Two Ineos riders in the top three now - but do they have enough to leap above Alaphilippe?
Embrun - Valloire
Tour de France - 25 July 2019
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Today's stage result...
We're hearing that George Bennett attacked again on the descent of the Galibier - and that's a blow to Jumbo-Visma teammate Kruijswijk if the Kiwi has to withdraw.
Bernal had caught Benoot, Woods and Pauwels as he came home at 4'46" in eighth place. Kamna was fourth at 2'58" and Caruso fifth at 3'00". It was Kruijswijk who led the favourites home at 5'18". Phew... it took a while to warm up, but that was an exciting finale.
The remnants of the break in dribs and drabs before Egan Bernal comes home - and the Colombian takes 30-odd seconds on the yellow jersey group. Julian Alaphilippe retains the maillot jaune with three (two, really) more days to go.
CORRECTION: This is Quintana's third stage win on the Tour - not first. Interpret Procyclingstats at your peril... whoops, my bad! Scrap that grand slam nonsense I was spouting earlier - the Colombian already achieved that years ago.
Second place for Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) who crosses the line 1'37" down. He gave it his best shot. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) comes home for third at 2'28".
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) wins stage 18 of the Tour de France in Valloire - the only man to do so after Eddy Merckx in 1972. He has blood on his jersey (from a nose bleed?) but he won't care - up go the arms for a third career win on the Tour.
Into the final kilometre for Quintana...
It's started to rain! That will add a little spice into the closing moments...
Uran closes the gap and Alaphilippe is called to heel. But, still, the Frenchman won't lose any time today as he edges ever closer to winning the Tour. Personally, I think he'll still crack tomorrow or Saturday provided his rivals attack from further out.
Meanwhile, Nairo Quintana rides through the 5km-to-go banner with 1'30" over Bardet and so he's going to complete his Grand Tour stage collection today unless there's a disaster.
Alaphilippe is now on the front - and he's riding clear of his GC rivals! Unbelievable.
Alaphilippe, with Porte behind, has almost closed the gap on the six others. Bernal still has 35 seconds and so Ineos could have both him and Thomas on the virtual podium tonight.
Wow - record ascent for Quintana on the Galibier...
Quintana still has 1'35" on Bardet. Bernal is only 25 seconds clear of the Pinot-Thomas chase group which also includes Landa, Kruijswijk, Buchmann and Uran. Alaphilippe is about 20 seconds back but is a very good descender so could hold on yet.
Pinot catches Thomas before the summit and the others are also there, too. Alaphilippe was almost pushed off his bike by fans trying to push him up the climb there - shocking stuff from the fans.
Pinot now leading the chase - and Alaphilippe has been dropped!
Now Thomas attacks! Buchmann and Pinot leading the chase with Landa and Kruijswijk. Uran and Alaphilippe manage to latch onto the chase group but the Welshman is opening up a gap. Richie Porte there too.
Meanwhile, Bernal continues his attack. He has 35 seconds on the yellow jersey group, which hasn't responded, which puts the Colombian youngster into second place on the virtual standings. He's now onto the hairpins.
Over the top of the Col du Galibier goes Nairo Quintana of Movistar. Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) is the next rider to crest the summit but he's well over a minute down - almost two minutes, in fact. But those 30pts will put him in polka dots.
Bardet now rides clear of Lutsenko on the hairpins. He will move into the polka dot jersey today but unless Quintana crashes or has a mechanical on the descent, the stage will go to the Colombian.
Quintana has past the monument to Henri Desgrange and is now on the hairpin bends above the tunnel that takes the riders up on a 1km detour to the summit.
Finally, an attack! And it's Egan Bernal who ups the tempo after Van Baarle ends his shift. Valverde covers it but then gives up. It's Alaphilippe's teammate Enric Mas who is now trying to close the gap with the yellow jersey on the front of the pack.
