Stage 18 report: Ineos one-two as Kwiatkowski wins stage and Carapaz takes polka dot jersey

New top 10

Cycling
Pogacar, UAE Emirates first cycling team to get Covid-19 vaccine
08/01/2021 AT 09:19

While there is no change in the top four, Spanish duo Mikel Landa and Enric Mas have moved up two places to fifth and sixth at the expense of Adam Yates and Rigoberto Uran, while Tom Dumoulin and Alejandro Valverde complete the top 10.

Kwiatkowski: I had goosebumps

Stage 18 winner Michal Kwiatkowski promised some big celebrations for the team tonight after Ineos finally got their win in sensational circumstances.

He said: "That was some day. I am grateful for the whole team and of course Richard. That was an incredible day for us. I will never forget that. You know, I've had some nice moments in cycling, but that was a new experience for me. I had goosebumps for the last kilometres because I knew we were going to make it. We both really enjoyed the last kilometres, it was incredible."

On the absent Egan Bernal, the Pole said: "Hopefully he will be alright. He was really sad when he left the race and hopefully he enjoyed it watching on television. Collectively we tried everything we could these past three days and finally we did it today. We had the best legs today and the way me and Richard rode today was incredible."

No change in battle for yellow

So, after all that, there will be no change in the top four of the Tour with Roglic, Pogacar, Lopez and Porte maintaining their same gaps - but there should be a shake up elsewhere with the time losses incurred by Yates and Uran...

Van Aert takes third

Jumbo-Visma neutralise the bonus seconds by sending Wout van Aert up the road for third place on the stage...

Ineos Grenadiers one-two

And it looks like Michal Kwiatkowski takes a maiden Grand Tour stage win by the smallest or margins and with his mate Richard Carapaz by his side...

Final kilometre

The Ineos Grenadiers duo sit up and start taking in the applause - and it looks like Carapaz is going to give it to his teammate.

2km to go - Decisions, decisions...

Over the last few years, Kwiatkowski deserves it for all the work he has done for the team...

But over the last few days, Carapaz clearly should be given the nod.

If I were Carapaz, I'd gift it to Kwiatkowski for the sake of team morale and gentlemanly conduct.

5km to go - Tough call

There's no correct decision here for Ineos... No idea how they're going to decide it - a game of rock, paper, scissors on the home straight?

8km to go - Porte back on

The two chasing groups have come back together ahead of the summit. The Ineos duo have 3'30" so can't feasibly mess this up. It will be their first Grand Tour stage win since 2018 and the second of Geraint Thomas' back-to-back wins, on Alpe d'Huez. But which rider will take it - the Polish stalwart former world champion or the Ecuadorian debutant reigning Giro champion?

10km to go - Hirschi caught

The brave Marc Hirschi has been caught by the Roglic group on this climb. That means there are just two up the road - so whoever finishes third will get four bonus seconds...

12km to go - Porte rallies

Porte has benefited from Dumoulin riding hard to protect his own place in the top 10. With the gap almost closed, the Australian is back to fourth in the virtual standings.

14km to go - Lopez works hard

Yesterday's winner Miguel Angel Lopez puts in a dig on the front of this yellow jersey group, with Mas right on his wheel. Kuss is there to marshall things as Roglic holds back.

Bilbao has now been caught by this group so Landa will have a teammate with him for the final climb, Porte, who is with Caruso, Verone and two Jumbo riders (probably Dumoulin and Van Aert), is still 25 seconds behind the Rogic group.

The only riders up the road now is Hirschi and the two leaders, although the Swiss - bashed up after his crash - is 3'40" in arrears with the favourites 50 seconds back.

16km to go - Porte still behind

Richie Porte is still 30 seconds back. As things stand, Landa will be up to fourth today while Porte, Yates and Uran will drop down the standings. Remember, we still have an uncategorised climb to go before the final descent to the finish...

20km to go - Carapaz or Kwiatko?

It will be fascinating to see who tops this Ineos one-two... Kwiatkowski has never won a Grand Tour stage, but Carapaz has been in the break for three days running now, and this is his maiden Tour... He has the polka dots in the bag, but not guaranteed for Paris. Will it be a case of the best man wins or will they cut a deal? One rider has many more Grand Tours in him, the other now in his 30s.

