Good afternoon cycling fans and welcome to Cycling Weekly's live coverage of stage 18 of the 2021 Tour de France.
Stage start: 13.35 local time (12.35 UK)
Stage finish: 17.19 to 17.44 local time (16.19 to 16.44 UK)
Check for live updates below:
Good morning and welcome to live coverage of the final mountain stage of 2021 Tour de France.
The riders face a short 129.7km stage, but they'll face an ascent of the fierce Col du Tourmalet before a summit finish to Luz Ardiden.
Here's the profile for today's final mountain stage:
Start time for today's stage is 1.35pm French time (12.35pm British time).
Riders are then expected to finish in Luz Ardiden at around 5.30pm French time (4.30pm British time).
Here's what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about today's stage:
Dense, tense, selective with the climbs up two giants of the Pyrenees: the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden, where the verdict of the final mountain battle will be known. The climbing type leaders will have to find a way to gain enough time in the GC on those who are better in time-trials.
Breaking news on the Tour this morning:
Bahrain Victorious were subjected to a police raid after stage 17, as they arrived at the team hotel in Pau.
Officers asked to search riders' rooms and for access to training files.
Read the full story here: Bahrain Victorious raided by police at Tour de France 2021
Riders are out for the neutralised start.
5.7km to ride through the start town of Pau before the flag drops.
Mark Cavendish is leading the bunch through town.
This fan knew how to get Geraint Thomas's attention at the start of stage 17.
This is one way to get noticed! 😅@GeraintThomas86 met a dedicated fan ahead of the start in Muret #TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/kfXtoT59yiJuly 14, 2021
2.4km until the official start of the stage.
André Greipel is up front along with Julian Alaphilippe and Nairo Quintana.
Could Quintana and Alaphilippe be looking at today's breakaway and a potential stage win?
And we're racing! We have the first attacks.
Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), Christopher Juul-Jensen (BikeExchange) and Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-ASSOS) after the first to hit out.
That trio already have a pretty decent gap of 41 seconds over the bunch and it's growing pretty rapidly.
More attacks from back in the bunch but nothing sticks.
Nairo Quintana is currently chasing down an attack as a split has formed at the front of the bunch.
The trio out front have 58 seconds' gap so far.
Julian Alaphilippe putting in a huge attack at the front of the bunch and he's flying.
The world champion has a gap on the rest of the bunch, but still has 43 seconds to try and close down to the trio in front.
There's also a pursuit behind as the rest of the bunch tries to catch up.
The Mohorič, Juul-Jensen, Bennett group still lead as they hit the first categorised climb of the day, which is 2.6km-long.
Alaphilippe is alone on the road, 28 seconds behind, with the peloton another 12 seconds behind the world champion.
It's going to be touch and go whether Alaphilippe can catch the breakaway before he's caught by the bunch.
It's now around 30km to the foot of the next climb, the Côte de Loucrup, which is only 2km-long at 6.7 per cent gradient.
Alaphilippe and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) are still trying to chase across to the breakaway.
They've actually built up a decent gap to the bunch now and are starting to close the gap to the leading trio.
They're currently 30 seconds behind the break.
This is a brutal chase fo Alaphilippe and Périchon. They still stuck 25 seconds behind the leading trio, as the road is pan-flat and straight, giving them no opportunities to really make any gains.
Mohorič and co. are riding well together, as the peloton now slips to 1-04 behind.
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Alaphilippe and Périchon have just about made it across to the break!
It was a formidable chase that last more than 30km, but we now have five riders out front with 1-31 over the bunch.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step)
Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis)
Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious)
Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-ASSOS)
Christopher Juul-Jensen (BikeExchange)
Around 20km until the next categorised climb, and around 30km to the foot of the Col du Tourmalet.
Well it's not looking great for the five-rider breakaway.
With 85km left to race, they have just 1-48 over the bunch with the Tourmalet looming.
They would need a much bigger gap if they were going to make it to the finish to fight for the stage.
But instead it looks like the peloton are keen to keep these give on a tight leash, potentially for the GC contenders to fight for the stage.
Slightly unusual tactics from Bahrain Victorious, who have Matej Mohorič up in the break but are also pulling at the front of the bunch.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step have Julian Alaphilippe in the break but they're also sitting at the front of the bunch.
It seems like the explanation for this is that Bahrain are chasing KoM points for Wout Poels, who currently wears the polka-dot jersey. There's a tonne of points on offer on today's stage, including at the summit of the Tourmalet, so they must be trying to get their man at the front for that climb.
