As the Tour circus edges closer to Paris the final day in the Alps demonstrated yet again why the Tour de France is one of the most magnificent events in sport. Stage 18 played out as one of the most dynamic stages yet, featuring subplots and competition across all jersey categories.
TOUR REPORT STAGE 18
Départ: Meribel > Arrivée: La-Roche-sur-Foron
By 40km to go the breakaway had been reduced to two Ineos Grenadiers riders, Carapaz and Kwiatkowski, and Bahrain McLaren’s own Pello Bilbao. Meanwhile in the peloton, Mikel Landa and Wout Poels launched a brave attack looking to put pressure on the yellow jersey.
Landa fought to stay ahead and picked off the stragglers of the earlier breakaway group, but was eventually swallowed up by the pursuing pack as they reached the gravel sector on the Plateau de Glières.
At this point GC contender Richie Porte suffered an untimely puncture, resulting in him requiring a bike change before eventually chasing back onto the yellow jersey group on the coat tails of Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert.
When Bilbao lost contact it was left to fan favourite Michał Kwiatkowski to grab the stage win, with teammate Carapaz procuring the polka dot jersey from Tadej Pogačar.
Despite his impressive palmarés, this was the first Grand Tour stage win for the Polish rider, who has spent many years in super-domestique duties for various leaders for the team.
The yellow jersey group finished just over a minute behind, with van Aert taking third and stealing the remaining bonus seconds from Primož Roglič’s rivals. Roglič retains control of the general classification by 57 seconds from Pogačar, with only three stages until the Tour reaches the Champs-Élysées.
Ambitious riding from Bahrain McLaren for a second day saw Mikel Landa move up to fifth in the GC standings, tucked safely in the yellow jersey group.
The team leader had this to say, “It was our last opportunity, we had our team towards the front. Just a shame we couldn’t do any better, because the Jumbo-Visma pace was too high and as a consequence we couldn’t go. But it was a really good team effort and they worked really hard. I’m really proud of what the team achieved in the last couple of days”.
Once more, Bahrain McLaren fought hard during the stage and although they didn’t necessarily achieve what they wanted, they animated the race and made life difficult for their rivals. On sport’s grandest stage, you can’t ask much more than that.
Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.