Six KOM points for Pogacar

So, Pogacar came over the summit in sixth position (after Carapaz, Kwiatkowski, Bilbao, Hirschi and Verona) so that won him 6pts which puts him onto 72pts in the polka dot jersey standings. He's still 2pts down on Carapaz then, so the Ecuadorian will be in polka dots. But the Slovenian will be in a good position to take it back on Saturday when there are 10-8-6-4-2 points up for grabs on the climb of La Planche des Belle Filles in the time trial.

25km to go - Five together

Roglic, Pogacar, Lopez, Landa and Mas are together, with the man in white urging them to keep riding because he's making ground on the riders behind - like Uran, Yates and Porte.

Sepp Kuss manages to bridge over so it's six now in the yellow jersey battle.

On the front it's still Carapaz and Kwiatkowski who have 1'40" on Bilbao and 3'15" on Hirschi, with the yellow jersey group five minutes behind.

28km to go - Puncture for Porte

Bad luck for Richie Porte who picks up a puncture on the gravel. He's been dropped by the yellow jersey group and, after an agonising wait, he eventually gets a front wheel change. He's 45 seconds behind as Roglic pushes on the front to open up a little gap on his rivals.

29km to go - Landa & Caruso caught

Pogacar puts in a little dig as the favourites approach the summit - and that sounds the death knell for Landa's bold but doomed move. Pogacar leads them over just behind a Movistar rider - and it's unclear home many others went through before him, so we will have to wait and see how many points the Slovenian has picked up there... he could have reduced his polka dot deficit there...

30km to go - Movement behind

Enric Mas, in the white jersey because Pogacar is in polka dots, puts in a little dig but he's reeled in by a group of favourites that includes Roglic, Pogacar, Lopez, Kuss and Porte.

Landa has caught his teammate Caruso, which will give him a boost, but the yellow jersey group isn't far behind.

As for the two leaders, they have now completed that gravel section with a gap of one minute on Pello Bilbao.

Gravel, baby

Here's what the riders have to contend with over the 2km section of gravel - which has some loose stones and could cause some punctures...

31km to go - Carapaz takes 20pts

Richard Carapaz takes maximum points to move into the virtual polka dot jersey with 74pts - that's eight clear of current incumbent Tadej Pogacar. The Ecuadorian is now onto that gravel section with Polish teammate Michal Kwiatkowski.

32km to go - Van Aert doing his thing

Wout van Aert has come to the front for Jumbo, clearly salivating at the prospect of gravel ahead. The pace has whittled down the group of favourites, with Adam Yates the latest to be shelled out the back.

Landa, meanwhile, has caught De Gendt. He has 2km to go of the climb but only 20-odd seconds on the GC favourites.

33km to go - Bahrain Part II?

So, all the pieces are in place for Landa and Bahrain after all that hard work yesterday came to nothing. The Basque climber has opened up a gap of 30 seconds on the pack and has both Caruso and Bilbao up the road.

Many riders have been dropped by the main pack - most notably Rigo Uran - now as the gap for the two Ineos leaders comes down to 6'50". They're 2km from the summit, which is followed by that 2km section of gravel.

35km to go - Landa attacks!

Back in the bunch, Bahrain-McLaren duo Mikel Landa and Wout Poels have ridden clear of the Jumbo-led pack at the start of the climb... an interesting development, especially after yesterday's setbacks for the Spaniard.

De Gendt also rides clear of the chase group, with their deficit up to five minutes. Meanwhile, Ineos duo Carapaz and Kwiatkowski have dropped Bilbao. It's all happening.

38km to go - Montée du Plateau des Glières

We're onto the HC climb to the Plateau des Glières which is only 6km but comes at an average of 11%. There's also a gravel section at the top which could prove decisive - although the last thing we would want to see is a mechanical problem doing for the chances of one of the GC favourites...

It's the second time they have used this climb in the Tour, but the first time from the super-steep eastern approach. It also means the gravel section will be taken from the opposite direction than it was in 2018, when Julian Alaphilippe was out ahead. Here's a great thread on this climb:

42km to go - Two races

It looks like we're going to get the classic race-within-a-race scenario today with the leaders battling it out for stage spoils and the GC favourites behind pushing for the yellow jersey. The gap between them is 8'45" as the peloton passes through La Clusaz and it's unlikely the trio will be caught now.

