De Gendt’s heroic ride
The Belgian attacked and dropped his final breakaway companion Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team) on the day’s final categorised climb, but was put under pressure by Frenchmen Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) as they attacked from the peloton to try and gain time.
Such was their initial speed that it almost looked inevitable they’d catch the Lotto-Soudal leader in the final 10km, but the experienced De Gendt measured his effort perfectly over the remaining ups and downs of the stage to maintain a gap and eventually hold on for victory by six seconds.
It’s always a joy for cycling fans to see a rider who tries so hard and so regularly to get in the escapes hold on for the win, and it’s a delight to see De Gendt get a stage so early in the race.
Not only did De Gendt win the stage, but he also led over every categorised climb of the day to put him into second place in the king of the mountains competition with 37 points, six points behind team-mate Tim Wellens.
Alaphilippe back in yellow
It would have been crushing for Julian Alaphilippe to lose the yellow jersey on La Planche des Belles Filles by just six seconds, and it was widely expected that the Frenchman would try and take it back from Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) today before Bastille Day tomorrow.
And even though everyone knew that he’d attack, and where he’d attack, there was very little anyone could do stop him when he went with around 14km to go.
Only Thibaut Pinot was able to follow his compatriot, seizing the opportunity to try and take some more time on GC.
On the numerous and technical descents in the run in to the finish, Alaphilippe was the one taking the big risks in the corners as Pinot backed off – potentially thinking further ahead with the big mountains to come.
While the stage win was a potential prospect, it was only yellow in Alaphilippe’s mind, and he benefited from a lack of coordination and numbers in the main peloton which struggled to pull them back.
In the end he was able to take back the race lead for France’s national day tomorrow, and should be able to carry it into the race’s first rest day on Tuesday.
Geraint Thomas has a lucky escape
Defending champion Geraint Thomas has had his fair share of bad luck in past editions of the Tour, so he’s probably overdue some good luck.
Today was the second time he’s hit the deck after stage one’s tumble in the final 2km, but this one looked like it could have been a lot worse.
As Michael Woods (EF Education) went down on a right hand corner with just under 17km to go, five Ineos riders were caught up with Thomas falling along with Gianni Moscon.
The impact was clearly pretty severe as Moscon’s bike was shattered in two, but Thomas was seemingly uninjured and able to get back on his own bike with the help of Michał Kwiatkowski.
Wout Poels was then the last remaining rider to help the Welshman back to the bunch on the final categorised climb, with enough time for him to get back in, recover and stay towards the front to finish in the main bunch.
Thomas and Ineos will be thankful that he came away from another incident unscathed, while their co-leader Egan Bernal was uninvolved and able to stay safe within the peloton.
Nibali out of contention
No-one (not even the man himself) knew how Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) would go at the Tour de France following his efforts at the Giro d’Italia in May.
The Italian was extremely cagey ahead of the race about what his ambitions might be, even suggesting he could go for the polka dot jersey as well as stage wins.
Up until now, the 2014 winner has remained within touching distance of the overall fight. Stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles was the first sign that was not at his best as he lost almost a minute to Geraint Thomas, but with the mountains to come in week three, you still couldn’t have counted Nibali out.
Now it seems you probably can. Nibali was dropped on the final climb of the day, eventually making his way in alongside Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) at 4-25 down to the stage winner.
It means he now sits 6-18 down overall, over five minutes down on Thomas. Unless Nibali can pull out an exceptional performance, it seems his chances are probably over. It remains to be seen whether he’ll now refocus on stage wins, however he’ll potentially need to lose more time in the coming days if the favourites are to allow him to get in breakaways.
A very different day for Yoann Offredo
After unwittingly making his way into the two-man breakaway for most of yesterday’s flat 230km stage, Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) had a very different day today.
The Frenchman picked up the combativity award for his efforts yesterday, but woke up sick this morning and immediately began to struggle with the high pace on a very up and down day in east-central France.
At one point it looked touch and go whether he would even make it in for the time cut on the stage as he soldiered on at the back of the race.
Eventually he made it in alongside Lars Bak (Dimension Data) just ahead of the broom wagon at 29-44 down, enough to keep himself in the Tour de France.