91km to go: And then there five. Our lead group pedal onwards and upwards, with a lead of just over a minute over an increasingly thin chasing pack of 13 riders. The peloton is almost five minutes back.
96km to go: The field makes its way up the category three Col de Saisies. It’s 14.6km in length, with a gradient of 6.4% and is 1,650m above sea level.
96km to go: More praise for Nico Roche. “Good work getting into the breakaway group,” writes Niall Sheerin. “I expect Nico will be happy to give you a pull along the roads. On that point, not enough has been written about his heroic efforts this tour and his on-road marshalling of Team Sunweb to a couple of stage wins and near misses.
“A stat worth admiring is his placing in the top 10 of top 10 Tour de France stage finishes. He may not be glam, but he’s had a mighty impressive grand tour career and shared some wonderful insights to life in the peloton through his tour diaries!”
An email: “Is there a team that has animated this tour less than Total Direct Energie?” asks Peter MacMullan.
“According to procyclingstats, their best result so far is a 10th place finish for Nicola Bonafazio on stage 3, their best placed GC rider is Romain Sicard in 30th at 1hr 44min down on Roglic and they appear to have missed the break again today.
“Would really like to know what their pre-tour goals were and if any have been achieved. The other wildcard teams have at least been in contention for stages and to a lesser extent the GC.
“Really don’t understand what they bring to the race or why they were invited in the first place. Wanty or Alpecin would have made much more sense and would have at least attacked.”
99km to go: The gap from the lead group back to the peloton is 4min 35sec.
101km to go: Richard Carapaz and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Barry Glendenning (Guardian Media Group), Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) still enjoy a slender lead of 46 seconds over their 10 closest rivals as they prepare to tackle the third climb of the day, the Col de Saisies. With two riders in the lead group, Ineos Grenadiers will be looking for a stage win on what has been a dismal Tour experience for them.
An email: “One of the two Irish cyclists in the break has to be the big favourite for the day, but the other, Nico Roche, might just be worth keeping an eye on as an outside bet for today,” writes Robin Hazlehurst. “He is road captain of Sunweb, who have done wonderfully well as a team, always getting into breaks, and taking some stages through clever tactics (Hirschi and especially Anderson).
“Roche has looked quite frisky himself on occasion, and though I’d not really fancy him for today as it’s probably just a bit too climby, I bet Sunweb would love to set him up for a win, and given how tactically astute they’ve been he has to have a (small) shout.”
106km to go: Hirschi takes two KOM points at the top of the second categorised climb of the day.
108km to go: Carapaz, Hirschi, Pello Bilbao, Michal Kwiatkowski and Nicolas Edet have opened a discernible gap between themselves and the rest of the breakaway.
The gap back to the peloton is 3min 35sec and as is customary, Jumbo-Visma are towing the main group. The presence of Damiano Caruso in the lead group means they can’t relax – he’s 12th on GC and 12min 30sec off the pace.
109km to go: Carapaz, Hirschi and three others are in a group of five riders leading the way up the second climb of the day. They’re about 20 seconds clear of the chasing group and looking fairly relaxed.
111km to go: The descent continues and the next categorised climb on the agenda is the snappily titled Cote de la route des Villes. Standing 1,093m in its socks, it is 3.2km in length with a gradient of 6.6%.
117km to go: On Eurosport, the race jury’s bizarre decision to give Julian Alaphilippe, rather than Richard Carapaz, yesterday’s combativity award is being discussed.
They can arrive at no definitive conclusion why the French jury made their decision to reward the French rider with the prize in this grand old French race. “There probably aren’t too many Ecuadorians on that jury,” says commentator Carlton Kirby.
123km to go: “I’m following the Tour de France on Spanish television and commentators yesterday were aghast (as were viewers) to see spectators running along next to riders on the mountain climbs shouting close to them, with face masks pulled down,” writes Gareth Thomas.
“This is extraordinary and so wrong. I saw this happen twice. Do we know if the French police are following up such footage and making arrests?
“Here in Spain it is now second nature for everyone to wear face masks in all public places and such scenes are shocking.”
I have no idea if the gendarmes are following up and making arrests, or indeed if it is mandatory for spectators to wear masks. If it’s not it certainly should be. Perhaps somebody closer to the action could mail in and let us know.
128km to go: Richard Carapaz makes a break for the summit of Cormet de Roseland to win the 10 points on offer, but is beaten over the top by Marc Hirschi.
The lead group begin their descent to the sound of conspicuously loud mooing from the cows in an adjacent field. Either they’re keen cycling fans or are spooked by the helicopters flying overhead.
128km to go: “Don’t think we haven’t noticed the flights of fancy in your breakaway list,” writes Bob O’Hara. “There is no way David Brailsford would do something as exciting as have a cyclist in the breakaway, let alone two.”
131km to go: Nans Peters is the best placed in the lead bunch in the King of the Mountains classification, but has a lot to do if he is to trouble the leaders.
132km to go: Your new, more manageable breakaway: Richard Carapaz and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-McLaren), Dario Cataldo, Nelson Oliveira and Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Barry Glendenning (Guardian Media Group), Simon Geschke (CCC Team), Nicolas Edet and Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Marc Hirschi and Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb).
133km to go: Hats off to Caruso, who has made it to the breakaway.
134km to go: Our lead group has been whittled down to 18 riders as they continue the first ascent, while Damiano Caruso has them in his sights. The Italian is trying to gatecrash the top 10 on General Classification.