50km to go - Kelly on Hirschi

Sean Kelly really feels for Marc Hirschi after that crash seemed to end his chances of glory today. The Swiss is 1'15" down on the three leaders as we approach the decisive climb.

"It was a real disaster for him. He's the big loser today and he's going to be devastated after that crash. Carapaz is in a real strong position now for the polka dot jersey and stage victory. But we all get caught out in times - you get these bad runs - and when it happens at such a key point it's always so disappointing."

A reminder of the moment he went down...

57km to go - Carapaz takes 10pts

As expected, Richard Carapaz goes over the top of the Aravis to move onto 54pts. He's still 12pts down on leader Pogacar but there are 20pts on the next climb so it's looking good for the Ecuadorian in the battle for polka dots.

Hirschi comes over a minute down for fourth place and four points, which puts him onto 52pts. After today there are 12pts left in the competition - 10 of which atop the Planche des Belles Filles climb in Saturday's time trial, for which you'd think Pogacar would be among the favourites to take.

Supposing Pog does take 10 there, he would be on 76pts. So Carapaz needs the 20pts on the next climb - plus the two other Cat.4 climbs to finish level with the Slovenian... so it's still a big ask.

58km to go - Ewan facing elimination

The green jersey gruppetto may be 18'45" down on the three leaders but thery're not the last group on the road: the Australian Caleb Ewan is riding with Lotto Soudal teammate Roger Kluge, the lanterne rouge of the Tour, some 30 minutes in arrears. They face a real battle to beat the time limit - a huge blow for the pocket-rocket sprinter, who won on the Champs-Elysees last year but may not get a chance to see Paris this time round...

59km to go - Hirschi going backwards

The effects of that crash seem to have caught up with the Swiss tyro who is now struggling to find his rhythm in his lone pursuit of the three leaders, who are 45 seconds up the road.

Bob Jungels, meanwhile, had fought back onto the chase group but has now been dropped. This group - which includes De Gendt and Caruso - is 3'55" down.

63km to go - Hirschi closing in

It's a leading trio again after Nicolas Edet is dropped on the climb. Michal Kwiatkowski, with the rainbow bands around his sleaves, taps out tempo for his teammate Richard Carapaz, with Pello Bilbao happy to stick on the back. Hirschi is 28 seconds back and is passing Edet so he's finding his rhythm here. The De Gendt chase group is 3'05" down with the pack at 7'15" and the gruppetto another 10 minutes in arrears.

65km to go - Col des Aravis

We're onto the next climb, the Cat.1 Col des Aravis (6.7km at 7%) where there's another 10pts awaiting Carapaz... provided Hirschi doesn't chase back on.

70km to go - Edet back

We have four riders in the lead again - but it's not Marc Hirschi who is back after his crash, but the dropped Nicolas Edet, who rode past the Swiss as he was picking himself up off the tarmac and has now rejoined Carapaz, Kwiatkowski and Bilbao. We have the fourth climb coming up - and it will be interesting to see if Hirschi can get a new bike and ride back to the leaders.

75km to go - Time check

Until that crash, Marc Hirschi's day was going perfectly with maximum points over the first three climbs in his quest for the polka dot jersey. But he is now 35 seconds down on the three leaders with the De Gendt chase group at 2'05", the peloton at 5'55" and the green jersey gruppetto at 15'55".

80km to go - CRASH! Hirschi down!

Oh, nasty fall! Marc Hirschi loses his front wheel on a sweeping bend and he goes down hard on his left flank and shoulder, smashing his chin into the new tarmac and then sliding onto the grass verge. That looked grim! He was following Carapaz and had Kwiatkowski in his wheel and was clearly pushing too hard...

Hirschi is back on his bike and on his way - but his shorts are torn and he has pink grazes on his forearm. He will need a bike change because his levers are all bent... and now faces a long chase to rejoin the leaders - and once the adrenaline goes, he'll feel pretty rotten.

83km to go - Hirschi takes 5pts

The Swiss is on a roll: Marc Hirschi denied Richard Carapaz once again to take maximum points over the Col de Saisies. This time the Ecuadorian tried a clever move of attacking early on the other side of a small roundabout - but his young rival saw what he was doing and was able to reel him in before the top. He was always going to be the favourite then, and Hirschi duly delivered. He now has 48pts with Carapaz on 44pts. Pocagar still leads on 66pts but there are 30pts left for the taking.