Quintana is 1.5km from the summit and has 1'20" now over Bardet and Lutsenko.
Van Baarle is starting to grimace on the front of the pack. Laurens De Plus has been dropped so Kruijswijk only has George Bennett now, and he crashed earlier today. Pinot has Gaudu, who was dropped on the Izoard but fought back before the Galibier.
It's amazing that no one is prepared to attack Alaphilippe from the main pack. At this rate, the Frenchman could stretch his lead today on the descent.
Still it's Bardet who tries to cut the gap, which is almost one minute now. The Frenchman is a good descender, though, and could make up some time on Quintana on the fast ride down to Valloire. But he needs to slash the gap a little before the summit, surely.
Wout Poels has cracked! He crashed earlier and already he's gone, so Ineos duo Thomas and Bernal only have Van Baarle now, and he was in the break earlier and so surely won't last much longer. Meanwhile, Lutsenko refuses to help Bardet close the gap...
A glorious ride from Quintana here who may well move back into the top 10 today with this move. It would be typical from the Colombian if this attack was against team orders - maybe he was placed in the break to help Landa later on? But screw that - Landa's attack never came, and so Quintana's well within his rights to try his hand out there.
It's Bardet who leads the chase with Lutsenko but they trail the Colombian by 35 seconds.
It's been an age since we saw Quintana attack like that - but he still has 7km to go until the summit. The gap is 20 seconds and could he finally open up his Tour stage win account today? He's won on the Giro in 2014 and Vuelta in 2016 but amazingly still has never won a Tour stage...
Mike Woods puts in an attack but it's nothing compared to the subsequent attack from Nairo Quintana, who powers clear like it's 2013 all over again.
It's Lutsenko who is making all the attacks in the front, his latest effort shadowed by Quintana before the others slowly ride back. Kamna has almost rejoined the five but it's touch and go for the young German.
Amador, who was in the break, has been caught and passed by the peloton. But still Ineos can't get rid of Alaphilippe. Poels and Van Baarle are on the front but their pace isn't prohibitive.
Kamna, Pauwels, Yates and Benoot all dropped from this lead group as the five strongest - Quintana, Caruso, Bardet, Woods and Lutsenko - ride clear. They're onto the Galibier proper now.
Castroviejo calls it a day just as the Ineos-led main pack picks up Dylan Van Baarle from the break, so the Dutchman will take over paving duties. Still five minutes for the break so we're still looking at two races today - for the stage and for yellow.
So, we're back to 11 riders in the lead: Quintana, Bardet, Lutsenko, A Yates, Bernard, Cherel, Woods, Kamna, Benoot, Caruso and Pauwels. Of those, you'd expect Quintana, Bardet or Yates to be favourite for the win - but this is the Tour and their form has been all over the place, so who knows.
Ineos are now piling on the hurt on the front of the pack with Castroviejo and Poels setting things up for Bernal and Thomas. Remember, they still have Van Baarle up the road for once the Spaniard cracks - which will be soon judging by the look on his pained face. The gap is down to 4'55".
If Adam Yates wins today then it will be the first time brothers have won stages on the same Tour since 1919 when Henri and Francis Pelissier both tasted success. That's quite a stat!
Wellens have cracked and others, too, from the break as Yates leads a chase group of Bardet, Quintana and Caruso over to the leaders. They still have 5'35" on the yellow jersey group.
Some early skirmishes sees the breakaway split into two with Woods, Van Avermaet, Pauwels, Lutsenko, Kämna, Chérel and Benoot riding clear of the others.
Right, we're onto the Cat.HC Col du Galibier (23km at 5.1%). Technically, we're not actually onto it until we turn off the road just ahead of the summit of the Col du Lautaret after 14km, but the Tour organisers have simplified things by calling this the Galibier.
There's an early attack from Wellens in this leading group. He clearly thinks he needs a lead before the Galibier if he wants a chance of protecting his polka dot jersey lead. He's on 74pts at the moment with Bardet up to 56pts and 40pts available over the top of the final climb today.
Back with the main group and Ineos have come to the front through Jonathan Castroviejo, who is setting tempo for Bernal and Thomas. They also have Wout Poels in this group - and Van Baarle up in the break. The gap is down to 5'15" again.
Simon Geschke, who was in the second chase group, is now on the attack for CCC ahead of the climb. They're on the false flat up to the foot of the Col du Lautaret.
We're passing through Briancon, the highest town in France, with the 16 leaders - for the two groups have now come together - holding a gap of six minutes. Behind, Guillaume Martin took advantage of the lull to attack the yellow jersey group without any reaction.
The speed has really been knocked off in the yellow jersey group - there's a lot of looking at each other and miscellaneous stretching and general faffing as they approach the bottom of the descent ahead of the lead up to the Col du Lautaret. The gap is up to over six minutes and it doesn't look like any of the main pack - which is back up to around 35 riders now - is motivated by the stage win today.
Our nine leaders are Quintana, Bardet, Lutsenko, A Yates, Bernard, Woods, Kamna, Caruso and Pauwels. They're half way down the descent of the Izoard with a 50 second lead over a group of seven that includes Van Avermaet, Cherel, Van Baarle, Benoot, Amador, Wellens and Rossetto. The greatly reduced yellow jersey group of 20 riders is riding at 5'25" while the Peter Sagan gruppetto is 13'45" down.
That said, Wellens is only 55 seconds down when he crests the summit. Meanwhile, Soler leads the main pack over the top with a deficit of 5'15". Alaphilippe was on the back but still there. Could he hold on to the yellow again today?
Julien Bernard will hold on to take the prize over the summit but behind Bardet is leading the chase with zip! So much zip, in fact, that he and Caruso power past Bernard with the summit gaping. And it's Damiano Caruso who takes the maximum 40pts over the top as Bardet settles for 30pts and second place. But the Frenchman could well be a threat to Tim Wellens' polka dot jersey today as the Belgian has faded on this climb...
Bernard is onto the small downhill section which drops down through the Casse Deserte. He'll be approaching the memorial to Coppi and Bobet soon.
Van Avermaet is caught by the chasers with 3km to go. Just Bernard out ahead with a 10-second lead over this nine-man chase group of Quintana, Bardet, GVA, Lutsenko, Yates, Woods, Kamna, Benoot, Caruso and Pauwels.
Ineos have Thomas, Bernal and Poels in the main pack but they're not riding together. Jumbo-Visma are supporting Kruijswijk with a couple of riders - De Plus and Bennett - while Landa also has Valverde as well as Soler. Buchmann has a couple of Bora riders with him, including Konrad. Alaphilippe is still there with Enric Mas, who was struggling earlier but appears to be OK now. Pinot, however, is the isolated one following Gaudu's distancing. He does have Reichennach, though. French champion Barguil is here, as is Uran. Fabio Aru is off the back but trying to return.
The Yates group has been joined by Lutsenko and Caruso and a few others. Meanwhile, Bernard has dropped Van Avermaet. He's 48 seconds clear of the chasers.
Back with the break and Yates has edged clear with Bardet, Quintana and Woods in pursuit of the leaders. They are approaching the Casse Deserte...
Dan Martin has been dropped by the main pack. The Irishman is also having a rotten Tour. Ineos have riders out the back, while Gaudu has already been dropped, so Pinot is going to be isolated...
Bora-Hansgrohe also have men on the front for Buchmann as the main pack continues to be whittled down by this tempo. Many riders off the back, including Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha, who has had a Tour to forget (in that most of us have forgotten that he's here).
The damage is being done by Movistar on the front of the peloton with Marc Soler setting a zippy pace for Mikel Landa ahead of the Spaniard's likely attack. He has three riders up the road in Quintana, Verona and Amador, after all...
