. "I lost a bit of time to Bernal but it could have been a lot worse."

How it unfolded

The furore surrounding the exclusion of Tony Martin and Luke Rowe dominated conversation at the start in Embrun, but the polemic was soon put to one side following a rapid start to proceedings once the flag dropped, with a wide variety of riders eager to infiltrate the day's early break – some with dreams of stage honours, others with obligations to their team leaders, and plenty more just trying to get a head start on the time cut.

The front of the race was still in its nip and tuck phase when Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) led over the category 3 Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées but a sizeable break eventually forged clear ahead of the day's first major obstacle, the 2,109m-high Col de Vars. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was the highest placed of their number on general classification, with 33 other riders aboard the move, including Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida), Michael Woods (EF Education First), Adam Yates, (Mitchelton-Scott) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC).

That group already had five minutes in hand over the peloton on the lower slopes of the Vars, and they extended that advantage to some 7:30 by the summit, where Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) outsprinted Bardet to the king of the mountains points.

Over the other side, Van Avermaet and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) slipped away from the break and this duo would face into the hors categorie Col d'Izoard with a buffer of more than a minute on their erstwhile companions. Back in the yellow jersey group, meanwhile, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) endured a scare when he crashed on the descent but he swiftly remounted and rejoined his teammate Kruijswijk's side. The unfortunate New Zealander would crash again on the descent of the Galibier, but has declared himself fit to line out again on Friday morning.

The fearsome Izoard saw both races within a race ignite. Up front, Bernard shed Van Avermaet and reached the haunting Casse Desert alone, but as the gradient stiffened, Quintana, Adam Yates and Romain Bardet began to force the issue in the fragmenting chasing group. They made contact with Bernard within sight of the summit, and Caruso led over the top. Down the other side, Caruso, Bardet and Bernard were joined by Yates, Quintana, Michael Woods (EF Education First), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Lennard Kämna (Sunweb), now with a lead of 5 minutes over the yellow jersey group.

By then, the group of favourites had been whittled down considerably after Marc Soler hit the front on the Izoard on behalf of Mikel Landa. The Catalan's stint of sustained pace-setting saw Julian Alaphilippe shorn of all his teammates bar Enric Mas, while Ineos lost Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon, and Thibaut Pinot lost his key lieutenant David Gaudu. Although the French youngster got back on before the Galibier, he was unable to perform his by-now habitual cameo on behalf of his leader.

Movistar had appeared to be teeing up Landa for an acceleration, but the anticipated onslaught never came. Instead, the Spanish squad relented in the valley ahead of the Galibier, as if suddenly remembering that Quintana was bounding up the overall rankings thanks to the break's hefty lead over the yellow jersey group. By day's end, Quintana had moved up to 7th at 3:54, while Landa is a minute further back in 8th.

Ineos took up the reins on the long, two-part final ascent, which brought the race up the Col du Lautaret before turning onto the Galibier itself, with Jonathan Castroviejo setting the tempo before Van Baarle dropped back from the break to take over. Their combined efforts whittled the yellow jersey group down to a dozen or so riders, but made little inroads into the break's advantage.

Quintana found himself with Adam Yates, Romain Bardet, Damiano Caruso, Alexey Lutsenko and Michael Woods for company after the Lauteret had whittled down the front group significantly before the Galibier proper. After Lutsenko kicked with 26km to go, Quintana responded with a stinging acceleration of his own. With 7km of climbing to go, Quintana opened a decisive gap.

After a subdued Tour, he was, for a day at least, something like himself again. By the summit, he was 1:43 clear of Bardet, and he retained most of that buffer on the 19km drop into Valloire to put a different slant on a trying race. Bardet had the consolation of moving into the polka dot jersey as he, too, bids to salvage something from a disappointing Tour.