86km to go - Edet dropped

Five becomes four after Nicolas Edet is distanced from the leading quartet, which contains Ineos duo Carapaz and Kwiatkowski, Hischi and Bilbao - a classy move. Cofidis still have Herrada in the chasing group so all is not lost for the French team. Further back, Roche has just been swallowed up by the pack. They trail the leaders by 5'20" - the calm before the storm. Just over 2km to the summit.

88km to go - De Gendt leads chase

Roche, Jungels and Molard are among the riders to be tailed off. Valgren, meanwhile, has been caught by the pack.

The chasers are De Gendt, Verona, Caruso, Sanchez, Herrada, Geschke and Peters (who keeps on being dropped). They're 45 seconds down on the leading five. The pack are five minutes back and the green jersey gruppetto a huge 13 minutes. They'll face a battle to beat the limit today.

90km to go - Chase fracturing

With the five leaders seeing their gap increase to one minute, there's a response behind with De Gendt looking to kick on. The Belgian shuffles the pack and causes a handful of passengers to be tailed off. The pack, meanwhile, is five minutes back.

98km to go - Col de Saisies

We're onto the third categorised climb, the Cat.2 Col de Saisies (14.6km at 6.4%). It's the Dutch veteran Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) who pulls on the front of the main pack. Nairo Quintana was dropped on the last climb but has managed to fight back. The Colombian crashed badly in that stage in the Massif Central last week and he's been going backwards ever since. He's now 30 minutes down on GC and Brian Smith, in the Eurosport commentary box, says he'd be surprised if Quintana completes today's stage...

100km to go - One minute for leaders

The five out ahead have managed to increase their advantage to one minute over the rest of the escapees after the short descent to the foot of the next climb, with the pack now 4'30" behind.

107km to go - Hirschi takes 2pts

Again, it's Marc Hirschi who takes maximum points ahead of Richard Carapaz, who was led out by teammate Michal Kwiatkowski but didn't have the same zip as his Swiss opponent. So, that puts Hirschi onto 43pts and Carapaz onto 41pts. Pogacar still leads the polka dot classification with 66pts and there are another 35pts up for grabs today.

The peloton come over the top four minutes down on the leading quintet with Jumbo-Visma picking up musettes and a spot of lunch just before the summit.

108km to go - Break losing bodies

A few riders have been dropped from the main body of the break, including Dario Cataldo and Jonathan Castroviejo. The five leaders have extended their advantage over the others to about 30 seconds now.

Meanwhile, further back it looks like trouble for Ireland's Dan Martin. He was in the break yesterday and today has seen his Israel Start-Up Nation teammate Andre Greipel withdraw. The team's troubled debut Tour continues... will Chris Froome make any difference next year?

110km to go - Cote de la Route des Villes

Our two leaders are onto the next climb, a Cat.3 bump of 3.2km at 6.6%. They have three in pursuit - Kwiatkowski, Edet and Bilbao - with the others about 10 seconds further back. As the chasing trio draws level, Kwiatkowski seems to admonish his teammate Carapaz, flicking his head as if to suggest he should stop playing around and get in line and help the greater cause.

120km to go - 17 riders ahead

A reminder of the remaining riders in the break today: Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao, Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-McLaren), Dario Cataldo, Nelson Oliveira, Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Simon Geschke (CCC Team), Nicolas Edet, Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Marc Hirschi, Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb).

As things stand, Carapaz and Hirschi still have a small gap over the 15 others during this descent. We have a Cat.3 climb coming up and the gap is now 3'00" for the duo ahead.

125km to go - Gap pushing three minutes

Jumbo-Visma lead the pack over trailing the break by 2'45" as Hirschi and Carapaz open up their own gap of 25 seconds on the other escapees. They're descending to Beaufort now, home of one of the nicest cheeses in France... (although Sean Kelly is apparently not a fan.)

128km to go - Hirschi takes 10pts

Nans Peters drops back to the Ag2R-La Mondiale car at the wrong time because the summit is just coming up. He should be battling Carapaz and Marc Hischi for the points for they are all within potential touching distance of the polka dot jersey.

And when it comes to the sprint for the summit, the Ecuadorian leads it out but it's the Swiss tyro who has the measure of him to take the maximum 10pts over the top.

