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Tour de France 2018 Stage 10: Alaphilippe wins first mountain stage, GVA extends lead

Martin James
17 Jul 2018

Van Avermaet defies the odds to stay in yellow as Team Sky keep rivals in check behind

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) produced a courageous display of attacking riding to win Stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France, as the race finally hit the mountains for the first time.

Alaphilippe was part of a large group of riders that went clear of the peloton early on, and turned on the aggression at all the right moments to distance his fellow breakaway riders, putting himself in the polka-dot jersey in the process.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) in the yellow jersey also produced a fantastic performance, refusing to fade into the background now that the mountains have arrived and instead joining the breakaway himself and holding on to take fourth place on the day to increase his overall advantage in the process.

Team Sky did a masterful job in dictating the pace in the peloton behind, allowing the breakaway to have their day but keeping all rivals to Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome firmly under their thumb and putting time into the likes of Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Drapac) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), who were dropped on the final climb.

Stage 10 as it happened

As the flag dropped to get matters going on roads winding around the sun-kissed shores of the Lac d’Annecy, there was a real feeling that the Tour de France proper was finally starting.

That isn’t entirely fair on yellow jersey wearer Van Avermaet (BMC) and double stage winners Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors).

But with a parcours featuring the first four serious climbs of the 2018 Tour coming after the first rest day of the race, it was clearly time for those planning on being in contention for GC honours in Paris to start showing their hand.

That said, the GC riders would probably only get involved on the back-to-back Col de Romme (8.8km at 8.9%) and Col de la Colombiere (7.5km at 8.5%), 130km and 144km into the stage respectively and followed only by a 14km downhill run into Le Grand-Bornand.

Yes, there was also the Col de la Croix Fry (1st category, 11.3km at 7%) and the new test of the Plateau des Glieres (hors categorie, 6km at 11.2%) to contend with, with the latter featuring a section of gravel at the top.

But with more than 50km between the summit of the Glieres and the start of the Romme, it would be a surprise to see any of the major players chancing their arm until relatively late on.

There were still plenty of riders happy to take the race on from the start, however. Chief agitators included Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), then Sagan got involved in the green jersey, pushing ahead with Alaphilippe and a couple of other riders on the 4th category Col de Bluffy 19km in. Alaphilippe got the single mountains jersey point on offer, but Sagan was thinking of the green jersey sprint 10km down the line.

His efforts led to a select group of 17 riders opening a gap over the peloton, then Van Avermaet bridged the gap and joined them, dragging a couple of others up in the process.

With Team Sky setting the pace behind, the gap swelled to around 2 minutes by the sprint point on 29km, Sagan crossing the line unchallenged to take maximum points ahead of teammate Lukas Postlberger.

From there it was straight on to the Col de la Croix Fry, and Sagan was quickly distanced, his job for the day done. Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) attacked near the top, dragging Rein Taaramae (Direct Energie) with him to cross over 30 seconds clear of the remainder of the break. Sky continued to police the peloton around 4 minutes back.

By the start of the Plateau des Glieres the lead group had swelled to eight riders again, including Van Avermaet in yellow, with Sagan among a dozen or so chasers 40 seconds back.

At just 6km long, the Glieres wasn’t given hors categorie status for its length, but rather for its severity (an 11.2% average) and the added threat of a 2km gravel section once they reach the top.

The front group continued to come together rather than break apart, however, and when Alaphilippe sprinted clear to lead countryman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) over the top there were a dozen or so chasers following them across the line.

Then it was on to the gravel, and the fear of punctures that came with it. In the end, Chris Froome was the only one caught out, but lost very little time and was quickly back in the fold.

By now the break was over 7 minutes ahead, and Van Avermaet was looking good to hold on to yellow for at least one more day, with still 17 other riders around him to share the work.

Predictably, that all changed once they hit the Col de Romme with 35km to go. Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) was the first to attack, and the group disintegrated. Van Avermaet didn’t panic, however, and remained among the first handful of chasers.

With Calmejane fading, teammate Taaramae then took over, and managed to open a decent gap. He was then joined by Alaphilippe, having a great day in the saddle, and the Frenchman duly went clear with the summit in sight to take the points and secure the lead in the mountains jersey.

Third over the summit was, incredibly, Van Avermaet, who even managed to sprint for the line as if no-one had told him he was at the business end of a big mountain stage.

Alaphilippe too was in his element. Having initially allowed Taaramae back onto his wheel, he threw caution to the wind and distanced the Estonian again on the short descent between the Romme and Colombiere to hit the slopes of the final climb alone.

Back in the peloton, Sky continued to set a pace just high enough to throttle the life out of all opposition but continued to make little impression on the leaders.

Up front, Alaphilippe was a ball of nervous energy, almost as if he didn't believe he'd done enough to win the stage, even as the gap to Taaramae increased to over a minute. Yes, there was still more than 4km to climb ahead of the final 14km descent to Le Grand-Bornand, but barring a dramatic collapse the stage was his.

Van Avermaet too continued to ride well, and still led the peloton by nearly 4 minutes, though by now the gap was steadily dwindling. The last threat to Alaphilippe appeared to be Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), who emerged from the chasers to try and eat into the Quick-Step rider's advantage, though to no avail.

Sky's relentless pace-setting, meanwhile, was also starting to tell in the peloton. Uran was the first to be dropped, then Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) followed suit. 

Then – finally – came an attack, as Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) pushed on to finally break Sky's dominance, even if just for a few metres with the summit well in sight. The surge in pace was enough to knock a few others out the back of the peloton, including Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Zakarin. 

Up front, Alaphilippe's lead meant he could take the final descent relatively calmly, having done all the hard work in earning himself a stage win, the polka-dot jersey, and more sporting success for the Tour's home nation.

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