23/07/15 - 11:20
Gap - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Tour de France • Stage18

Gap - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

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So, with two days of the Alps left Froome leads Quintana by 3:10 and Valverde by 4:09. With his win, Bardet moves into 10th place on GC.


There'll be no change among the main players of this Tour - they all come home together in a group of around 10 riders 3:02 down on Bardet, led over the line by Barguil.


The remnants of the break are arriving in dribs and drabs ahead of the main pack...


Winner Anacona (Movistar) leads a chasing group over the line 59 seconds down for third place.


Pierre Rolland (Europcar) crosses the line 33 seconds down for second place.


First victory in the Tour de France for the Ag2R-La Mondiale rider.


Victory for Romain Bardet! He cannot believe it! What scenes...


It's a pretty cruddy road surface, to be fair, but even that won't stop Bardet today. He's already punching the air...


Under the flamme rouge for the lone leader... and the French crowds are loving it!


Bardet still has 40 seconds with 2km remaining. Only a disaster will stop the youngster take the biggest win of his career.


Our two leading Frenchman are on the flat run into the finish now. Rolland knows that he can only win if Bardet comes a cropper. His head is down, but he's still giving it his best shot.


Bardet still has three minutes over the pack as he nears the bottom of the descent. He and Pinot messed it up at Mende, but unless he makes a right hash of it, the win should be his in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.


Bardet is yet again descending like a demon. The 24-year-old has 45 seconds and he should really rein it in a little because he's risking everything. It's Rolland who is chasing behind, ready to pounce should his countryman come a cropper. Either way, it's another stage win for France today - at last.


Nibali pushes on near the summit - but his rivals, plus Geraint Thomas and Robert Gesink, all have his wheel. Sanchez, Mollema and Barguil pass through about 20 seconds down.


Meanwhile, it's stalemate with the Big Four: Froome, Contador, Nibali and Quintana are all there with their court jester, Valverde.


Bardet crests the summit of the Lacets de Montvernier to take the points for the KOM competition - but he won't care about that. He's in it for the stage win, and his gap is about 40 seconds over the chasers now.


Gesink and Contador lead the main group, from which Majka has just dropped back after his pace setting for the Spaniard.


Bardet emerges from the penultimate hairpin - he has 2:42 over the yellow jersey pack. Closer behind, Fuglsang has caught Rolland and Anacona. Jungels has fought back too, but there's no Gautier.


Rolland and Anacona have dropped Gautier and Jungels. These bends come thick and fast - at a rate of one every 150 metres. The road is so narrow, making it hard for any attacks to come because the pack is very stretched out. The 'pack' is just about 12 riders now, anyhow.


Rafal Majka is leading the yellow jersey group - but is he working for himself or Contador?


Bardet is riding very well on the front. He will be confident of a win provided he gets over the summit in pole position. Gautier still drives the chase with Rolland, Anacona and Jungels.


Jungels still leads the chase, with Gautier, Rolland and Anacona behind. A bit further back, Fuglsang is there despite his incident with the motorbike.


Gautier is leading Europcar team-mate Rolland onto the climb but a gasping Rolland can't come through and asks Gautier to slow up. Jungels comes through to lead the chase...


Lone leader Bardet is onto the Cat.2 Lacets de Montvernier (3.4km at 8.2%) - and there are scores and scores of fans here on what is already a very narrow road... It took 14 years to make this road.


Bardet has 38 seconds over the chasers and three minutes over the yellow jersey group as he passes the 15-to-go banner.


And this is what those famous Lacets de Montvernier look like from above...


Here's the profile of the final climb coming up...


Bardet goes through the 20-to-go banner - and this next 5km will be key, because he'll have to hold off the eight riders behind. They will be fresher, and will have the luxury of visiting their team cars and drafting a little.


Bardet has 38 seconds over the rest of the break and 2:50 over the yellow jersey group. He's still on this very long and fast descent.


Rodriguez has been swept up by the yellow jersey group on this long descent. Bardet has ridden it in true unconventional, yet effective, fashion. Can he hold on to take France's - and Ag2R-La Mondiale's - second win of the race?


Bardet has about 25 seconds over the chasing group, with Rodriguez a bit further back after he was dropped near the summit. No news on that Contador/Barguil/Gesink group - they may have been caught by the yellow jersey group because their advantage was minimal over the to of the Glandon.


Valverde, who was dropped near the top of the climb with Mollema, has almost caught the yellow jersey group on this descent. The Spaniard rides downhill so well...


Romain Bardet demonstrated his descending skills in the Dauphine last month, in a dress rehearsal for yesterday's stage... can he repeat his Col d'Allos brilliance again today off the back of the Glandon? He has 2:35 over the pack - and he's on his own, having distanced Anacona.


Nibali attacks again and Quintana responds. They open up a small gap, but they're reeled in by Froome and Thomas.


Romain Bardet takes the points over the top ahead of Anacona.


Bardet is leading the race now, with Anacona in his wheel. Rodriguez is struggling, and has been overtaken by Fuglsang, who is back on his bike. It has been confirmed that a motorcycle was involved in that crash.


And now Nibali goes! The defending champion attacks - and this has spurred Valverde and Quintana into life. They reel in Nibali, with Froome right there.


Meanwhile, Fuglsang's Astana team-mates put a big effort on the front of the pack for their man Nibali.


CRASH: Jakob Fuglsang hits the deck in the break - he veered across the road and may - may - have been clipped by a passing motorcycle. There seemed no other reason for that... Bardet amazingly avoided coming down in his wake.


Pierre Rolland drops the hammer and has forced a reaction from Bardet and Fuglsang. They open a small gap as Talansky and Hesjedal lead the chase.


The Sagan/Gallopin gruppetto is a huge 19 minutes down now. Gallopin started the week in the top ten but will plummet down the standings now.


Contador has joined the Barguil/Gesink/Frank group. They are 2:20 down on the leaders with the peloton at 3:00. They pass Simon Yates, who was in the first break.


ATTACK: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has pinged off the front of the main pack. There's no reaction - although you can see Quintana and Valverde look at each other for a moment. Remember, the Spaniard lost over two minutes yesterday after his crash, so he's way down on GC - almost seven minutes in arrears.


I said earlier that Hesjedal has been swept up by the pack, but that's not the case - it was only Martin of the Cannondale-Garmin trio, Hesjedal and Talansky are still up with the leaders, alongside Bardet, Rolland, Pauwels, Fuglsang, Rodriguez, Jungels, Gautier, Caruso and Anacona.


Voeckler is the latest rider to be caught by the Sky-led peloton. Richie Porte has popped, but Sky still have Roche, Konig and Thomas for their man in yellow.


Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) join Barguil in this attack - this is interesting for these three riders are battling for strong positions in the top ten.


Pinot has now been caught by the Sky-led pack. Caught, and it seems, passed. He's digging deep but this will be tough for the Frenchman. Meanwhile, Warren Barguil of Giant-Alpecin has attacked.


Pinot, his earpiece out and dangling from his helmet straps, rides with Voeckler. He has an ice pack on his neck and will soon be caught by the pack.


Talansky has fought back into the lead group, but his team-mates Martin and Hesjedal are back with the Sky-led pack. The gap has grown to 3:20 for the escapees, and it's still Jungels, with his jersey open and a medallion tapping against his plucked chest, who sets the tempo.


It's Luxembourg national champion Bon Jungels who sets the tempo on the front of the break. Simon Yates has been dropped, like Pinot. And Talansky looks to be struggling alongside Pauwels.


Thibaut Pinot is struggling - he's going to be dropped.


Jungels is back with the leaders and in fact is now driving the pace on this downhill section ahead of the final slog to the finish. Michael Mathews of Orica-GreenEdge has been caught by the pack after his cameo in the break.


The pack is being led by Team Sky with Nicolas Roche doing most of the work. The news going the rounds are that a Spanish armada are poised to join Sky in Mikel Landa (Astana), Benat Intxausti and the two Izaguirre brothers (all Movistar).


Roman Kreuziger, who was in the break, has been caught by the peloton. Odd tactics by Tinkoff-Saxo to put both Kreuziger and Rogers in the break for no apparent reason.


Jakob Fuglsang finished second behind Joaquim Rodriguez in Plateau de Beille back in the Pyrenees - can he do one better today? Meanwhile, Bob Jungels of Trek is struggling to stay with the leaders.


There's still 17km of this climb to go - it's a real beast. Simon Yates (Orica) and Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) have jumped clear of the peloton, which is 2:20 down on the leaders - who are being paced by Jakob Fuglsang.


Mick Rogers, who was in the initial break, has been caught by the pack. Thomas De gendt, too. Thibaut Pinot has been momentarily dropped by the leaders, but he fights back on.


Romain Bardet is leading the front group of the break now, with Fuglsang and Rodriguez alonside him. The other riders are Pinot, Anacona, Caruso, Rolland, Gautier, Jungels, Talansky and Pauwels.


The yellow jersey group is about to catch Arredondo. They trail the leaders by two minutes now, while it's another bad day for Tony Gallopin, who is in a group seven minutes in arrears.


Hesjedal has dropped back too - perhaps in search of Martin - so we only have one Cannondale-Garmin rider in Talansky in the leading group of 12 riders. Pinot, Rodriguez, Rolland, Gautier, Fuglsang are all there...


De Gendt has been caught and Rohan Dennis has been dropped. Both Julian Arredondo and Dan Martin appear to be struggling.


We're very much onto the Cat HC Col du Glandon (21.7km at 5.1%) now. The last rider to crest the summit in pole position was Hesjedal in the 2013 Tour in a stage that finished in Le Grand Bornand (won by Rui Costa). This is the 14th time it's been used in Tour history since its debut in 1947.


The break has come back together and trails De Gendt by 20 seconds with two riders trying to bridge the gap: Jan Bakelants and Jan Barta.


Thomas De Gendt is trying to emulate what he did on the Stelvio in the 2012 Giro d'Italia, where he attacked from distance to win the stage and move to third on GC behind eventual winner Ryder Hesjedal and runner-up Joaquim Rodriguez - both of whom are chasing him in the break behind.


It's coming back together for the escapees, but Thomas De Gendt's still not happy, so he pulls clear of the first of three groups. The peloton trails at 3:15,


Pinot is also one of the riders in the second group, currently 20 seconds down on the leaders. That split came after De Gendt's acceleration through the intermediate sprint and feed zone.


Ten of the escapees - including Cannondale-Garmin pair Talansky and Martin, Europcar's Voeckler, that man De Gendt and the polka dot jersey Rodriguez - have 25 seconds over a chasing group, which includes Rolland and Hesjedal.


Tour tipple: Savoie Persan is an old red grape variety from the Maurienne valley responsible for blood-red wines that are complex and full-bodied, with peppery aromas of candied peel and stewed fruits. With less than 10 hectares (25 acres) of Persan vineyards in existence, this is very much a rare wine with novelty value in buckets.


Plat du Jour: Prune tart - or Tarte de Champsaur - is popular in these parts but the stage finishes in Savoie so it would be amiss to overlook a hearty Tartiflette made from local, pungent reblochon cheese.


The peloton passes through the intermediate sprint 3:22 down and it's time to take on some musettes in the feedzone...


Thomas De Gendt ups the tempo - and this looks like an attack rather than a bid to win the intermediate sprint, which he does, incidentally. The Belgian is joined by a few riders - and he knows that there are too many riders in the group and that he needs to force a selection.


Yes, the peloton has split in three, with the yellow and white jerseys in the main pack, Sagan in a second pack one minute down, and a small group stuck in between.


It's quite baffling because aerial views show the peloton closing in on the splintered break - and yet the gap is still listed as 3:45. Actually, that's because the peloton has severely fragmented after that descent and we have numerous groups on the road. Peter Sagan, the green jersey, is one of the riders who has been distanced. He's taking a rare and well earned day off, it seems.


The road is now rising ahead of the sprint, then it will flatten out for a small plateau until the Col du Glandon proper. The gap is 3:40 so not coming down or growing.


The break has completed the descent and are now on the flat run into the intermediate sprint. The fast pace means the break has split into three smaller groups.


It's not Pinot but his FDJ team-mate Sebastien Chavanel who is finding this descent very tricky: the French veteran is on the back of the peloton, mirroring his place on the bottom of the overall standings.


This descent is a series of sweeping switchbacks which look quite special from above. An appetiser ahead of those Montvernier lacets - or shoelaces - that come later on after the Glandon.


Giant are really driving the pace on the front of the pack, so they can't have much faith in Georg Priedler, their man in the break. The gap is still around 3:45.


Big test for Thibaut Pinot here after his crash on yesterday's descent off the back of the Col d'Allos.


It's another 5 points for Rodriguez, with Fuglsang crossing in second place for 3pts followed by one of the Giant riders, Preidler I think. Yes, it was Preidler, ahead of Riblon for one point.


Belgian breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) sets the pace in the break. Their lead of 3:50 is fairly stable. The summit is coming up in about 500m. Ah, and right on cue steps forward Joaquim Rodriguez...


Pee stop for Astana duo Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi. And in full view of quite a few spectators too...


Back with the pack - which trails the break by 3:50 - it's the Giant-Alpecin team of ninth-placed Warren Barguil and yesterday's stage winner Simon Geschke who set the pace. Bauke Mollema's Trek team are also there with Team Sky.


We're onto the Cat.2 Col de la Morte (3.1km at 8.4%) which isn't as ominous as it sounds, but it's still quite a punchy ramp over 3100m and will be followed by a long, steep descent.


Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) has withdrawn from the Tour - he's been suffering with illness too. A big blow for Mark Cavendish's Champs-Elysees aspirations...


The KOM leaderboard now is: Rodriguez 63, Froome 61, Fuglsang 44, Pauwels 43, Porte 40, Bardet 38.


Once again Rodriguez takes the points over the top - and he now moves two points clear of Froome in the KOM standings. It was Serge Pauwels, again, who was second for 1pt.


The six leaders sat up and waited for the other escapees at the start of the Cat.3 Col de Malissol (2km at 8.7%).


There were rumours that Rafal Majka - who was in yesterday's break - refused to slow and help pace Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Contador on the final climb to Pra Loup after the Spaniard's climb. Contador has denied this: "His radio wasn't working and so he didn't know was going on. From the feeding zone he had issues with his radio and so he didn't know about my crash. I completely trust him." So that's that, then.


Those five leaders have been joined by Stef Clement. The quintet have about 15 seconds on the other escapees as they ride along a plateau ahead of the next climb.


Fuglsang, De Gendt, Rodriguez, Voeckler and Pauwels edge ahead near the top of the climb. It's Rodriguez who takes the two points available for first place to draw level with Chris Froome in the polka dot jersey standings, with Pauwels taking the remaining point.


We also spoke to Alberto Contador this morning about his crash yesterday. "I'm not feeling great. It was a bad crash, right on the corner. I don't really know what I touched but I felt something on my left leg, which is painful now. Not sure if it was my bike or a stone. It's going to be a really hard stage today anyway and I'm not really recovered. Psychologically I'm feeling good. I was hoping to win time yesterday so to lose time is hard to take. I was thinking about the podium yesterday but there's no chance of that now. It's great for Alejandro (Valverde)."


We spoke to Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) this morning after his shock withdrawal yesterday: "I was in denial. I've been fighting this chest cold for a few days and was hoping that I'd get over it on the rest day. But I had a fever and high temperature and when I got out there the legs just weren't working. It was hard. It's the Tour de France, it's what you ride for. At the time I just thought it was a bad dream. The hardest part was getting on the bus before my team-mates and having to look them in the eye when they got on. I was thinking of all the kilometres they did pulling in the wind and all the sacrifices they made for me. But they were great about it and said they would do the same again next year."


We're onto the Cat.3 Côte de La Mure (2.7km at 7.5%). Dennis has been caught by the other escapees after his sudden rush of blood to the head.


Yesterday Simon Geschke became the first German rider to win a summit finish stage since Jan Ullrich in the 90s. He gave Germany their fifth stage of the Tour, which means that 32% of Tour stage winners since 2013 have been German.


Rohan Dennis - winner of the opening time trial and a key component of BMC's winning TTT squad - has attacked on a downhill stretch to the third climb.


We mentioned Europcar, but the danger team in the break is Cannondale-Garmin, who have their three best riders involved in Talansky, Martin and Hesjedal. Martin (twice) and Talansky (yesterday) have both finished second in stages this year, while former Giro winner Hesjedal is an experienced long-distance attacker in the hills. Can they finally get their win?


Giant-Alpecin and Team Sky are on the front of the peloton, which trails the break by five minutes on rolling roads ahead of the third climb of the day. The real action will probably come on the Col du Glandon and the picturesque Lacets de Montvernier climb today - although don't rule out someone having a dig on the fast descent of the Col de la Morte before the intermediate sprint.


Did you know: The first two climbs of the day, the Col Bayard and Rampe du Motty, as well as the towns of Corps and La Mure, and the start town of Gap, are all on the Route Napoleon - the path taken by the French emperor in 1815 on his return from exile on Elba during the infamous 100 Days, which ultimately ended in defeat at Waterloo.


The leaders covered 37.4km in the first hour today. The peloton is currently 4:50 in arrears.


And it's that man Rodriguez who takes the maximum 2pts over the top of the Rampe du Motty to move within 2 points of Chris Froome's lead in the KOM competition. Serge Pauwels took 1pt for second place. The Belgian was fourth in the standings this morning after featuring in a number of mountain breaks.


Thibaut Pinot has some bandages on his left knee and elbow after his dramatic crash yesterday. It's tough to speculate, but had the Frenchman avoided his tumble he could well have gone on to win the stage. As it was, Pinot was passed by the likes of Talansky, Uran, Frank and Yates on the descent - and it was Talansky who came within 32 seconds of catching lone leader Geschke.


The gap is up to 3:35 for the 29 leaders as they edge onto the second climb of the day, the Cat.3 Rampe du Motty (2.3km at 8.3%).


We finally have confirmation of distribution of points over the first climb - and it was Joaquim Rodriguez who took 5pts in pole position ahead of Fuglsang (3pts) and Pinot (2pts) and an unknown for the single digit for fourth. That puts Purito four points below Froome in the standings.


The gap is up to 2:20 for this large break, which is nearing the second climb of the day.


So, we have no riders in this lead group from the top ten, but six from the next 10 best placed riders: Bardet (11th), Talansky (12th), Rolland (14th), Pauwels (15th), Pinot (18th) and Bakelants (19th). A reminder that the leader of the race is, of course, Chris Froome of Team Sky, who holds a 3:10 lead over Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 4:09 over Spain's Alejandro Valverde (6:34). Geraint Thomas (Sky) moved above Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) after the latter's crash yesterday - the Welshman is fourth at 6:34, six seconds ahead of the current Giro d'Italia champion.


The gap is 1:30 for the break. Interesting to see four Europcar riders there in Rolland, Sicard, Voeckler and Gautier. The French second tier team are on the hunt for a sponsor and a stage win would help their quest no end.


Here are the names of the 29 escapees: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Romain Bardet, Jan Bakelants and Christophe Riblon (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Roman Kreuziger and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Castroviejo and Winner Anacona (Movistar), Damiano Caruso and Rohan Dennis (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Michael Matthews and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Pierre Rolland, Cyril Gautier, Romain Sicard and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Julian Arredondo and Bob Jungels (Trek), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Stef Clement (IAM), Jan Barta (Bora), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka).


So, for the first time in five days there's no Peter Sagan in the break. The Slovakian tyro from Tinkoff-Saxo is currently on course for a fourth successive green jersey victory in Paris. He has a lead of over 100 points on Andre Greipel in the points classification - although he has no stage wins to the German's three...


Some of the big names in this leading group include Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Simon Yates, Thomas Voeckler, Ryder Hesjedal, Dan Martin and Jakob Fuglsang - as well as the aforementioned Rodriguez, Rolland and Arredondo.


The leaders have crested the summit of the Col Bayard but we're still awaiting confirmation of the points. Before today's stage Chris Froome was leading the KOM competition on 61 points, nine ahead of Rodriguez. The Spaniard is in polka dots though because of Froome's yellow jersey - so perhaps today's the day that Purito moves into the spotted jersey outright and not by default. There are a maximum of 46 points on offer...


Those two groups have come together so we have 19 riders out in front with a minute gap over the peloton. Meanwhile, around a dozen riders are chasing in between.


Janse van Rensburg has been joined by 15 other riders looking to catch the three leaders. They'll soon reach the summit of this first short and sharp climb.


South African national champion Jacques Janse van Rensburg of MTN-Qhubeka is chasing the leading trio.


Attacks coming in from the outset - Pierre Rolland (Europcar) is first to go, followed by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing).


The Cat.2 Col Bayard (6.3km at 7%) is the first of seven climbs on the menu today.


They're off! And from the outset they will hit the first climb of the day...


The riders are edging through the neutral zone ahead of the stage with one absentee: Louis Meintjes of MTN-Qhubeka, who has been battling with illness. That leaves us with 162 riders and just two teams - Europcar and LottoNL-Jumbo - with a full quota of nine riders. The sun is out but it's a cooler 25 degrees Celsius.


You can hear more about the "triumphant hipster" Geschke in today's Bonjour Le Tour, which includes a paper round, a look back at yesterday's highlights, and a preview of today's second stage in the Alps...


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Tour de France - a 186.5km ride over seven mountains from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Alps.