So, Hirschi moves onto 41pts for fourth place with Carapaz now on 40pts and fifth in the virtual standings. Pogacar leads with 66pts but there are still 37pts up for grabs today.

130km to go - Kamna dropped?

The German tyro won two days ago, got in the break yesterday, and tried his luck today... but now he's struggling to stay in touch with the main pack - although a mechanical issue may be to blame... Jumbo still in command with five riders giving Roglic the magic carpet treatment on the front, with the gap now 2'05". The summit is in 2km.

133km to go - Caruso catches the break

Damiano Caruso has finally caught the break and comes straight to the front to set tempo with his Bahrain teammate Pello Bilbao. It's Badass Bahrain Part II today.

The gap is still 1'45" as the Jumbo-led pack catches Hirt after his failed attempt to join the leaders.

135km to go - 47pts up for grabs

There are 47 points in the king of the mountains competition available today which might be the primary motivation for the likes of Carapaz and Peters in the break. They are both on 32 points in the KOM standings and could feasibly move into polka dots today, provided one of them picks up the 35 points needed to reel in Pogacar...

Andre Greipel abandons

We're hearing that German veteran Andre Greipel has called it a day. The Israel Start-Up Nation has not had the best Tour and he won't make it to Paris in his 10th appearance in the race.

137km to go - Castroviejo sets the pace

There's a lot of movement with riders going in and out of these various different groups. Jonathan Castroviejo sets the pace on the front of the break with two Ineos teammates just behind. Sagan has now been caught by the pack, while Trentin has been passed by his CCC teammate Jan Hirt, who is the latest rider to zip clear of the Jumbo-led pack. He has Hugh Carthy in pursuit for EF. Caruso, meanwhile, continues his pursuit of the leaders. He's in a four-man group with Bettiol, Valgren and Arndt.

It's all very compressed though with the gap of the leaders still just 1'40" over the peloton. The likes of Gogl and Van Baarle have been dropped by the leaders, who are down to around 20 riders.

140km to go - Bravo, Damiano

Caruso is clearly feeling pretty good for he passes the Rolland-Alaphilippe chase group with ease in his pursuit of the leaders. The Italian is 55" down on the 29-man break, which incudes his teammate Bilbao, with the Rolland group at 1'10" and the peloton at 1'20".

It's worth mentioning that Caruso is 12'30" down on GC in 12th place so he's pushing for a top 10 finish in Paris. Still 12km of this climb to go...

141km to go - Caruso in the mix

Warren Barguil is the next Frenchman to make a move on the front. The double stage winner and polka dot jersey from 2017 coaxes a reply from Jan Hirt of CCC, Damiano Caruso of Bahrain-Merida and Mikael Cherel of Ag2R-La Mondiale. But Jumbo-Visma don't give them much rope. Barguil is 25 minutes down on GC - five minutes better off than his teammate Nairo Quintana, who cracked again yesterday. But he's not the one who concerns Roglic's team - it's Caruso.

Caruso was key in Bahrain's attempt to dislodge the Jumbo train yesterday, riding hard on the front with Bilbao and Wout Poels for their leader Mikel Landa, who couldn't finish it off. Some thoughts on that tactic yesterday here, where I suggest that we perhaps shouldn't just Bahrain's tactics on the Madeleine and Loze until we see how today's stage pans out...

142km to go - Sagan dropped, Martin attacks

That's no surprise - Sagan goes the same way as Bennett and is dropped from the break. Sicard and Cavagna are in the chasing group with Rolland and Alaphilippe.

Back in the main pack there's a big attack from Guillaume Martin of Codifis. He's over 10 minutes back on GC and in 11th place but that move is not well received by Jumbo-Visma. Tony Martin ups the tempo and the Frenchman's foray is neutralised pretty much instantaneously. A strange one from Martin, who has two teammates up the road in Edet and Herrada.

145km to go - Rolland rampage

B&B have not given up and now Quentin Pacher is leading out a move from the pack with teammate Pierre Rolland in his wheel. Julian Alaphilippe and a few others have latched onto this - including Kamna from Bora. With the break now just 1'10" ahead of the yellow jersey peloton, and spliting into numerous factions, it's a sensible move from Rolland.

