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Tour de France 2017 Stage 18: Barguil triumphs on the Izoard, Froome set to win fourth Tour

Romain Bardet and AG2R tried everything but Froome proved up to the challenge to retain the yellow jersey

Martin James
20 Jul 2017

France's Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) won a riveting Stage 18 of the 2017 Tour de France on the top of the Col d'Izoard, just holding off the battle for the yellow jersey to take a famous win, while Team Sky's Chris Froome saw off all challenges to finish fourth and surely all but seal his fourth Tour de France win.

AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet tried everything he could to drop Froome and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), but the trio finished together, Bardet's only consolation being a four-second time bonus that puts him back into second place overall ahead of Uran, but still 23 seconds behind Froome with only three stages to go.

Darwin Atapuma finished second, the only survivor from a large breakaway group that had gone clear early on.

Indeed, for a long time Stage 18 had been a race in two parts, led by a massive breakaway of 50-plus riders and followed by a peloton well marshalled by Team Sky.

But once we hit the first category Col de Vars, finally the race started to ignite, and it blew apart completely on the Izoard, the final big mountain of the 2017 Tour de France.

This fascinating race was always likely to come down to a showdown on the Izoard – the stage one of just four summit finishes on this year's Tour.

For days, the Bardet's AG2R team have looked threatening, and it was their strong riding on the front that initially blew the main group of favourites apart, before Team Sky asserted their authority in service of the race leader.

Barguil was the only one who was able to stay clear, and steadily mopped up the remains of the early break to take a fitting win with the polka dot jersey on his shoulders.

How Stage 18 unfolded

The peloton rolled out of Briancon in lunchtime sunshine, with 178km of riding to negotiate on Stage 18, but really only the final 14.1km mattered – the climb of the Col d’Izoard.

By its summit we’d know if not who was going to win the 2017 Tour de France, at the very least the final selection of GC contenders and what they’d have to do on Saturday’s time trial in Marseilles.

The battle for the yellow jersey was the day’s only real business of note. Barguil was looking secure in the polka dot jersey, and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) was now all but certain to win a green jersey he’d probably have taken from Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) anyway before the German’s abandonment yesterday settled the matter for good.

With only one real issue to be decided, and then only at the close of the stage, it was perhaps no surprise that a large breakaway quickly went up the road once the flag dropped.

In fact it was more like an advance peloton, with upwards of 50 riders at times heading the race and all but three teams represented.

Team Sky, unsurprisingly, were one of them. Froome’s full supporting cast took up station at the front of the main peloton, controlling the pace and steadily letting a gap of more than six minutes open to the riders in front.

The first climb of the day, the fantastically named Cote de Demouiselles Coiffées, came on 60km – a gentle 3.9km at 5.2%, enough for a third category billing but a mere bump on the road compared to the Izoard at the end of the day.

Thomas de Gendt of Lotto Soudal picked up the five points on offer, followed by French pair Nicolas Edet and Lilian Calmejane.

As the stage rolled towards the intermediate sprint on 91.5km, a small splinter group at the front including UAE Team Emirates’ Ben Swift was reeled back in, leaving a full 54 riders with a near-eight minute lead over the main field.

Sonny Colbrelli took the sprint from De Gendt and Deon Smith, then it was back to the status quo.

With the two main climbs of the day starting to loom large, finally other riders started mixing it up with Team Sky in the peloton, and the gap slowly began to come down.

Up front, meanwhile, the main break began to splinter, the sheer weight of numbers clearly too big to sustain.

Then it was onto the 2109m Col de Vars, a first category climb 9.3km in length and 7.5% in average gradient, though by no means consistently steep.

The race was perfectly poised. Those up front were still 7 minutes clear, with every reason to believe the stage win was on, while Team Sky shepherded the peloton along behind at a relatively modest pace, almost daring someone to try something.

Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) went clear from the front group, and were joined by Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing), and Lutsenko took the points over the top of the climb, thereby guaranteeing Barguil will win the polka dot jersey provided he makes it to the finish on Sunday.

At this point Team Sky had set the pace in the peloton for almost the entire stage but as the peloton approached the top of the Col de Vars themselves, Bardet sent his AG2R La Mondiale teammates to the front and cranked up the pace, clearly feeling strong and making sure his rivals knew it.

In the valley following the descent from the Col de Vars, again there was a regrouping up front, then at the base of the Izoard again it started to break apart.

Lutsenko went clear on his own, and once on the Izoard proper Atapuma set off in pursuit, while the heavyweights in the main group of favourites continued to watch each other as the kilometres ticked by, AG2R setting a high pace that quickly brought the gap to the front of the race down to under 3 minutes.

With 6km to go, Barguil made a move, sensing the stage win was on, while behind him Aru was the first of the big names to crack, briefly losing touch and only holding on when AG2R eased the pace slightly.

But it wasn't long before Aru was off the back again, as this time Team Sky and the seemingly bulletproof Michal Kwiatkowski turned the screws.

Then Sky played their next card, that of Mikel Landa, himself enough of a threat to the GC players that they couldn't just let him go. With 3km to go, Froome had just Bardet, Contador, Nairo Quintana, Louis Meintjes, Simon Yates and Uran around him.

Then came the inevitable move from Bardet, laying it all on the line with a fierce attack that only Froome and Uran could respond to.

Then Froome shot off himself in a typical high-cadence attack without leaving the saddle. Initially it looked like Froome was in the clear, but Uran and Bardet clawed their way back, the three of them quickly closing up to Landa.

Into the final kilometre the quartet were barely 30 seconds behind Barguil, who had caught and then dropped Atapuma and was draining himself with the finish line nearly in sight.

Bardet then attacked Froome again, but there was no catching the polka dot jersey, who proved himself the genuine king of the mountains on the biggest mountain finish of the race.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 18, Briançon - Izoard (179.5km), result

1. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, in 4:40:33
2. Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates, at 0:20
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale, at same time
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, st
5. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 0:22 
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 0:32 
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 0:37 
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 0:39 
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 0:59 
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1:09

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 18

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 78:08:19
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale, at 0:23 
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 0:29 
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1:36
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 1:55
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 2:56
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4:46
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 6:52
9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 8:22
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 8:34

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