In what can only be described as one of the most surprising things in cycling all season … Nairo Quintana actually attacked! In fact, he was so committed to this attack, he won the tough 65km stage with a summit finish on the Col du Portet. While he was doing that, Sky whittled down the bunch of favourites until they even whittled down Chris Froome. Geraint Thomas put in a commanding performance against the attacks of Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic to extend his margin to 1.59 on second placed Dumoulin and 2.31 on his teammate Froome. Roglic is now only 16sec away from that third step.
Rider of the Day
There was a lot of action, particularly on the final climb of the day today, but my Rider of the Race is going to Tanel Kangert, who was out in the break almost the entire day, only getting caught (and passed) by Quintana with 8km to the summit finish.Embed from Getty Images
Kangert went out early with Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), until a three-man group of KOM Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step), Kristijan Durasek (UAE) and Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) caught him on the first climb. While Kangert took the first crest, Alaphilippe the second, the two sloughed off their fellow breakmates on the tricky descent to ride to the final climb together, when the Frenchman lost the legs to win and left Kangert to carry on alone.
And that is what he did, hoping against hope that he could hold off the little groups forming on the mountain side that were in pursuit. Quintana’s attack from the peloton was really the death knell for Kangert’s victory, but it took the Colombian a hard-riding 6km before he and his shadow, Rafal Majka, reached the Astana rider … and without a look, they both blew past him.
Perhaps Kangert thought the cycling gods were smiling on Astana this Tour, perhaps it was a quixotic attempt by the Estonian rider, but it was a ride of perseverance as riding mates came and went on those mountains today. In the end, he finished 20th on the stage – but it earned him Most Combative for the stage.
Quintana in victory shocker!Embed from Getty Images
I’m not a Quintana fan – I think nine times out of 10 he doesn’t enhance the races he’s riding in any way. But today was the 10th time and he actually struck out on his own in order to win a tough stage atop the Col du Portet. He certainly showed his climbing prowess and ability to ride unperturbed by anything around him, including Rafal Majka who clung to his wheel like a barnacle. But once he dispatched him, the stage was his to lose, as the GC favourites were having their own private battle on the slopes below. Apparently, he was ‘blowing bubbles of triumph’ today. Okie dokie then.
Ripped and torn
We’ve had some pretty harrowing crashes this Tour, not least Philippe Gilbert headfirst into a ravine yesterday, but one thing you don’t often hear is that Peter Sagan crashed. Well, he did today. Cameras didn’t capture it, details with sketchy at best, but at the end he arrived at the finish, with the green jersey ripped, torn and sullied. Here, even limping he strides like a Colossus on the way to the medical tent.
How did it happen? What went on? Even with bandaged legs, the Lion of the Peloton didn’t mince his words. Paris is still on!
A hard day in the mountains
Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t. We knew it was going to be a rough stage for someone (or two or three) in the GC, we just didn’t know who. But the look on Romain Bardet‘s face as Sky set a blistering pace on the final mountain meant that it was just not going to be Bedhead’s year for a podium. Nothing can be quite as disheartening as seeing your main rivals leaving you behind. And you having to run the gauntlet of fans alone.Embed from Getty Images
The other big name was Chris Froome. After a conversation between the returning champion and his teammate in yellow, it seemed that Froome told Thomas to go ahead as he didn’t have the legs. And go ahead is what Thomas did. Froome subsequently lost his second place to Tom Dumoulin. He now sits in third. At 2.31 down, a sprint stage, a fairly okay mountain stage and a TT left in this Tour de France, barring anything untoward, I think we can safely say, the Tour de France champion will be bringing it home to Wales.
Geraint Thomas, however, rode like a confident and worthy champion. He was composed, he used his team well, he waited for others to draw out attacks and matched them. There was no hesitation in him when the moment came. Riding with Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo Bees were ace today) in the last few kilometres of the climb, when Roglic put in an attack, Thomas was right on the wheel, giving no quarter. When they were coming up to the finish, Thomas surged to take third, a few extra bonus seconds and a touch of time on his closest rivals.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 2:21:27
2 Dan Martin (UAE) +0:28
3 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:47
4 Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) +0:52
5 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) same time
GC Top 10
1 Geraint Thomas (Sky) 70:34:11
2 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) +1:59
3 Chris Froome (Sky) +2:31
4 Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) +2:47
5 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:30
6 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +4:19
7 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +4:34
8 Romain Bardet (Ag2r) +5:13
9 Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) +6:33
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +9:31
All the jerseysEmbed from Getty Images
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: Tanel Kangert (Astana)
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Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele