With the GC still largely in recovery mode, today’s stage screamed breakaway victory. A spot of early echelon action on the 188km across the Massif Central to the tough uphill finish in Mende resulted in a mass breakout with a massive time gap. Cue two spectacular finales. The stage was won with exquisite timing by Omar Fraile (Astana) who flew up the last climb to overhaul lone escapee Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), who finished third. Second place went to KOM leader and Quick-Stepper Julian Alaphilippe, who left his charge for the line a tad too late. Jumble Bee Primoz Roglic emerged best of the GC contenders, gaining a handful of seconds on race leader Geraint Thomas (Sky), though the overall remains unchanged.
Rider of the race
My pick for today’s award is stage winner Omar Fraile, who was tipped for the win by teammate and compatriot Pello Bilbao on Basque television, whose commentators noisily and jubilantly encouraged him home. With stage wins already this season in the Tours of the Basque Country and Romandie, Omar has reveled in his new-found freedom at Astana. The 28-year-old Basque rider had been part of the mass breakout initiated by Thomas De Gendt – who else? – and which, thanks to some exciting echelon action, rapidly grew to 32-rider strong. The Sky-led peloton was in recovery-ride mode and were happy to allow the escapees a 20-minute advantage, while frankly the rest of us tried hard to stay awake.
With around 60km remaining, thankfully Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) attacked from the break, along with Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). Stuyven soon left behind his fellow escapees to ride strongly at the front of the race, only tiring on the 10% portion of the final climb. He deserves a special mention for animating the race on his country’s National Day and rightly collected today’s Combativity Award.
Meanwhile Fraile, in the chasing group, followed the attack of never-say-die Thomas De Gendt at the base of the final climb, before soaring off in hot pursuit of a tiring Stuyven. He overhauled the Belgian rider before the summit and managed to maintain a gap back to the rapidly advancing Julian Alaphilippe. Fraile just had time to zip up his jersey before he soloed across the line to record his maiden Tour win in a similar time to Laurent Jalabert, 23 years ago!
It was Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) who led the peloton home, 18:01 behind Omar Fraile, after it had enjoyed a Sunday club ride to the foot of the final climb. Roglic crossed the line 8sec ahead of race leader Geraint Thomas (Sky) who, along with teammate Chris Froome, had followed third-placed Tom Dumoulin‘s (Sunweb) attack 2km from the line. The Dutchman looks to be Sky’s only real GC challenger, staying with the Sky duo when all the other favourites lost time – not much but the seconds are starting to ominously add up.
Earlier in the stage, Skoda posed the question as to whether this year Peter Sagan would overhaul his previous record points haul of 470 in 2016. On the evidence of today, with a fourth place? Hell yes!!!
1 Omar Fraile (Astana) 4:41:57
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) +0:06
3 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) same time
4 Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) +0:12
5 Damiano Caruso (BMC) +0:17
GC Top 10
1 Geraint Thomas (Sky) 58:10:44
2 Chris Froome (Sky) +1.39
3 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) +1.50
4 Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) +2.38
5 Romain Bardet (Ag2r) +3.21
6 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +3.42
7 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +3.57
8 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +4.23
9 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +6:14
10 Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) +6.54
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Geraint Thomas (Sky)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)
KOM jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
Best young rider: Pierre Latour (Ag2r)
Most combative: Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
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Header Image: ©GETTY/Velo/Chris Graythen