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Tour de France 2018: Alaphilippe takes second stage as Yates crashes on final descent

Yates falls on final descent of the Col du Portillon helping Alaphilippe to his second stage victory

Joe Robinson
24 Jul 2018

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) took his second victory of the 2018 Tour de France winning Stage 16 in Bagneres-de-Luchon. 

The Frenchman managed to catch solo leader Adam Yates after the Mitchelton-Scott man took a spill on the final descent of the Col du Portillon.

Yates had earlier gone alone on the final climb managing to drop a small group before the summit but to no avail, eventually rolling in third behind Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).

Alaphilippe's victory was stage number four for Quick-Step Floors as the 26-year-old consolidated his lead in the polka dot climber's jersey.

In terms of the battle for the yellow jersey, Mikel Landa (Movistar) was the first GC rider to roll the dice as the battle but was caught comfortably by Team Sky duo Michal Kwiatkowski and Egan Bernal.

Eventually, the GC group rolled in all together seeing no change to the overall standings.

The day as it happened

The final week of the Tour de France. The race's final act. Five more days of racing before the peloton reaches Paris with its latest winner resplendent in yellow.

The race entered the Pyrenees today for the first of three tough stages in the mountains. 

On the menu for today would be two category four climbs early on, acting as the hor d'oeuvre. Then the second category Col de Portet-d'Aspet, today's starter before the category one duo of the Col de Mente and Col du Portillon, the main course and dessert.

Unfortunately, the final ascent of the Portillon was not a summit finish with a 10km descent to the finish ending the day. 

LottoNL-Jumbo and Movistar were the two teams with expectations upon their shoulders today. Apart from Team Sky, they both had numbers in the GC battle albeit a few minutes adrift after the Alps.

Roglic is clearly looking to attack and has a strong Steven Kuijswijk to assist him. The Slovenian has already tested the legs of Thomas and Froome and looks strong. 

On the other hand, Movistar are lacking the watts we know they have. Quintana, Landa and Valverde have all been running cold but all could change in the Pyrenees.

With the first major climb not tackled until the 145.5km mark, you could have assumed a serene start to the stage with the usual formation of a breakaway and immediate lull in the action. 

Not today, oh no. As the race rolled through some provincial farmland it appeared that a protest was taking place. Spread across the road were hay balls left by local farmers while television footage pictured French police struggling with protesters.

As the peloton squeezed through, a police officer deployed his mace spray at those looking to cause disruption. This backfired with the spray actually heading the way of the riders. 

Riders then found themselves frantically washing their faces as the race was brought to a. complete halt for around 20 minutes. Eventually the race got going again. but not until the matter had been discussed by UCI president David Lappartient, ASO director Christian Prudhomme and the likes of Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin. 

Once back underway, the racing was frantic with riders trying to establish a breakaway. 

Two groups of four nipped off of the front eventually merging to create a group of eight. Eight then became 28 as the lead group swelled with many seeking an opportunity of a stage victory.

As the group continued to swell Team Sky decided to take action, increasing the pace and pulling back the large group.

The peloton was under such stress with the entire race strung across the entire road. 130km left to go and riders were trying so hard to force a move. Movistar were major protagonists sending riders constantly off of the front.

Plenty of battling took place over the next kilometres for a break to form. Eventually one did with. 47 riders managing to break clear. Involved was the white young rider's jersey of Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2R La Mondiale), polka dot jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), yet again.

Working together efficiently, the time gap rose rapidly. With 75km remaining, the time gap sat at 7 minute 50. Approaching the base of the first true test of the day, the Col de Portet-d'Aspet, Fortuneo-Samsic tapped away in aid of Warren Barguil.

Behind, Luke Rowe was dragging the Team Sky and the rest of the peloton along through the feed zone.

Maybe through sheers boredom or maybe to set up teammate Alaphilippe, Philippe Gilbert launched a solo attack away from the breakaway. Slotting his sunglasses in the vents of his helmet, he set off meaning business.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) mathematically took the green sprinter's jersey out on the road. Second placed Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) could no longer catch the Slovakian so all he had to do was finish the race in Paris this Sunday.

On his solo descent of the Col de Portet-d'Aspet, Gilbert found himself come unstuck on the twisting and turning road. Rounding a corner, he lost control, unclipping, before hitting a concrete barrier falling into the ravine below.

After a few moments of worry, Gilbert managed to climb from the drop, give a thumbs up to the camera and get back on his bike. He looked hurt but preserved on alone now in-between the break and the peloton.

Ahead, Barguil went onto the attack followed by Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) as they scaled the Col de Menthe. Barguil was hoping to claw back the deficit he had on Alaphilippe for the polka dot jersey although the latter two riders dropped him fast.

Caruso and Gesink, both excellent climbers, pushed on from a fractured break breakaway that was spread across the mountain. An extra angry Alaphilippe managed to bridge across to the leaders snapping up the mountain points on offer at the summit of the Menthe. 

Alaphilppe took the descent to the valley floor alone but was eventually reabsorbed by a group of riders by the bottom. The Frenchman clearly had little intention in attempting to ride solo to the finish.

The last climb, the Col du Portillon, was 8.3km long averaging 7.1%. Not very steep, it suits the metronomic chase of Team Sky who use there merry band of climbers to set an unmatchable pace on climbs of this nature. 

The break hit the base of the final climb with 17 riders while Movistar chased behind in hope of securing the team classification. A disappointment considering they were inadvertently helping Team Sky and Thomas. Surely they still believed in the hopes of Landa and Quintana.

The first attacks came from Michael Valgren of Astana. The Classics man went early knowing he is not a natural climber. This was closed down quickly by the long and rangey Gesink this followed by the miniature Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida). 

They were shortly joined by Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) who had put in a big dig to bridge across. All three capable climbers and Grand Tour stage winners, on their day they could see this move through to the finish. 

Behind, many began to react to the pace. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was strong enough to bridge across as was Ion Izagirre and Marc Soler (Movistar).

Gesink was bobbing out of the saddle, head like the Churchill dog, but dragging the five behind along for free. Every time the camera panned back to the leaders, he was sitting on the front. This allowed Yates to attack with 3km left of the climb, looking to salvage his disappointing Tour.

Yates was being pursued by a group of six including Alaphilippe who were 19 seconds behind. With 1km left to climb, Yates had extended his lead to 30 seconds.

Yates crested the Portillon alone with Alaphilippe not far behind. It would be a straight race to the bottom for the two to decide the stage winner.