147km to go - Cormet de Roselend

We're onto the first climb of the day, the Cat.1 Cormet de Roselend (19.2km at 6.1%). Unsurprisingly, Sam Bennett is one of the first riders in the break to be distanced, his work for the day done. Now he just has to finish within the time limit to secure that green jersey.

150km to go - B&B pressure

B&B Hotels missed their booking in the break and still have five riders pushing hard on the front of the pack in a bid to bring back the break. The gap is 1'45" so they're not really making any inroads - but it could also prove the death knell of the break because they're not getting the kind of lead they'll need if one of those 32 riders wants to contest for the win.

Still, it's too early to call and things may settle a bit more on the first climb, which is coming up in a couple of kilometres.

155km to go - Bora bust

B&B's pacing spells the end for that Bora duo. Both teams have been caught out really, with Bora only having Sagan up the road and B&B having no one. The gap for the 32 leaders is 1'22" as they continue riding up the false flat to the foot of the first climb, the Cormet de Roselend. Ineos, Movistar and Sunweb mean business today with four each in the break. To me, the dangermen are Carapaz, Peters (who won Stage 8), Jungels, Reichenbach, Bilbao (so instrumental yesterday in that Bahrain-McLaren tempo-setting), Cataldo, Geschke, De Gendt, Gogl, Herrada, Hirschi and Roche.

158km to go - 32 in the break

So, I overestimated the size of this break by eight riders. According to the Tour's official website we have 32 out ahead with those two Bora riders in pursuit. The escapees are:

Jonathan Castroviejo, Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nans Peters (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Sam Bennett, Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Rudy Molard, Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren), Alberto Bettiol, Tejay Van Garderen (EF Pro Cycling), Dayer Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Dario Cataldo, Nelson Oliveira, José Joaquín Rojas, Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Simon Geschke, Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), Nicolas Edet, Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Luis León Sánchez (Astana), Jasper de Buyst, Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation), Michael Gogl, Michael Valgren (NTT Pro Cycling), Nikias Arndt, Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen, Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb).

160km to go - Bennett wins intermediate sprint

Bob Jungels leads out for Bennett and it's the Irishman who darts clear to take the intermediate sprint ahead of Trentin and then Sagan. So, that's another five-point swing for Bennett, who now leads the green jersey standings by 52 points. Sagan's reign in green is surely over.

The Bora duo of Kamna and Schachmann comes through about 50 seconds down before the peloton come through with B&B Hotels on the front at 1'15". The French team missed the break and clearly want to get Pierre Rolland into the move.

163km to go - Bora bust a move

Separate from everything going on in the break around 50 seconds up the road, Bora duo Max Schachmann and Lennard Kamna have ridden clear of the Jumbo-led peloton. Kamna, who won two days ago and was in the break again yesterday, clearly misses his pal Carapaz and wants to get in on the action.

The different factions on the front have come back together so we still have this large break of around 40 riders clear. Expect many of them to drop back once the intermediate sprint it done and dusted - that's coming up in a few kilometres.

165km to go - Group splits

Pressure from the Ineos faction in the break causes some splits going over the brow of an uncategorised rise ahead of a tunnel. It looks like Richard Carapaz is here for the third day running... blimey, glutton for punishment. As for the green jersey tussle - the top three are all here: Bennett, Sagan and Matteo Trentin.

170km to go - Big group ahead

Around 40 riders have gone clear and we can see the green jersey of Sam Bennett on the back. This was instigated by Thomas De Gendt, who got no joy yesterday, who was joined by a few before a large group bridged over. There are a few Ineos riders here - and Peter Sagan, too. But that gap is only 10 seconds over the pack with more and more trying to join the party.

175km to go - They're off!

Christian Prudhomme, back in the red Skoda after his Presidential hobnobbing yesterday, waves the flag to get this stage under way. 150 riders left in the race after Belgium's Jens Debuscherre (Total-Direct Energy) finishes outside the time limit yesterday.

Jersey recap

Yellow jersey: Primoz Roglic extended his lead to 57 seconds over Tadej Pogacar yesterday with stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez now into third place at 1'26".
Green jersey: Sam Bennett also extended his lead to 47 points over Peter Sagan who will need something from today's intermediate sprint - and tomorrow's rolling stage - if he wants an eighth green jersey in Paris.
Polka dot jersey: Pogacar now leads this on 66pts with Roglic on 63pts and Lopez on 51pts. All change after yesterday's two HC climbs.
White jersey: It's that man Pogacar again, whose nearest challenger is Enric Mas at 3'21".

Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic and Sam Bennett ahead of Stage 18 of the Tour de France 2020

Image credit: Getty Images

Long descent in the neutral zone

If today's 175km parcours wasn't enough as it is, the riders are currently tackling a 20km neutral section before the official start. That said, it's pretty much downhill all the way from Meribel and so the riders won't have too much to complain about. Indeed, they'll see this as a good way to warm up the legs. With an intermediate sprint coming up just 14km into the stage, the teams of the sprinters and green jersey contenders are already alert to the danger...

Bonjour le Tour!

Good morning and welcome to live coverage of this decisive final stage in the Alps - a constantly up-and-down 168km ride over five categorised climbs which could decide the fate of the yellow, white and polka dot jerseys...

Here's what's on the menu:

https://i.eurosport.com/2020/08/14/2864278.jpg

Wiggins podcast analysis

Bradley Wiggins, speaking on the latest episode of his podcast, believes that clearly all is not well at Ineos.

Ineos have endured a torrid Tour de France with defending champion Egan Bernal having dropped out through multiple injuries after struggling badly to contend.

Wiggins admitted he didn't realise how bad things must have been for Bernal and for Ineos, and believes there must be real dysfunction at the team with former Tour winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome not even at the flagship event.

"As much as he fell out of the GC, I don't think anyone saw that coming. I don't think we realised just how bad it was until the statement from Dave [Brailsford]," Wiggins said.

"I talk about the brutality of elite sport, it's a bit late to be caring about someone's welfare and taking them out of the race now with his bad back. The damage has been done.

"It just shows you how they push the boundaries. That is not a criticism of Dave and the team; that is just elite sport.

I sense all is not well there. That's the trouble when you have all these high flyers on big wages and big hitters, you've got to spread your assets over the season.

"It shows you, all is not well in that team," Wiggins continued. "They backed Bernal because he is their youngest asset. The others are dwindling a bit, age is not on their side.

It just shows how cut-throat it is, doesn't it, if you can get rid of a four-time winner [Froome] and Geraint, who was a flagship for that team.

"They left it too late with Bernal. Clearly his back is not very well and his knee is done. That is elite sport. I don't know what has gone so seriously wrong.

"Isn't this the team that goes out and replaces people? There seems to be some serious dysfunction there."

The Tour's first ascent of the steep and narrow Col de la Loze bike path above the ski resort of Meribel lived up to its billing as the queen stage as fans flocked to the summit of the highest point of the Tour and the riders delivered the drama in spades.

Stage 17 recap - Drama on Col de la Loze as Lopez wins stage and Roglic extends lead over Pogacar

Primoz Roglic strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey after an intriguing battle on the Col de la Loze as Miguel Angel Lopez rode onto the virtual podium by becoming the ninth rider to pick up a maiden win in this year's Tour de France with victory in Stage 17.

Watch the amazing last kilometre as Lopez beats Roglic on eye-watering gradients of Col de la Loze

A pulsating conclusion to the 170km Alpine test saw Slovenia's Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) ride clear of compatriot Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) in pursuit of Astana's Lopez, the Colombian lone ranger, ahead of a final kilometre of brutal double-digit ramps.

Lopez held on for the win in front of French President Emmanuel Macron with Roglic weathering Pogacar's fevered chase to come home 15 seconds down and extend his lead on his compatriot to 57 seconds ahead of the final day in the Alps.

Victory for Lopez saw the 26-year-old ride into third place in the general classification, 1'26" down on Roglic, while Pogacar, the double stage winner who came home 30 seconds down, took some consolation in moving into the lead of the polka dot jersey standings.

How to watch on TV and livestream details

Stage 18 will be broadcast live on Eurosport 1 from 11:10am and you can also watch an uninterrupted feed on Eurosport Player and right here on eurosport.co.uk.

Dan Lloyd, Bradley Wiggins, Orla Chennaoui and the team will bring you all the best post-race analysis and reaction on The Breakaway, which will be available to watch on Eurosport Player before 7pm.

And don't forget, we are bringing you daily podcasts from the Bradley Wiggins Show - check in with your podcast platform of choice this evening...

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