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Tour de France 2019: Nairo Quintana turns back the clock to win Stage 18

Jack Elton-Walters
25 Jul 2019

Quintana was unrivalled on the Galibier and then uncatchable on the descent to take the stage & possibly put himself back in contention

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won Stage 18 of the 2019 Tour de France after going solo on the climb of the Col du Galibier and then retaining his advantage on the descent and flat run in to the finish line. He looked like the Quintana of old as he ascended the challenging slopes of the final climb.

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) crossed the line second and thanks to his efforts earlier in the stage will now wear the polka dot jersey into the closing mountain stages.

The remnants of the early breakaway came over the line in ones and two before Egan Beral (Team Ineos) who had attacked on the final climb and kept clear to the finish line. This was enough to move Bernal ahead of his teammate Geraint Thomas but Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) will spend yet another day in yellow.

A big day in the mountains

The breakaway took a long time, and a good deal of energy from certain riders, to establish at the start of the day but once the composition was strong enough the riders grew the gap out to over eight minutes between the very front of the race and the yellow jersey peloton.

At the front, the race-within-a-race today was for polka dot jersey points. The holder of the jersey at the start of the day, Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), was present but he was joined by Bardet whose focus has switched to the lesser classification after falling out of overall GC contention thoroughly and early.

Wellens took first place and 10 points on the first summit, the Col de Vars, but had been distanced by the top of the Col d'Izoard as the lead group split in two. At Izoard summit, Bardet was pipped to first place by Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) who took a huge 40 points while Bardet had to settle for 30.

The two leading groups came back together before the final climb as the time gap to the yellow jersey peloton crept up again until Team Ineos took control of proceedings.

Over the Col d'Izoard Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) had found himself isolated without teammates in the group of favourites, but several of his domestiques were able to regain contact on the descent and flat roads to the foot of the Col du Galibier.

Ahead, Wellens lost contact and soon dropped back from contesting the points on the final summit before the descent to the finish line.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) launched an attack around 9.5km from the summit, chased first by Bardet and then joined by Caruso, Quintana and Michael Woods (Education First). This spelt the end of Adam Yates's (Mitchelton-Scott) stint at the front of the race as he had nothing to give when the attack went.

Quintana then launched solo and soon had a sizeable gap. Bardet and Lutsenko dropped the others and tried to reel in the solo leader, with the former doing all the work.

While Quintana was riding away to a potential stage victory and the chance to move back into contention overall, his compatriot Bernal llaunched an attack off the front of the yellow jersey group. This saw David Gaudu's pull the pin, leaving his Groupama-FDJ team leader Pinot without support in a greatly reduced group.

Second over the summit of the Galibier was enough to move Bardet into the polka dot jersey. Behind him, Bernal had gained enough of a gap to overtake his nominal team leader Thomas in the virtual standings. That was immediately assured, however, as Thomas attacked 2km from the peak and tried to ride across to his teammate.

Pinot was the best of the rest and his accelerations put the yellow jersey of Alaphilippe in trouble. Thomas was caught by Pinot, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Rigoberto Uran (Education First), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) as they began the descent and everyone chased their way down the mountain.

Alaphilippe caught and passed Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and pushed on to defend his time buffer at the top of the GC. As soon as he was back in touch with his key rivals, the yellow jersey made his way to the front and rode away on the descent.

Uran and Landa overtook Pinot and tried to close the gap to Alaphilippe while Bernal was still getting further away from all of them. Alaphilippe was caught by his closest rivals and they rode together in the closing kilometres.