Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) finally had something to celebrate as he battled back from illness to win stage 18 of the Tour into Saint Jean de Maurienne. His outstanding descending off the Col du Glandon allowed him to escape from the day’s breakaway and hold off the late general classification attacks to take his maiden stage win. The race favourites remained deadlocked behind.
Rider of the day
The idea that certain people are more deserving of victories than others is a strange muddling of subjective preferences with the raw, objective brutality of sport itself. It doesn’t really make much sense. In cycling, the only rider who really merits the glory is, of course, whoever crosses the line first.
But perhaps more than any other, cycling is a sport of sheer emotion, of extraordinary achievements, of attempts to conquer nature itself. As spectators, we can empathise with these allegorical tales of a great struggle against the odds. Few have suffered more over the last few days than Romain Bardet, who has toiled in breakaways and finished on the podium – while ill – on the stages to both Plateau de Beille and Mende.
That means we can suspend logic to say that Bardet really did deserve today’s stage. It was a brilliant performance of sheer guts, with daredevil descending taking him away from his breakaway companions and down to the finish line. In the words of Cannondale-Garmin chief Jonathan Vaughters:
Three things we noticed
1. Contador gives it a go. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) remains arguably the most exciting stage racer of his generation, and he showed why once again today. He launched a bold attack with around 45km remaining and quickly opened up the best part of a minute over the maillot jaune. Once he bridged across to the very strong escape group containing Mathias Frank (IAM), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), things started to look exciting. Alas, the group didn’t cooperate and the move didn’t stick, but Contador still deserves a hat tip for his efforts. He’s not a rider who bothers defending minor placings, or even a podium spot. He’ll always go for glory, and that means there’s scarcely a dull moment when he’s on form. If only Movistar were as brave …
2. Unlucky Astana … again. Once again in the breakaway today was Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who has ridden a strong race and escaped into a handful of successful moves. He looked particularly strong climbing the Glandon, and was one of the favourites to take the stage win. That was until fate, in the shape of a pesky camera motorbike, intervened. He collided with the bike on the ascent and never got back into contention, as Astana’s Tour went from worse to more worse. Rumours that team principal Alexander Vinokourov will punish Lady Luck’s negligence by sending her to ride the Vuelta as Vincenzo Nibali‘s super-domestique are, as yet, unconfirmed.
3. HAIRPINS! Now that’s a road. The Lacets de Montvernier, for those wondering.
Stage 18 result
1. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) 5:03:40
2. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) +0:33
3. Winner Anacona (Movistar) +0:59
4. Bob Jungels (Trek) same time
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) s/t
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 74:13:31
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:10
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +4:09
4. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +6:34
5. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +6:40
6. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) +7:39
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +8:04
8. Mathias Frank (IAM) +8:47
9. Bauke Mollema (Trek) +12:06
10. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +12:52
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
King of the Mountains leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
Best young rider: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Movistar.
Link: Official race website
Featured image: Romain Bardet crosses the line (Image: ITV/Twitter)