Vos triumphs at La Course
For the second consecutive year, we were treated to a captivating chase and thrilling late catch at the finish to determine the champion of La Course.
Whereas last year it was Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) catching Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) with literally metres to spare, this rime fellow Dutchwoman Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) stormed past gutsy attacker Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in a steep finish in Pau.
Mitchelton-Scott had appeared to play a blinder. Van Vleuten formed a selection, from which Spratt later attacked from, allowing the defending champion – on formidable form following her overall triumph at the Giro Rosa – to sit in the wheels while the others chased.
However, when Spratt was at last caught – agonisingly close to the finish on the penultimate corner, having survived for an unlikely amount of time – it wasn’t a fresh Van Vleuten who stormed past her, but rather Marianne Vos (CCC).
It was arguably the biggest sign yet that the legendary Vos is back to her best, and a first victory at La Course for the 32-year old since the race’s inaugural edition back in 2014.
It left us hungry for more, but unfortunately La Course is only a one-day event this year.
Spectacular Julian Alaphilippe extends his overall lead
Is there anything Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) can’t do?
Having won a stage on his favourite kind of hilly parcours to gain the yellow jersey and matched the top climbers on the race’s first summit, the Frenchman has now won a time trial. The talk before the stage was whether he could defend his 1-12 lead over Thomas and stay in the yellow jersey – few predicted he would actually extend his lead at the top.
Suffice to say, French fans are getting very excited. They haven’t enjoyed one of their own riding like this at a Tour since the days of Bernard Hinault, and the prospect of a first French overall win since The Badger’s fifth and final triumph in 1985 is looking more and more plausible with each passing day.
So, is there anything Julian Alaphilippe can’t do? As stunning as his performances at this year’s Tour have been up to now, there are still huge challenges to come. First there’s the high altitude test of tomorrow’s finish atop the mighty Col du Tourmalet, then another Pyrenean mountain stage the very next day. And after that there’s the whole matter of the third week, which has been the waterloo of many a Grand Tour pretender in the past.
Still, whatever happens from now Alaphilippe has enhanced his status as an international star.
Geraint Thomas second on the stage, second overall
Despite losing out to Julian Alaphilippe, Geraint Thomas (Ineos) should be satisfied with how today’s time trial played out.
He put substantial time into all of his other GC rivals, and looks in a very healthy position on GC, with only one other rider, Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk, less than one minute adrift.
Any lingering doubts about whether he is still sharing leadership duties with Egan Bernal were also put to bed, with the Colombian posting a time 1-22 slower.
The problem now will be what to do about Julian Alaphilippe. Ineos are used to having the yellow jersey at this point in the race, and adopting the strategy of strangling the race by setting a tempo on the mountains too quick to allow any attacks to succeed. But if Alaphilippe continues to defy the odds and stay with their pace in the mountains, Thomas may have to think of something more innovative.
The team won’t be panicking yet, and will be confident of gaining the 1-26 needed to dislodge Alaphilippe. But this could turn out to be a fascinating Tour is the Frenchman can survive the Pyrenees still in the yellow jersey.
Crosswind victims bounce back
Among the best performers on today’s stage were the GC contenders who lost time in the crosswinds on stage ten.
Behind Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) in third – who produced an extraordinary ride considering the effort he put into a solo breakaway stage victory one week ago – were Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-First), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) in fifth and, surprisingly, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) in seventh.
These performances indicate that all three are on flying form, and would have been serious contenders for the yellow jersey were it not for that unfortunate time loss on the road to Albi.
Instead, they still look someway adrift on GC, with Pinot in seventh at 3-22, Uran one place behind at 3-54, and Porte yet further adrift in fifteenth at 4-44.
This leaves them behind the likes of Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep) as well as Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who all produced similarly impressive time trials to remain within two minutes of Thomas in third, fourth and sixth respectively.
Neither of this trio were especially well-fancied at the start of the race, but they enter tomorrow’s crucial Tourmalet stage still able to harbour dreams of overall success.
The day’s big losers
As with any time trial, stage 13 saw its fair share of victims who lost huge heaps of time on the GC.
Among those worse affected was Britain’s Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who slips from seventh to tenth overall after a disappointing performance against the clock, and now faces the herculean task of overturning a 3-55 deficit on GC if he’s to win yellow.
In a similar situation is Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who is just one place higher and on the same time as Yates in the overall classification, after a typically underwhelming ride against the clock.
It was Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who suffered the biggest loss, however. The former podium finisher posted a time that was 2-26 slower than the winning ride, leaving him way down in seventeenth on GC at 5-46, and a forgotten man as French fans cheer on their new great hope, Alaphilippe.
The worst day was reserved for Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), one of the pre-stage races who looked set for a superb time before horribly crashing on a late corner. In distressing scenes he was seen sitting by the roadside for some time, before being taken by an ambulance to a hospital. Early news is at least encouraging, as he appears not to have sustained any broken bones.