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Tour de France 2018: Astana's Omar Fraile wins hilly Stage 14

Astana rider Omar Fraile takes biggest win of his career, no change in GC

James Spender
21 Jul 2018

A hilly Stage 14 saw echelons, a massive 32-man break and the GC contenders content to duke it out in their own race some 20 minutes back. But a savage last climb followed by a 1.6km flat sprint saw Omar Fraile (Astana) take the stage win.

How the race unfolded 

Stage 14, two-thirds down, a third to go.

The finish was flat – an airport runway no less – but the 188km from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende was poised not for the sprinters but the breakaways and puncheurs, a hilly day bookended by the 3km Cat.2 Cote de la Croix Neuve: 10% average with a wicked 12-14% last kilometre before a 1.6km flat dash to the line.

A stage all but made for Quick-Step Floor’s Julian Alaphilippe, one might think, and one that Team Sky would surely take a defensive stance on, Geraint Thomas a full 1min 39sesc ahead of teammate Chris Froome (Team Sky) and 1min 50secs ahead of Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin going in to today. But the diesel engine of Dumoulin had been humming sweetly, and Alaphilippe had company…

Early echelons

A sedate start turned panicky when windy conditions carved the peloton into echelons, allowing Alaphilippe and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and five others to form the break. The peloton eventually regrouped as Sky slowed the pace for Thomas to get in a quick call of nature.

The first 50km ticked off and the break had swelled from seven to 30+ riders, with a chasing pack including Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) making contact with Alaphilippe’s posse, and the GC group sitting nearly 5minutes back.

By 110km that gap had grown to 8mins 10secs. With no GC threats present in the 32-man break, the Sky-controlled peloton had little incentive to chase. Alaphilippe took the KOM points over the Cat.4 Cote du Grand, shoring up his polka dots for another day, while Sagan took the 20 intermediate sprint points to all but guarantee a sixth green jersey in Paris.

Splinter cell 

By the foot of the Cat.2 Col de la Croix de Berthal, 9km at 5.3%, the gap had stretched to 10minutes, and come the descent the break had started to splinter, with Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) in his Spanish national champ’s jersey escaping over the Croix de Berthal, a man off the leash given his team leader Vincenzo Nibali’s withdrawal yesterday with a fractured T10 vertebra after an altercation with a fan’s camera strap, some flares and a motorbike up Alpe d’Huez.

Izagirre was soon joined by Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data), all hoping to hit that runway first, pursued by a second group that included Sagan, Greg Van Avarmaet (BMC Racing), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), and a peloton 17 minutes back, a battle for GC seconds sure to unfold before the finish line in 30km time. 

Half that distance and Slagter and Izagirre were reabsorbed, and Stuyven had upped his break to 1min40secs, the big Belgian burying himself on Belgian National Day, Omar Fraile (Astana) and Alaphilippe behind him in hot pursuit.

Alaphilippe had been biding his time and launched his attack 2.3km out as Stuyven looked as purposeful as he did cooked. But the attack proved too early, and it was Fraile who caught Stuyven, taking a momentary pull on his wheel before accelerating past the Belgian in the final 600m to take the win, Alaphilippe second and Stuyven third.

General classification

Fraile was probably on the warm-down turbo by the time the GC contenders' peloton swung into Mende. Dan Martin punctured, but elsewise the big guns were present, Froome and Thomas near the front, with Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) making a speculative jump.

Meanwhile Dumoulin and Thomas took up familiar roles, the Dutch Diesel motoring at his own pace with Thomas glued to his wheel and Froome on hand to steer the trio's pace. No great shakes for the GC guys today.