Stage 18: Briançon to Izoard (179.5 km)

Izogard. Sounds like Isengard, doesn’t it? For those who haven’t heard of Isengard(and I pity you) was one of the three Fortresses of Gondor and was the home of Saruman, the white. IN LORD OF THE RINGS!
Today’s stage, wasn’t this steep. But it was really steep. And really hard. And in a really desolate landscape. With a Mountaintop finish. Today’s stage was also the last GC fight stage, where contenders would try to break each other and gain time before the Time Trial in Marseille on 22nd July.

Right from the start Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) and Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) attacked. Andrei Grivko (Astana), Yukiya Arashiro (Bahrain-Merida) followed them. But all of them were caught within the 1st 5 kilometers. The peloton got more and more fidgety and soon there was a big break after 14k, containing 54 riders! They included: Jan Bakelants and Cyril Gautier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Carlos Betancur and Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche (BMC), Andrei Grivko, Bakhtiar Kozhatayev, Alexei Lutsenko and Michael Valgren (Astana), Darwin Atapuma, Kristjian Durasek, Marco Marcato, Ben Swift and Diego Ulissi (UAE), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Daryl Impey (Orica), Stephen Cummings, Serge Pauwels and Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Gianluca Brambilla and Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step), Robert Kiserlovski, Maurits Lammertink, Tiago Machado and Nils Politt (Katusha), Tiejs Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), Simon Geschke (Sunweb), Dimitri Claeys, Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler, Lilian Calmejane, Sylvain Chavanel, Romain Sicard and Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie), Pierre Rolland, Simon Clarke and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale), Sonny Colbrelli and Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Guillaume Martin, Marco Minnaard and Dion Smith (Wanty), Brice Feillu, Elie Gesbert, Romain Hardy, Eduardo Sepulveda and Florian Vachon (Fortuneo). The Peloton led by Team Sky allowed them to get away building a 4 minute lead by 33 kms.

Lilian Calmejane, stage winner on Stage 9 attacked on ascent of the côte des Demoiselles Coiffées and he was joined by Thomas De Gendt. De Gendt was the 1st up the summit, taking 2 KOM points. The lead swelled up to 6 minutes after 68 kms and the chances of having a winner from the GC guys slimmed. Clarke, Brambilla, Vachon, Swift, Chavanel, Tulik and Pauwels formed a leading group at km 73 from the group of 54. With 100k to go, the front 7 were 7 minutes ahead of the peloton, but they were caught in the next 8 kms.
At 91.5 kms, Sonny Colbreli(he reminds me of Sonny Corleone from the Godfather) won an easy intermediate sprint which bears no relevance now as Michael Matthews has mathematically won the Green jersey!
German Champion, Marcus Burghardt(Bora) sped up at the head of the peloton, taking over from Team Sky. The deficit of the peloton was at 8.15 with 75km to go and Burghardt efficiently brought it down to 7.30 with 68k to go. As the riders approached the Cat 1 Col De Vars, 25 riders moved to the front: Jan Bakelants and Cyril Gautier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Nicolas Roche (BMC), Andrei Grivko, Bakhtiar Kozhatayev and Michael Valgren (Astana), Darwin Atapuma, Kristjian Durasek, Marco Marcato and Ben Swift (UAE), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Daryl Impey (Orica), Serge Pauwels and Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha), Tiejs Benoot and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Simon Clarke and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) and Marco Minnaard (Wanty). With 57km to go, the peloton was 7.10 adrift and the reminder 29 were 1.15 adrift. Serge Pauwels attacked up the hill. Romain Sicard, Darwin Atapuma, Tony Gallopin and Alexey Lutsenko joined. But it was Lutsenko who made the summit 1st taking 10 points in the KOM classification. This also meant that Warren Barguil, mathematically won the Polka Dot Jersey as now the number of points on offer were less than his gap with Roglic. So Green and Polka Dot with Sunweb, mathematically. What an amazing year they are having! With 40km to go: Gallopin, Lutsenko, Atapuma and Sicard moved to the front. Atapuma had chased Roglic yesterday and missed out on a stage win and today, on Columbia’s national day, he had special incentive to win the day’s stage. Lutsenko, Gallopin, Atapuma and Sicard were 5.50 ahead of the yellow jersey peloton led by AG2R-La Mondiale with 30km to go at Guillestre. They were joined by Edet, Navarro, Grmay and Hardy.
With 20km to go, Cyril Gautier, Oliver Naesen and Ben Gastauer(Ag2R La Mondiale) led the peloton 4.50 behind the leading duo formed of Nicolas Edet and Alexey Lutsenko. And then came this.
At the bottom of col d'Izoard, Lutsenko went solo trying to go for glory. Yellow Jersey group was 3:55 behind. Atapuma attacked behind Lutsenko, for Columbia! With 6.5k to Atapuma caught Lutsenko and then went solo. Meanwhile, somewhere down the road Warren Barguil(my new favourite rider) attacked! And so do it Contador, mainly to showboat. But it was so awesome to see. Bardet was out of teammates and Team Sky began to push the pace. Barguil was flying up the hill. Contador and Mollema tried to chase him down but to no avail. Kwiatkowski(who threw his Oakleys in the crowd today, lucky fan who got them), Nieve and Landa escorted Chris Froome up the hill. Fabio Aru wasn’t able to keep up with them and began falling back.
Tony Gallopin is started chasing Atapuma but Barguil was coming for both of them. Meanwhile, Mikel Landa attacked! And he left everyone in his dust, riding effortlessly up the hill! Soon there was a gap created. Bardet attacked with 3km to go. Froome and Uran reacted and followed him, but there was a big gap created between them and Aru. At 2.5k, Froome switched on his motor and blasted off. Like literally blasted off, there was a HUGE gap created as he joined Landa in the front and for a few seconds there it appeared like Froome will gain some seconds but then Uran and Bardet joined Froome. Barguil rejoined Atapuma with 1.5km to go and with 1k to go, dropped him and went solo.
And soon, Barguil, the KOM of this tour, took his 2nd stage win and 4th for Sunweb. What a man!
And then, Atapuma took 2nd place which meant the 3rd place+4 bonus seconds were on the line. Bardet attacked and Froome followed, but it was Bardet today who took 4 seconds even as Uran faded.
The intensity!
Just look at the intensity! So, Today’s results:
General Classification:
Jersey wearers after Stage 18:
Tomorrow, much time can’t be made, till there are echelons. Mainly looking forward to Saturday’s Time Trial now! Thanks for reading. #TDF2017


Popular Posts