Démare takes his second Tour stage win in as many years

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Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took victory in a bunch sprint on stage 18 of the 2018 Tour de France as he got the better of Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

On what was effectively a day off for the yellow jersey of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and the rest of the general classification contenders, the teams of the few remaining sprinters in the race kept a tight control on the break in order to make sure they didn’t miss out on the last flat stage before Paris.

>>> Five talking points from stage 18 of the 2018 Tour de France

Groupama-FDJ and UAE Team Emirates worked hard throughout the day to ensure a bunch sprint in Pau, but it was Bora-Hansgrohe who took control through the final five kilometres with Peter Sagan looking to bounce back from his heavy crash on stage 17.

Bora-Hansgrohe led until 1.7km to go, before Trek-Segafredo took over with Jasper Stuyven trying to set up John Degenkolb in the final kilometre.

However with 500m remaining Groupama-FDJ moved back to the front with Jacopo Guarnieri moving Démare into a perfect position within sight of the line.

Sprinting from the front Démare was always going to be hard to beat, and the 26-year-old duly held off compatriot Christophe Laporte and Alexander Kristoff to take his second Tour de France win.

Meanwhile there was no change in the general classification as all of the main contenders finished safely in the main bunch ahead of a crucial day in the Pyrenees on Friday.

How it happened

After two tough days in the Pyrenees, and with one mountain day and a crucial time trial still to come, the riders of the 2018 Tour de France got an easier parcours on stage 18 with a flat 171km between Trie-sur-Baïse and Pau.

As expected there were plenty of early attacks with Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Mat Hayman and Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott), and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) going clear early on.

However those five riders were never allowed much of a lead as Groupama-FDJ and UAE Team Emirates controlled the lead as they tried to set up a bunch sprint for Arnaud Démare and Alexander Kristoff.

Unfortunately for those teams, the small gap of just over a minute was sure to encourage counter-attacks and Trek-Segafredo duly obliged as Michael Gogl and Jasper Stuyven attacked with Sep Vanmarcke in the wheels with 110km to go.

That sparked panic in the group behind that caused a crash with Nairo Quintana and Movistar team-mate Andrey Amador to hit the deck, the Colombian needing treatment for a gash to his left elbow as he made his way back to the bunch.

With Groupama-FDJ and UAE Team Emirates being vigilant, the counter-attack didn’t last long, but the peloton continued to keep the break on a short least at around 1-30.

That gap remained unchanged for much of the day as diminutive Colombian climber Jarlinson Pantano (UAE Team Emirates) did an impressive amount of work on what what was not his natural terrain.

With 32km to go the gap to the peloton came down below a minute for the first time, and from there only went in one direction as it hit 30 seconds just 11km later.

The catch was made with 17km to go with Groupama-FDJ upping the pace on the front of the bunch and stringing the bunch out with some distance to go to the finish.

Unsurprisingly, after spending the entire day chasing, Groupama-FDJ soon faded from the front, allowing Bora-Hansgrohe – who had done no chasing whatsoever – to move to take over with Peter Sagan clearly not feeling the effects of his heavy crash on stage 17.

With four kilometres to go Sagan dropped back to keep an eye on his rivals while his team continued to work on the front, before things started to get a little messy as riders bunched up behind.

Finally with 1.7km to go UAE Team Emirates reappeared at the front with Alexander Kristoff high up in second wheel, before fading back as Cofidis led into the final kilometre.

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) was the first round the final bend with 500m to go, but Groupama-FDJ moved back to the front with Jacopo Guarnieri moving Démare into a perfect position within sight of the line.

Sprinting from the front Démare was always going to be hard to beat, and the 26-year-old duly held off compatriot Christophe Laporte and Alexander Kristoff to take his second Tour de France win.

Results

Tour de France 2018, stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse and Pau, 171km

1. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 3-46-50
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
5. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
6. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
7. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
8. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac
10. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, all at same time

General classification after stage 18

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 74-21-01
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-59
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 2-31
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo,at 2-47
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 3-30
6. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 4-19
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4-34
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 5-13
9. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-33
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 9-31