Stage 18 of this year’s Tour de France was a crash-banging, head-butting, balls-to-the-wall GC battle from kilometre 0 to the summit finish on Luz-Ardiden. All the GC teams threw caution to the wind, with attack after attack all through the 130km, on the slopes of the Tourmalet and the climb to the finishing summit. Okay, that didn’t actually happen – that was my wishful thinking for the stage. In fact, today’s stage was not that different than yesterday’s stage including the stage podium.
Again Tadej Pogacar did not quiver and quake at the Ineos train riding on the front for most of the final climb, he used his UAE team in the way they needed to be used, in particular Rafa Majka, whose riding set Pogacar up for finishing off the stage, and he also gave no gifts, as he sprinted away from his rivals to take his second consecutive summit finish and third Tour 2021 stage win. Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz also had a strong case of deja vu as they came in second and third on the stage.
Plus ça change …
This last kilometre and yesterday’s last kilometre had the same result. Riding along, Ineos’s Richard Carapaz attacking until Tadej Pogacar grew weary of the Ecuadorian’s impertinence and just rode away at will.
Jumbo’s Jonas Vingegaard stayed as calm as yesterday and again got the better of the Ineos rider, coming in second, earning two bonus seconds, making the gap between GC second and third a matter of six whole seconds. It’s all down to the time trial for these two on Saturday. But today was again Pogacar’s day.
🎙 🇸🇮@TamauPogi : « C’était super dur aujourd'hui. Déjà dans le Tourmalet. Je me suis calé dans les roues et je ne pensais plus à rien. Et dans la dernière ascension j’étais au maximum. »
💛 L’intégralité de l’interview du porteur du #MaillotJauneLCL, c’est ici. ⤵️ 💛#TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/IpAuwydU0i
— Maillot Jaune LCL (@MaillotjauneLCL) July 15, 2021
The GC outside the podium places got swapped around. Rigoberto Uran lost the most today, coming in nearly 9min down from Pogacar’s time. This throws him from 4th place to 10th, 16.25min down. Everyone from positions 5 to 10 moved up one, with Ben O’Connor sitting in 4th at 8.15 down.
People may feel otherwise, of course, but Uran falling apart like a regular human being makes me like him more.
— Peter Flax (@Pflax1) July 15, 2021
💪 Another battle between @TamauPogi and his main opponents. The Yellow Jersey triumphs again! 💛
💪 Une nouvelle bataille entre Tadej Pogacar et ses principaux rivaux. Le Maillot Jaune triomphe encore ! 💛#TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/8tgSWQfLO4
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 15, 2021
One last note on Pogacar: today he didn’t give any gifts, but I bet you dollars to donuts that if he had been just with Vingegaard, he’d have let him take the stage.
A pox on all your bibs
The KOM jersey battle was one of the more exciting of the Tour – well, let’s face it, when the yellow jersey wearer is also the best young rider, there’s not a lot of competition there. Mark Cavendish‘s grip on the green jersey remains tight, no matter how many times Michael Matthews or Sonny Colbrelli try to pretend that you can win the green jersey by winning intermediate sprints but not the sprints at the finish.
Wout Poels going in the break today #TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/Z6QT2Qli1C
— Nairo Quintana Fanclub (@NairoInGreen) July 15, 2021
Today, the question was how would Wout Poels or Michael Woods – two riders targetting the jersey – would be able to accumulate enough points to keep Tadej Pogacar from taking the jersey off their back on the summit finish. Ultimately … Pogacar gave no gifts here either (although actually I don’t think he was even thinking about the pox as he rode to the stage win) and now Poels, who is second in the competition, will wear the polka dots into Paris, but not on the podium. Oooooh, that’s the definition of adding insult to injury.
Poor Wout Poels, he'll ride into Paris in the polka dot jersey only to have it took off him and told to go to his bus.
— Chris Sidwells (@ChrisSidwells) July 15, 2021
Come here, you handsome devil
I thought this particular exchange while Wout van Aert was doing a post-stage interview was particularly touching. Jonas Vingegaard came over to thank Wout and he looked so sweet and humble, and the moment between them was really rather special.
Great thing about sport is friendship…. great gentleman and strong performance by all teammates… go go, it’s still not yet finish.
— Sopheak (@Sopheak_Min) July 15, 2021
Wout then went back to his interview and said:
“His first Tour de France. I remember from two years ago at my first Tour de France how overwhelming everything is and I was not even in GC, so it’s really special to see how he’s handling the pressure and he really deserves this.”
It’s stories like this that makes me love cycling, not the following story …
Plus ça change, deuxième partie
The big news of the day, however, was the raid conducted by French police on Team Bahrain Victorious hotel rooms on Wednesday night, in an investigation that had been opened on 3 July to look into doping allegations against the team. While files were taken away, no arrests were made. Here is the story as it stands, via CyclingNews.
The last word
Dunno why people say Ineos aren't good this year. They've been an awesome train for Pogacar. #sbstdf #couchpeloton
— Matt Collins (@matty71) July 15, 2021
Stage 18 Top 5
1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 3:33:45
2 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +0:02
3 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) same time
4 Enric Mas (Movistar) +0:13
5 Dan Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) +0:24
General Classification Top 10
1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 75:00:02
2 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:45
3 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:51
4 Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën Team) +8:18
5 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +8:50
6 Enric Mas (Movistar Team) +10:11
7 Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) +11:22
8 Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) +12:46
9 Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) +13:48
10 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) +16.25
All the jerseys
Jerseys after Stage 18
💛🏆 Tadej Pogačar 🇸🇮
💚💨 Mark Cavendish 🇬🇧
🔴⛰️ Tadej Pogačar 🇸🇮
🤍👶 Tadej Pogačar 🇸🇮 pic.twitter.com/dqp7b6VPr3
— pro cycling trumps (@procycletrumps) July 15, 2021
Leaders jersey: Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Points jersey: Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
KOM jersey: Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (Bahrain Victorious)
Most combative rider : David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ)
For full stage review, go to cyclingnews