Two minutes now for Van Avermaet and Bernard.
Ladagnous, Izagirre, Arndt, Groendahl Jansen and Politt already feeling the pinch at the back of the Quintana-Bardet group.
Our leading duo have 1'25" on the break and 8'35" on the peloton. I'm going to quickly pick up some lunch from the Eurosport canteen - back in 7 minutes to pick this one up.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) went ahead of the break with Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) just ahead of the climb and they have a gap of one minute as they start the climb.
The break are approaching the foot of the Cat.HC Col d'Izoard (14.1km at 7.3%). The south-north approach of the legend of the Tour is the same ascent the Tour took in 2017 when Warren Barguil won in polka dots on the summit - and takes the race via the eerie Casse Deserte.
Bennett is having a bit of a shocker - he almost crashes again in the cars on a corner while trying to dodge a discarded bidon on the road. But he has the peloton in his sights, plus has picked up some gels for his Jumbo-Visma teammates from the car. He looks OK but the Izoard will be the judge of that.
Arndt's time on the head of the race is over ahead of the start of the Izoard proper. The road is already going uphill but the climbing doesn't start for a few more kilometres. George Bennett, meanwhile, is still 30 seconds off the back of the peloton and chasing back on after that crash on the descent.
Meanwhile, on the front of the race, it's Roche's teammate Nikias Arndt who has managed to open up a 25-second lead on the rest of the break as he completes the descent and starts heading back uphill and into the feed zone.
CRASH: New Zealand's George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) has done down in a tangle with Ireland's Nico Roche (Team Sunweb) on the fast descent. They're both back on their bikes but looked rather shaken after that one. Replays show that they went down independently, their bikes tangling up on the corner after skidding together. A blow for Steven Kruijswijk, who will have lost his main mountain lieutenant ahead of the Izoard and Galibier.
Spaniard Carlos Verona has overcooked a bend on the descent but the Movistar man manages to avoid coming a cropper. He's back on his way and with the other escapees, who still have 7'10" over the pack. That puts Verona's teammate Quintana up into the virtual top five on GC.
The leaders are already 7'35" into their zippy descent by the time the peloton go over the top of the Col de Vars. Alaphilippe, in yellow, is on the front and tucked behind two QuickStep teammates and ahead of six Ineos riders.
Romain Bardet also looks interested in these KOM points. The Frenchman has 18pts currently with Wellens on 64pts. It's the Belgian who leads it out with Bardet on his wheel - and the Lotto Soudal man secures a maximum 10pts over the top ahead of Bardet, who settles for second place. He'll be more up for the stage win, which would also give him far more points than this mere Cat.1 summit anyhow.
Tiesj Benoot has now come to the front to lead out teammate Tim Wellens for the KOM points over the summit in a kilometre. Back with the peloton, Caleb Ewan is holding on at the back after his earlier crash today. The easing up in pace would have been a tonic to the pocket-rocker Australian sprinter.
Chérel is back with the break after bit brief foray off the front. He is one of eight Frenchmen in this group. The average speed so far today has been 39.6km/h.
Oddly, Mikaël Chérel has ridden clear of the break. He was in deep conversation with Ag2R-La Mondiale teammate Romain Bardet a bit earlier on so perhaps this is some kind of pre-arranged move so that the latter has someone ahead to support him later in the day. Or perhaps Chérel just got a bit over excited and/or wants to encourage the break to ride a little faster for fear that the main GC favourites will catch them up once the yellow jersey battle starts in earnest. For now, the gap is 6'25" for the break - but we're really only just getting started.
The last time the Tour came over the Col de Vars was in the 2017 Tour ahead of Warren Barguil's victory in polka dots on the Izoard. First to crest the summit then was Alexey Lutsenko of Astana, who has been very active today and who is in this break.
Time to climb! The break has hit the Cat.1 Col de Vars (9.3km at 7.5%) which has 10 KOM points on the summit. The gap for the 34 leaders is 5'55".
Pierre-Luc Périchon is receiving attention from the race doctor for a bee sting. The Frenchman has been in combative form this month and is in the break again today after his stint off the front yesterday.
Today's stage will not be decided on the mythical Col Galibier but on the downhill run to Valloire, 47 years after the great Eddy Merckx won the Tour's only previous finish in the Alpine ski resort. Here's how the Cannibal broke his Spanish rival Luis Ocaña by almost winning two stages in a single day...
The gap has quickly grown to almost five minutes for these 34 escapees. QuickStep are on the front of the peloton ahead of Ineos and Groupama-FDJ.
As for potential stage-hunting winners, Adam Yates has a chance to save his Tour and join brother Simon on the list of winners; Bardet, too, could salvage something from a rotten race, ditto Quintana and Woods; Geschke will hope to channel his ride to Pra Loup a few years ago, while Tim Wellens will hope to pick up some points for the polka dot battle.
So, Ineos get a man up the road for the first time in this Tour, while Alaphlippe has Richeze up there, too. Mikel Landa has three Movistar teammates in Quintana, Amador and Verona, while Steven Kruijswijk has Jansen and Teunissen, and Thibaut Pinot has one Groupama man in Ladagnous. But no support up the road for Bora-Hansgrohe's Emanuel Buchmann.
Here is a list of riders in the break courtesy of the Tour's official site: Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos), Max Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Romain Bardet, Mikaël Chérel and Matthias Frank (AG2R-La Mondiale), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida), Matthieu Ladagnous (Groupama-FDJ), Nairo Quintana, Andrey Amador and Carlos Verona (Movistar), Gorka Izagirre and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Amund Groendahl Jansen and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Alberto Bettiol and Michael Woods (EF Education First), Adam Yates, Daryl Impey and Chris Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg Van Avermaet, Simon Geschke and Serge Pauwels (CCC), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Nikias Arndt and Lennard Kämna (Sunweb), Pierre-Luc Périchon and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) and Amaël Moinard (Arkéa-Samsic)
And that's it - the peloton has allowed this one to go and so the gap grows above the minute-mark for the 34-man group. The best ranked rider is Nairo Quintana, who is 9'30" down in 12th place on GC.
The gap is only 15-odd seconds for this break but there are some huge names in it, including Messrs Quintana, Bardet, Van Avermaet, Lutsenko, Adam Yates, Izagirre, Woods, Politt, Benoot, Bettiol, Geschke, Amador, Wellens, Verone, Richeze, Caruso...
The sprint was largely neutralized with Jasper De Buyst going through first for Lotto-Soudal ahead of Nikias Arndt of Sunweb. They were at the front of a large 33-man break which has around 20 seconds over the main peloton, which itself has split. Max Monfort has dropped back to help pace back Lotto teammate Ewan after his crash. In more Lotto-related news, both Tiesj Benoot and the polka dot jersey Tim Wellens appear to be in this move.
Mitchelton-Scott, who yesterday notched their fourth stage win through Trentin, are very hungry. They have Haig on the front now as they pass under the 1km-to-go banner till the intermediate sprint.
The four leaders have been reeled in by this strung-out peloton, which has completely split into numerous groups because of the fierce tempo and the punishing false-flat terrain.
CRASH: Two riders have left the road because of the hustle and bustle of the rampaging peleton - they are Wout Poels of Team Ineos, who manages to avoid coming off the bike, and Caleb Ewan, who doesn't. It's not a big tumble for the Australian, but it will be the last thing he wants as he faces a fierce battle today to make the time cut and keep his dream of a third stage win in Paris alive.
Frenchman Yoann Offredo has been off the back since the first climb and it's going to be a very long day in the saddle for the Wanty-Gobert rider, who was already the Lanterne Rouge this morning over three hours and 20 minutes in arrears.