For Deceuninck, there is an intermediate sprint fast approaching, so they must be trying to get Mark Cavendish in position to try and score there.
The break has just 1-22 with 76km to race.
The race is now on the second categorised climb of the day, which is just 2km long.
There's action in the bunch as BikeExchange are drilling it on the front to try and distance Mark Cavendish ahead of the intermediate sprint on the other side.
Michael Matthews is right at the as his team-mate Luke Durbridge has caused a split at the front of the bunch,
Deceuninck have closed it down however and the split disappears.
The intermediate sprint is around 10km further down the road, with Cavendish hoping to hold onto his advantage in the green jersey competition, while Matthews and Colbrelli try to usurp him before Paris.
Meanwhile the break have hit the top of the Côte de Loucrup, with Julian Alaphilippe the first of the five riders to cross over.
Christopher Juul-Jensen has sat up in the breakaway, presumably to assist Matthews in the intermediate sprint.
The bunch is now approaching the top of the climb.
The peloton is over the top of the Côte de Loucrup.
There's no change in the KoM standings after Julian Alaphilippe scored the only point that was on offer.
Wout Poels still leads in the polka-dot jersey race by 11 points over Tadej Pogačar.
The intermediate sprint is now fast approaching.
Julian Alaphilippe is pressing hard in the now-four-rider breakaway, after Juul-Jensen has sat up to rejoin the peloton to help Michael Matthews at the sprint.
Break is just 1-09 ahead of the bunch.
As we've just hit another lull in the stage, let's look at some data from stage 17.
EF Education-Nippo are sponsored by fitness tracking software company WHOOP, which is basically a heart-rate monitor that tracks your sleep and exercise levels.
Unfortunately Rigoberto Urán's data wasn't available from yesterday's stage, after he slipped off the podium and lost 1-49 by the summit of the Col du Portet.
But his team-mate Sergio Higuita has released his WHOOP data to Cycling Weekly. Higuita was there to help Urán in the final to limit his losses, as the Colombian pair finished together.
Higuita's average heart-rate on the 178km stage was 148bpm, while his maximum was 187bpm.
He also got seven hours of sleep before the stage, which is an interesting metric as sleep is so essential to recovery.
Higuita's strain for stage 17 was 20.7 (the maximum score WHOOP gives is 21), as he burned 5,208 calories.
The 23-year-old spent almost three hours between 80-100 per cent of his max HR, including 23 minutes at 90-100 per cent of his max.
Julian Alaphilippe won the intermediate sprint up in the break to take maximum points as the peloton have just hit the sprint one-minute behind.
Mark Cavendish put in a pretty big effort for the first time to cross the line fifth behind the breakaway, while his team-mate Michael Mørkøv was sixth to knock Michael Matthews into seventh.
Attacks off the front of the bunch now as the Tourmalet approaches. Trek-Segafredo have sent three riders on the attack with Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) following. Deceuninck - Quick-Step are still marking and have sent a rider up into that attacking group.
Cavendish scored 11 points at the intermediate sprint, with Matthews forced to settle for 9 points, Colbrelli only taking seven.
Cavendish still leads in the green jersey race.
Here's the points classification after that sprint:
1. Mark Cavendish, 298pts (scored 11 today)
2. Michael Matthews, 260pts (scored nine today)
3. Sonny Colbrelli, 208pts (scored seven today)
about 5km to the foot of the Tourmalet.
It's a beast of a climb this one, 17km at 7.4 per cent.
There's a shake up in the breakaway, as Alaphilippe and Mohorič have pressed on together on the approach to the Tourmalet.
They're now 40 seconds ahead of Juul-Jensen and Pierre Rolland who have attacked from the peloton.
On the Col du Tourmalet then and there's 52km to go.
Group 1 - Matej Mohorič, Julian Alaphilippe
Group 2 - Pierre Rolland - at 44 seconds
Group 3 - Peloton - at 1-24
Pierre Latour is on the attack again from the peloton on the Tourmalet. He has Kenny Elissonde joining him in the move
Mark Cavendish is dropped out the back early on the Tourmalet but he has three team-mates round him. Just this and the next climb for the Manxman to navigate to safely make it through to the final few stages.
Latour and Elissonde have caught Rolland and there's now a group of three Frenchman chasing Alaphilippe and Mohoric on the Tourmalet. They're 1-02 behind now however.
We could of course see another solo victor today atop Luz Ardiden. We took a look at just why there's been so many lone winners in this year's Tour.
Valentin Madouas has now made it up to the Rolland group, so we have four Frenchmen chasing the world champion (also French), and the Slovenian national champion
Another counter attack from the UAE led peloton. Miguel Angel Lopez of Movistar has hit out and is looking to bridge to our four French riders
Ruben Guerreiro, David Gaudu, Omar Fraile, Nairo Quintana and Ion Izagirre have joined Lopez in the pursuit
Ineos now take up the charge in the peloton, but there's still only 1-20 up to the front group. Cavendish and his four team-mates are currently at 3-12 with 10km to go to the top of the Col du Tourmalet
Kenny Elissonde has now despatched his compatriots and his pursuing the two leaders alone. Meanwhile, Lopez and Quintana are back in the peloton with 44km to go
The gap to the break is below a minute now, the GC teams are clearly eyeing a stage win today on the final summit finish
It's still Ineos on the front of the peloton. The British team may have Richard Carapaz in third overall but they've yet to take a victory, and look determined to set their main man up for a stage victory today
Still 6.5km to the top of the Tourmalet, surely one of, if not the most famous climb in the Tour. This is the 88th time the peloton of the Tour has climbed the Tourmalet, the first ever taking place in 1910. Last time it was used was 2018 when Thibaut Pinot won the summit finish there, albeit from a different side.
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Col du Paw-malet 🐶#TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/F5Qu0QO97oJuly 15, 2021
Our chasing group of seven have now made it up to Alaphilippe and Mohoric, making a nine-man leading group. They only have 23 seconds however on the peloton so this may all be back together very shortly.
Valentin Madouas has dropped away from the break after putting in a big effort for his Groupama-FDJ team-mate David Gaudu. He picks up the pace but they still only have 22 seconds with 5km to the summit.
Gaudu's pace has split the front group and only Alaphilippe and Guerreiro can follow
Pierre Latour has made it back to the leading group, so we now have four riders with 41 seconds over the peloton
We're 3.9km from the top of the climb and we should expect to see some polka dot jersey action at the top. The peloton is still not far behind and the top four in that competition are all there.
This the current KoM standings:
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious, 78pts
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, 67pts
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, 66pts
4. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation, 66pts
5. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, 64pts
Julian Alaphilippe has been dropped from the front group
Rigoberto Uran appears to be on a difficult day and is struggling to maintain the pace of the Ineos-led peloton
This could be the end of Uran's GC campaign completely - he fell off the podium yesterday but with around 2.5km to the top of the Tourmalet and the finishing climb to Luz Ardiden still to come, the Colombian could be losing a lot of time today
Michael Woods and Wout Poels attack from the peloton - they're going for KoM points
Gaudu is pushing on and has dropped Guerreiro now, he has just Latour for company and around 50 seconds on the yellow jersey group
Poels and Woods are about 40 seconds behind Gaudu/Latour - it doesn't look like they'll catch them before the summit so they'll have to settle for the 12 and 10 points
Latour takes maximum points, Gaudu takes second. Poels just about catches Fraile before the summit to take fourth place behind Guerreiro. That's 10 extra points for Poels.
KoM standings after Col du Tourmalet:
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious, 88pts
2. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation, 72pts
3. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, 68pts
4. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, 67pts
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, 66pts
David Gaudu, who has looked in better and better form as this race has gone on, is now solo out front after distancing Latour early on the descent
The lone leader has 1-01 on the yellow jersey, while Uran is now a further minute back
Gaudu has already put 40 seconds into Latour and is holding his gap on the peloton. Latour is about to be caught by Guerreiro, Poels, and Fraile who are also chasing
In terms of the KoM competition, there's double points available on the line at the top of Luz Ardiden. Unless Poels can pull off an unexpected stage result, he'll need to hop Tadej Pogacar doesn't finish in the top three today so he can hold on to the jersey. There's only two points available on the remaining three stages after today.
The situation as it stands with 20km to go:
Group 1 - David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
Group 2 - Peloton - at 45s
Group 3 - Uran group - at 1-39
Gaudu is still on the move and looking good. But his advantage is still modest on the descent from the Tourmalet, just 38 seconds over the yellow jersey group.
The Frenchman will need to be on a hell of a good day to make it to the line, especially if the GC group starts to kick off and ups the pace.
BOOM we're there, David Gaudu has hit the slopes of Luz Ardiden, 13.km to the summit now.
With just 14 seconds over the GC group, I don't see Gaudu making it to the line alone.
Around 50 riders left in the yellow jersey group, Ineos are back on the front and have good numbers. Five riders on the front including Carapaz.
Pogačar is close behind with his UAE Team Emirates team-mates however. The yellow jersey has three riders with him so is in a strong position.