137km to go: We have news of an abandonment. The veteran German sprinter Andre Greipel has had enough and stepped off his bike. One of the gentlemen of the peloton, the Israel Start-Up Nation rider won the last of his 10 Tour de France stages on the Champs-Elysees in 2016.
138km to go: Our original breakaway is down to 27 riders and being led by Richard Carapaz, who has seemingly bottomless reserves of energy following two tremendous but ultimately fruitless efforts in the past two stages.
138km to go: Bahrain-McLaren’s Damiano Caruso has attacked off the front of the peloton, as has Warren Barguil among others.
140km to go: Jumbo-Visma have five riders at the front of the yellow jersey group, but Tony Martin is not one of them. He’s cracked on the first climb.
141km to go: Peter Sagan has been dropped from the lead group, while Guillaume Martin has attacked off the front of the peloton to try to bridge a gap which now stands at 1min 20sec.
145km to go: Having also failed to get a man in the breakaway, Total Direct Energie have moved to the front of the peloton and are trying to close the gap. It’s coming down and is currently at 1min 27sec.
146km to go: His objective achieved for the day in the intermediate sprint, Sam Bennett bids farewell to his companions in the breakaway and starts sliding backwards on the first climb of the day.
147km to go: The riders approach the first of five categorised climbs today, the Cormet de Roseland. It’s a cat 1 that’s 1,968m high with a 6% gradient and 18.6km long.
An email: “Glad to see you made it into the breakaway group,” writes Sam Huscroft. “I’m interested to know if you are going to try and solo up the HC or keep your powder dry?”
151km to go: The gap between our breakaway and the the peloton is out to 1min 43sec. Bora riders Lennard Kamna and Max Schachmann have failed to bridge the gap.
156km to go: The peloton is being led by riders from B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, who somehow contrived not to get a rider in an otherwise very well represented break. One imagines their team boss is not best pleased.
161km to go: Your breakaway group: Jonathan Castroviejo, Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski and Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sam Bennett and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Rudy Molard and Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren), Alberto Bettiol and Tejay Van Garderen (EF Education First), Dayer Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Dario Cataldo, Nelson Oliveira, José Joaquín Rojas and Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Simon Geschke and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), Barry Glendenning (Guardian Media Group), Nicolas Edet and Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team), Jasper de Buyst and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation), Michael Gogl and Michael Valgren (NTT Pro Cycling), Nikias Arndt, Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen and Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb).
159km to go: Bora-Hansgrohe riders Lennard Kamna and Max Scachmann are currently trying to bridge the gap between the peloton and the lead group. But who will they meet if they get there, I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you …
161km to go: The 32-man breakaway opens a gap of 1min 05sec over the peloton as we approach the intermediate sprint. Bennett is first over the line, followed by Trentin with Sagan coming third.
Intermediate sprint: Today’s takes place early doors in the stage, in approximately three kilometres. Bennett, Sagan and Matteo Trentin are all in the lead group of 32 riders and will be contesting that. Bennett leads the category with 278 points, Sagan is next on 231 and Trentin is third with 218.
169km to go: De Gendt and chums are reeled in by the peloton, which promptly splits. A group of around 30 riders, including Sam Bennett in the green jersey and Peter Sagan, his nearest rival for the garment, make a break for it.
170km to go: Thomas de Gendt, of course. Or at least he’ll try. Off the Lotto Soudal rider darts,with three companions, trying to put a stretch of asphalt between themselves and the peloton. Expect several riders to try to jump across and bridge the gap – it could be quite some time before this stage settles.
They’re off and racing in stage 18: The road is about five lanes wide and the sun is hot as race director Christian Prudhomme semaphores the signal to start racing. Today’s stage is built for a breakaway, but who will get in it?
King of the Mountains
With just a flat stage, an individual time-trial and Sunday’s procession to Paris left after today’s stage, the battle for the King of the Mountains title is likely to be settled today.
AG2R rider Benoit Cosnefroy finally surrendered the polka-dot shirt after more than fortnight yesterday, dropping to fourth in the rankings. Tadej Pogacar now leads the classification with 66 points, with Primoz Roglic in second with 63. Miguel Angel Lopez is third with 51 points after his heroic performance yesterday, while Cosnefroy is next on 36 points.
Stage 17 recap …
The French president Emmanuel Macron was pootling along behind the yellow jersey group in a Tour Skoda during yesterday’s stage won by Miguel Angel Lopez and saw Primoz Roglic extend his lead at the top of the General Classification. Jeremy Whittle was there for the Guardian …
The top 10 on General Classification
Primoz Roglic extended his lead over his compatriot Tadej Pogacar yesterday, while Miguel Angel Lopez rode himself on to a podium position with his stage win.
Stage 18: Meribel to La Roche sur Foron (175km)
From William Fotheringham’s stage-by-stage guide: The last of eight Alpine stages: a saw-tooth profile, with the partly gravel Plateau de Glières 32km from the finish. None of the favourites can afford a bad day here, but it doesn’t have the scary look of the day before. A stage for a break, a last chance for a rider like
Warren Barguil to shine if he has had a poor three weeks.[Narrator’s voice: The curse of Fothers strikes again, as for the third consecutive day, our resident Jonah has tipped a rider who has been forced out of the race through injury.”]
Romain Bardet or
- Today’s roll-out begins at 11.30am (BST)
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