It has been a savage start to the stage as the fight continues to get in the break - and we're nowhere near the first of three major climbs, so it's only going to get tougher. The reason for this fierce battle is the strategic placing of the intermediate sprint, after which things may - may - calm down a little.
The gap is up to 15 seconds for the four leaders as Thomas De Gendt comes to the front of the pack to try and force a chase group. He succeeds in enticing five riders out -Cortina, Haller, Zakarin, Burghardt and Peter Sagan, who is keen on bridging over ahead of the sprint.
Lutsenko was reeled in but is not out ahead again in a quartet with Lennard Kamna of Sunweb and Mitchelton-Scott duo Simon Yates and Daryl Impey. The gap is small, though, as they edge further up the valley on this false flat.
Perichon has been caught and so it's only Lutsenko out ahead now. A feisty and fast start to this stage as the riders continue their ride up the Ubaye Valley.
Sagan is right on the front and very keen on forcing a move, as is Michael Matthews of Sunweb. Mitchelton-Scott, too, have riders in the mix including Jack Haig and their previous stage winners Simon Yates and Matteo Trentin.
Lutsenko and Perichon still have 12 seconds over the pack, which split in two on that descent. The road is now going back uphill - and will continue to do so all the way to the foot of the Col de Vars in 40km time.
More on that spat yesterday between Luke Rowe and Tony Martin - watch the video and make your own mind up as to who was in the wrong and whether it was too harsh to send the riders home...
Yates is no longer trying to chase the two leaders but Amael Moinard and Anthony Turgis are. The gaps are small, though, with Lutsenko and Perichon only nursing 11 seconds.
Lutsenko has another pop and he's joined by Frenchman Pierre-Luc Perichon ahead of the summit, which the Kazakh rider crests in pole position. They have Britain's Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) on pursuit.
A move by Astana's Alexey Lutsenko comes to nothing and now we're onto the Cat.3 Cote de Demoiselles Coiffees, which translates roughly as the Climb of the Hairdressed Ladies, which is quaint.
An early attack from Peter Sagan comes to nothing, the Slovakian no doubt motivated by the intermediate sprint which comes after the first climb of the day. Sagan has been in green pretty much all the race and has 309pts with his nearest challenger, Elia Viviani, on 224pts.
CORRECTION: two non-starters today on top of those two disqualifications with Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) calling it a day ahead of the Alps.
Numerous attacks have come in but nothing has yet stuck. It's a big day for the polka dot jersey competition with 92 KOM points up for grabs over the four climbs, two of which are HC. That means someone with no points whatsoever could be in polka dots tonight for the current leader, Tim Wellens, only has 64pts in total.
It's another hot day in France but not as hot as here in London, where the mercury will push 40 degrees today. For the riders it's a comparatively clement 30 degrees right now.
They're off! The remaining 158 riders - minus naughty boys Rowe and Tony Martin, of course - have been given the sigh by Christian Prudhomme to start racing...
So, here's what's on the menu today as the riders head above 2,000m three times with the legendary Vars-Izoard-Galibier treble ahead of a downhill finish in Valloire.
But the big flashpoint of the day came when German veteran Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) appeared to try and ride Welshman Luke Rowe (Team Ineos) off the road as tempers flared on the front of the bunch at the start of the final climb. Both riders were subsequently kicked out of the Tour, depriving Ineos' co-leaders Thomas and Bernal, and Jumbo-Visma's Kruijswijk of key lieutenants ahead of the most crucial part of the race.
Yesterday, Italy’s Matteo Trentin soloed to victory from a large 33-man breakaway in a sweltering Stage 17 of the Tour de France at Gap on a day of ceasefire between the big race favourites ahead of three decisive stages in the Alps.
Bonjour le Tour! Hello and welcome to live coverage of Stage 18 of the Tour de France - the first of three brutal stages in the Alps which will decide the outcome of the 106th edition of the race.