"This stage was one for the pure climbers, for the real climbers in the bunch, and I was present. I was ready for it. It's a beautiful win, and on a stage like this, with this type of profile, it makes me emotional," Quintana said.

Since his debut in 2013, Quintana has laboured in the hope of becoming the first Colombian winner of the Tour. That honour might yet fall to his fellow countryman Bernal, who produced his best display of the race to date on the mighty Galibier, but for Ineos – and others – Alaphilippe is still proving a strikingly tough out.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team5:34:15
2Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:35
3Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:02:28
4Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb0:02:58
5Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:03:00
6Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:04:46
7Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First
8Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos
9Serge Pauwels (Bel) CCC Team
10Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma0:05:18
11Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
12Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
13Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos
14Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
15Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First
16Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team
17Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
18Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic0:05:43
19Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:06:16
20Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert0:06:47
21Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:07:24
22David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:08:22
23Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ0:08:53
24Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Dimension Data0:10:12
25Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:23
26Enric Mas (Spa) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:10:57
27George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma0:10:58
28Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo0:12:27
29Laurens De Plus (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
30Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team0:13:11
31Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
32Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team0:13:21
33Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Education First
34Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits0:13:41
35Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Ineos0:13:55
36Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team0:14:01
37Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:15:17
38Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos0:16:32
39Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Gobert0:16:53
40Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:19:25
41Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma0:20:36
42Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Ineos0:20:47
43Paul Ourselin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
44Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin0:21:24
45Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:22:25
46Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
47Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:22:40
48Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First
49Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
50Ben King (USA) Dimension Data
51Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
52Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team
53Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
54Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
55Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Dimension Data
56Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
57Joseph Rosskopf (USA) CCC Team
58Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
59Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
60Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:23:08
61Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis Solutions Credits0:23:54
62Maxime Bouet (Fra) Arkéa Samsic0:25:36
63Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb0:25:46
64Carlos Verona (Spa) Movistar Team
65Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team
66Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
67Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
68Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates
69Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma0:25:52
70Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates0:28:02
71Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Gobert0:28:06
72Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:28:07
73Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
74Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
75Amael Moinard (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
76Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team
77Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Total Direct Energie0:29:04
78Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:29:23
79Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits0:29:25
80Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
81Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott0:29:32
82Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana Pro Team0:29:42
83Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:29:49
84Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
85Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
86Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:29:59
87Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos
88Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
89Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Ineos
90Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First
91Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida
92Natnael Berhane (Eri) Cofidis Solutions Credits
93Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
94Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
95Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
96Elie Gesbert (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
97Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
98Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
99Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
100Romain Sicard (Fra) Total Direct Energie
101Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
102Aime De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert
103Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
104Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
105Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb
106Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
107Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
108Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team
109Yoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty-Gobert0:32:54
110Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal
111Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty-Gobert
112Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
113Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
114Alex Dowsett (GBr) Katusha-Alpecin
115Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Gobert
116Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
117Jens Debusschere (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
118Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First
119Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
120Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
121André Greipel (Ger) Arkéa Samsic
122Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie
123Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
124William Bonnet (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
125Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal
126Florian Vachon (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
127Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team
128Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert
129José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
130Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
131Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
132Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
133Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
134Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
135Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
136Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
137Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
138Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data0:33:30
139Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:33:41
140Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
141Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
142Fabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie
143Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team
144Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin0:33:46
145Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:34:46
146Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal
147Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
148Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
149Rein Taaramäe (Est) Total Direct Energie0:34:51
150Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott0:35:24
151Lars Bak (Den) Dimension Data0:35:47
152Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:36:36
153Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
154Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
155Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First
156Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:42:02
DNSLukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNSSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb
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Sprint 1 - Les Thuiles km. 45
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal20pts
2Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb17
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team15
4Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits13
5Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma11
6Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott10
7Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida9
8Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team8
9Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team7
10Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team6
11Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First5
12Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First4
13Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin3
14Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates2
15Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team1
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team20pts
2Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale17
3Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team15
4Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb13
5Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida11
6Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal10
7Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First9
8Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos8
9Serge Pauwels (Bel) CCC Team7
10Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma6
11Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe5
12Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ4
13Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos3
14Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep