26/07/18 - 13:00
Trie-sur-Baïse - Pau
Tour de France • Stage18

Trie-sur-Baïse - Pau

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Confirmation of the top 10 in today's stage, with Sagan clearly feeling that crash yesterday en route to finishing an uncharacteristically low eighth.


That's the first win for a French team in this year's Tour de France - Demare leaving it until stage 18 following his travails in the Pyrenees.


There was a slight deviation there from Demare who closes the door a bit on Christophe Laporte - although it was minimal. Laporte is not happy, though, so we may go to the race jury for that one... Meanwhile, Alexander Kristoff takes a distant third ahead of Boasson Hagen and Colbrelli.




Laporte leading from the front until Demare zips through...


Under the flamme rouge and Laporte, Kristoff, Degenkolb are all there, with Sagan and Demare a bit further back.


Another big roundabout takes the wind out of the peloton's collective sails. Still, it's Bora doing the business with two riders on the front - until they peel back and UAE come through for Kristoff...


Here come Trek and Groupama, muscling up alongside Bora, EF and Cofidis.


Bora back on the front now after a couple of roundabouts string things out further. Cofidis and EF Education First present, too, while Kristoff, the European champion, is up there with Colbrelli on his wheel.


Yes, some riders are being tailed off - most notably Julian Alaphilippe, the man in polka dots.


Geraint Thomas right on the wheel of compatriot Luke Rowe and near the front - the yellow jersey doing his best to hit the magic 3km marker without any problems.


As it is, Sagan doesn't look too bad after that crash - he's currently tucked in fourth position behind three Bora team-mates right on the front. But perhaps that's an indication that he isn't as strong as usual - for he never usually has such a dedicated lead-out. The peloton is all strung out and there could be splits for the back-markers if they're not careful.


Bora-Hansgrohe come to the front under the 10-to-go banner. It remains to be seen how their man Peter Sagan goes after yesterday's crash - but for now, Alexander Kristoff knows who's back wheel he wants to follow.


Here's what the narrow, technical finish looks like... it's going to be quite hectic.


It's back together now with Groupama-FDJ on the front and Sky very present. Game on!


That's spiced things up a little. We now have a dozen riders - including that initial five-man break - out ahead with a small gap over the pack. Dan Martin is there, and behind it's Dimension Data and Sky leading the chase. With Mark Cavendish gone, DD may thrust Edvald Boasson Hagen into the action - and the Norwegian is the kind of rider who may go long and look to take advantage of the narrow roads towards the finish to hold the peloton at bay.


Meanwhile, back in the pack there's an attack from Simon Clarke of EF Education First on the climb - provoking a large chase from around seven riders. They almost managed to bridge over to the break before the summit of the Cat.4 Cote d'Anos (2.1km at 4.6%).


The gap is down to 30 seconds as the five leaders zip under the 20km-to-go banner as they approach the half-way point of this second fourth-category climb.


So, who else could take the win besides Demare, Kristoff and Sagan? Well, we mentioned Christophe Laporte - he was off the back just now after a mechanical issue, but should be in the mix later. Sonny Colbrelli has twice finished behind the world champion and is knocking on the door of a maiden Tour stage win. John Degenkolb won that stage to Roubaix and has refound his mojo. Andrea Pasqualon is Wanty's man for the sprint.


Team Sky have come to the front now to keep their man Geraint Thomas out of trouble. They're tucked in behind the Groupama train, who will hope to launch Arnaud Demare to a win today after the Frenchman pedalled squares in the Pyrenees for two days. The gap is under a minute now...


And the last six winners at Pau...


The main flashpoint - the only flashpoint, really - today was that crash that took down yesterday's winner Nairo Quintana. Here it is...

Video - Quintana caught up in Stage 18 crash


Great stat about today's finish town of Pau and a certain Eurosport commentator.


It's still Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ and UAE Team Emirates who combine on the front of the pack, pulling the break to within 1'15". We haven't seem much of Peter Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe team - but that's no surprise: the Slovakian showman has already won four stages, he's assured of a six green jersey and, perhaps most tellingly, he crashed badly yesterday, so may not be a factor in the finish. We'll see.


The speed has been high today despite the heat, which has resulted in many riders dropping back to pick up ice from their team cars. The riders are rolling along at an average of around 44km/h so it's been far from a day of rest, even if the terrain is more forgiving.


Tom Dumoulin is upbeat but realistic about his chances of winning the Tour. He needs Thomas to make a mistake - and can't rely solely on that time trial on Saturday.

Video - Dumoulin: I've now got a very small chance of Tour triumph


Cofidis have now chipped in on the front of the pack for their man Christophe Laporte, who was chosen over the French team's usual sprinter Nacer Bouhanni for the Tour. A win today would repay that faith - but it's a big ask with the likes of Sagan and Kristoff around. Still, better chance this week than two weeks ago, when we still had Gaviria, Kittel, Greipel and Cavendish around. The gap is back up to two minutes for the break.


Mat Hayman is back with the leaders after a puncture, which took a bit longer to sort out than usual. The Aussie veteran still managed to get back without being caught by the pack, who trail this five-man move by 1'45".


If 40-year-old Mathew Hayman wins today he won't be the oldest Tour stage winner in history - that accolade goes to the Italian Pino Cerami, who won in 1963 aged 41. I'm reliably informed that the GP Pino Cerami takes place today.


Our five leaders are onto another one of those punchy uncategorised climbs - it looks to be a real leg-stinger, but the trees overhead at least provide some respite from the burning sunshine. The gap is two minutes still as Rory Sutherland sets the tempo for UAE Team Emirates.


Chris Froome on what it's like to be a super-domestique rather than the yellow jersey.

Video - Froome: Pressure now off my shoulders


It's all over for both Stuyven (who came so close to the win at Mende on Saturday) and Vanmarcke, who are back with the peloton. As for the five-man break, their advantage has been allowed to stretch back out - and it has now reached two minutes.


How did Geraint Thomas cement his grip on yellow yesterday? Watch the latest How The Race Was Won nugget of excellence from Cosmo Catalano.


At the intermediate sprint it's Van Keirsbulck who leads the five escapees over ahead of Terpstra. Stuyven and Vanmarcke trickle over about 35 seconds down and six seconds clear of the peloton. It's all coming back together.


Quintana is being paced back by a couple of Movistar team-mates after his crash. We have the intermediate sprint coming up and Gogl has been dropped by the classics specialists Stuyven and Vanmarcke.


The three riders trying to bridge over are Stuyven and Michael Gogl for Trek and Sep Vanmarcke for EF Education First.


CRASH: And following that flurry of activity there's a spill in the peloton and a dozen riders come down - including yesterday's winner Nairo Quintana, who has taken a blow to the left shoulder.


ATTACK: Well, that has added a cat among the pigeons. With the gap of the break coming down, Trek-Segafredo launch a dual attack off the front of the pack as the road hits a short and sharp 8% ramp. It looks like Jasper Stuyven is one of the riders, and they have an EF Education First man with them.


It's official - Sylvain Chavanel has now been riding the Tour de France for a whole year of his life. The French veteran is riding his 18th and final Tour this July. Chapeau!


Niki Terpstra takes the solitary point going over the summit of the Cat.4 Cote de Madiran (1.2km at 7%). That protects his team-mate Alaphilippe's lead: he has 140pts in the KOM standings with nearest rival Warren Barguil - last year's winner - on a distant 73pts.


We're approaching the first of two Cat.4 climbs on today's menu. It won't have any effect on the polka dot jersey lead of double stage winner Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors, who was on the offensive yesterday before dropping back to hang out with the devil...


The gap is back up to 1'36". It's one thing to keep tabs on the break but they don't want to kill it completely otherwise they will open themselves up to counter-moves and a whole new set of fresh legs out ahead.


No gifts for this break from the peloton, who pull the five escapees to within one minute. It's UAE duo Rory Sutherland and Darwin Atapuma doing the lion's share of the chasing on the front of the pack for now, with Olivier Le Gac of Groupama tucked in between.


Still only 1'30" for the five escapees with the Bora-Hansgrohe, UAE Team Emirates and Groupama-FDJ teams of Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare inevitably doing the pace-setting on the front of the pack to keep this move on a leash.


Meanwhile, things got no better for Chris Froome after he finished yesterday's stage...


The gap grows to 1'30" for the five-man break.


On Thomas, it's worth adding that he almost has a bit of a scare yesterday owing to one of those 'French cultural things' that riles Dave Brailsford.


It finally looks like the peloton has sat up and will let this one go. The gap is up to 45 seconds and growing.


Of course, there is still a huge day in the Pyrenees left. Remember, Geraint Thomas cracked in the corresponding mountain stage a few years ago to drop from fourth to 15th on GC. Meanwhile, Froome secured his recent Giro victory in Stage 19 too. And look at that profile: the Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque... three giants of the Tour.


A reminder that Geraint Thomas still leads this Tour after another commanding performance in the Alps. His nearest challenger is now the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who is 1'59" off the pace, while Sky team-mate Chris Froome drops to third at 2'31" after the four-time champion was dropped on the Col du Portet. Froome's place on the podium is not guaranteed, with the impressive Primoz Roglic just 16 seconds down and yesterday's winner, Quintana, less than a minute back.


These five riders have been going hell for leather since breaking away in the opening kilometre - but still there's no let-up from the peloton which, oddly enough, is being led by the American Lawson Craddock who, with his broken shoulder, we have been more used to seeing off the back than on the front.


Still just 20 seconds for the five leaders as four riders open up a small gap ahead of the peloton in a bid to bridge over.


On paper, this is one for the sprinters - although they're a rare breed left in this race following the dual demands of the Alps and Pyrenees. Peter Sagan crashed yesterday, Arnaud Demare has been battling just to make the time cut, and Alexander Kristoff isn't the force of old, nor is John Degenkolb when it comes to flat finishes. That, plus the two lower-category climbs, a tired peloton and some rolling roads, makes today's stage fertile ground for a breakaway - which is why the composition of the move could be so key.


The break has still yet to be given much leeway from the pack, which trails the five leaders by only 12 seconds. Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) tries to zip clear and draws out Damien Gaudin of Direct Energie and Oliver Naesen of Ag2R-La Mondiale.


The entirety of the peloton is not happy with this break and a few riders are trying to bridge over - including Lukas Postlberger of Bora-Hanshrohe and Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal.


We have an early five-man move involving two Mitchelton-Scott riders - Mat Hayman and Luke Durbridge - two huge engines in Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck - and Direct Energie's sprint minnow Thomas Boudat.


And they're off! The remaining 146 riders get this transitional stage under way... and there are attacks from the outset.


The riders are in the neutral zone and the start has been delayed slightly because of a puncture to Olivier Le Gac of Groupama-FDJ. It's a hot, sunny day with the temperature 32 degrees and rising.


The calm after the storm? An interlude in the battle for yellow? Although the breakaway specialists will hope to take advantage of two lower-category climbs and defy the sprinters, the remaining fast men will be chomping at the bit for a last chance of glory ahead of Paris. Given its location, this is the stage where the press corps (if not the riders) will no doubt be powered by cassoulet. Here's the official profile below.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of Stage 18 of the Tour de France - a flattish 171km ride from Trie-sir-Baise to Pau. After two days in the Pyrenees, the door reopens for the sprinters and baroudeurs ahead of the final mountain showdown on Friday.