Michal Kwiatkowski takes over at the front of the Ineos train and the gap to Gaudu is falling quickly to 12 seconds
Wout Poels is now falling behind, so he will have to hope Pogacar finishes lower than third to keep hold of the polka-dot jersey
Just under 10km to go now and it doesn't look good Gaudu, who is 12 seconds ahead
David Gaudu has been caught, so it's the yellow jersey group at the front of the race now
Kwiatkowski has finished his effort and leaves the pacing to Tao Geoghegan Hart. Pogacar looks comfortable with the pace while a lot of riders are being shed quickly out the back
Pogacar still has one team-mate in Rafal Majka, Jonas Vingegaard still has Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss around him
Still 8.3km to go and Geoghegan Hart continues with the pace setting on the front, not allowing any attacks
The polka dot jersey Wout Poels is just about working his way back to the back of peloton, a remarkable recovery after looking like his day was done.
Rigoberto Uran is back at over six minutes now, so his place in the top 10 is gone
6.5km to go and Geoghegan Hart is still working on the front. Jonathan Castroviejo will be the next rider to take it up for Ineos
There's nothing anyone can do about attacking right now with Giro d'Italia winner Geoghegan Hart still hammering the pace inside 5.5km to go
Rafal Majka is now coming up to take over at the front with Pogacar on his wheel, while Van Aert has been dropped
Inside 5km to go and Majka looks to be setting Pogacar up for an attack
Wout Poels has been dropped again after the increase in pace from UAE. If Pogacar wins the stage he'll be taking home yellow, white and polka-dot jerseys for the second edition in a row
The yellow jersey looks fresh and composed with 4.4km to go, he has that same look as he did on Col du Portet yesterday...
He is tracked by Castroviejo, Carapaz, Vingegaard, Kuss and Enric Mas with 3.1km to go
Kuss comes to the front with 3km to go and is leading the group
Enric Mas really struggled yesterday and lost over two minutes, but the Movistar man is looking much better today and is following the top three on GC
There's 2.5km to the line and Kuss is still leading this group of five
Kuss continues to lead into 1.5km to go - who will attack first?
Dan Martin has countered from the second group on the road, but might have left it too late to bridge to the yellow jersey group
1km to go and Enric Mas tries a move but is followed by Pogacar
Kuss has now dropped away from the lead group
It looks like it'll be another sprint for the line
Mas attacks again and gets a gap!
Pogacar closes the gap and races past Mas with Carapaz trying to catch him
Pogacar powers on in the final 400m
Tadej Pogacar wins stage 18 of the 2021 Tour de France!
Jonas Vingegaard takes second place and Carapaz third. Mas rolls in a few seconds later in fourth place with Dan Martin fifth
Top-10 on stage 18:
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-33-45
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 2 seconds
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 13s
5. Daniel Martin (Ire) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 24s
6. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 30s
7. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 33s
8. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, at 34s
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 40s
Back to back mountain stages for Pogacar. He looked unstoppable today, there was just simply nothing anyone could do to drop him or attack him. Once he wanted to go all the others could do was try and follow as best they could.
That's almost certainly the yellow, white, and the polka-dots for Pogacar for the second year in a row.
Here's the general classification:
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 75-00-02
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-45
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-51
4. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, at 8-18
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-50
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 10-11
7. Alexey Lusenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 11-22
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 12-46
9. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 13-48
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 18-42
Photo of today's winner, leaving the other GC contenders completely in his wake
Our full stage report is up. Read all about the stage here:
We've got the latest reaction from the stage winner and yellow jersey:
There's just one day left, a 30.8km time trial on stage 20, for anyone do challenge Pogačar's lead. Considering the gap and Richard Carapaz's performance in the last time trial, it's unlikely the Ecuadorian will be able to spring a surprise.
Jonas Vingegaard is an accomplished rider against the clock, finishing third on stage five. The Dane though will be looking to cement is second overall and put more distance back to third place rather than eyeing a final day grab for the yellow jersey as Pogačar did to his team-mate Primož Roglič last year.
Here's our analysis from the stage
Read more here: Five talking points from stage 18 of the Tour de France 2021
Demanding riders training files and other information, the police also seized phones, computers, and even food, with up to 50 officers entering the rooms of riders and staff.
Read his reaction here: Matej Mohorič says police raid on Bahrain Victorious hotel made him feel like a 'drug dealer'
Read more here: Will Richard Carapaz ride the Vuelta a España 2021?
And that wraps up live coverage from stage 18 of the Tour de France.
We'll be back tomorrow for stage 19!
Thanks for reading