Analysis from the first of three Pyrenean mountain stages
Alaphilippe confirms himself as the French hero of the 2018 Tour
Unless Romain Bardet pulls something big out of the bag in the coming days, Julian Alaphilippe’s performance will be what is remembered best by French cycling fans about the 2018 Tour de France.
Already wearing the polka dot jersey and having earned plenty of TV time through constant attacks through previous stages, today’s second stage win put the cherry on top of the Quick-Step Floors rider’s brilliant Tour.
Grimacing at the TV camera as he ascended the final climb, almost showing off down the descent to the finish, and then celebrating through the final couple of kilometres, Alaphilippe clearly relishes the adoration of the crowds and has something of the Thomas Voeckler about him.
His day out in the break constantly getting the better of Warren Barguil should also make sure that he wins the mountain classification in Paris, but although he needs to do nothing more than mark Barguil over the coming days, you sense that won’t be enough for a rider whose attacking instincts are clear to see.
Heartbreak for Yates
After his general classification hopes melted away in the heat of the Alps, Adam Yates has been trying to rescue his race, attacking early on stage 15 to Carcassonne but missing the eventual split, and today making it into the break, going solo, and then crashing on the final descent.
The young Brit looked strong on the final climb on the Col du Portillon, and it only seemed like a matter of time until he launched an attack that no one would be able to follow.
Yates’s daredevil descending towards Bagnères-de-Luchon was only being matched by Alaphilippe, the man chasing him at 15 seconds, with the pressure of this chase perhaps being what made Yates push it a bit too hard and slide out on a corner.
The 25-year-old was quickly back up and sprinting into third place, but he will surely be left wondering whether this Tour is just never going to go his way.
The shadow of stage 17 causes GC stalemate
With the prospect of a 65km mountain stage coming on Wednesday, it seemed that all of the general classification contenders were content to just tick off today and save their legs for tomorrow.
Luke Rowe and Jonathan Castroviejo controlled things up the first two climbs of the day for Team Sky, before Wout Poels took over on the final ascent, only for Mikel Landa to try an opportunistic attack close the summit.
However the former Team Sky rider was far from fully committed to the attack, and was easily closed down on the descent by Michal Kwiatkowski, who then rode tempo to the finish alongside Egan Bernal with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas tucked safely in the wheels.
As soon as the yellow jersey group crossed the finish, every rider’s mind would have immediately turned to tomorrow’s stage, with the teams needing to make sure that their riders are fully recovered and well fuelled ahead of the start of what should be an explosive stage.
Peter Sagan wraps up points classification
The only sight we really got of Peter Sagan today was when the three-time world champion was given eye drops from the medical car to clean pepper spray out of his eyes (see below) but he still managed to mathematically secure the points classification.
Coming into the stage with a 282 point lead over Alexander Kristoff, Sagan only had to hope that Kristoff didn’t pick up any points at the day’s intermediate sprint to see his green jersey victory all but confirmed.
Of course some may think that some of the gloss has been taken off Sagan’s victory by the large number of sprinters abandoning this year’s race in the mountains.
But if you want to win the green jersey then you’ve got to finish the race, and that’s the only thing that Sagan has to do if he is to confirm his record-equalling sixth green jersey.
Race disrupted by protestors
The Tour de France is no stranger to protests, with various groups using the race’s television coverage to air their grievances over the years. However today saw a rare occasion that protestors actually managed to disrupt the race.
The incident occurred around 30km into the stage as police tried to tackle farmers who were trying to block the road using bales of straw.
In the end though it wasn’t the bales that caused the problem, with the race instead having to be stopped after a police officer’s pepper spray blew back into the eyes of some of the riders at the rear of the peloton.
Although it wasn’t in the way that the protesters had intended, the race had to be stopped for around 20 minutes as various riders cleaned out their eyes, but the incident should be a stark reminder of how vulnerable the riders are to the actions of those at the roadside.