Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) took an emphatic victory on stage 10 of the Tour de France, as Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) managed to extend his lead at the top of the general classification on the first mountain stage.
Both Alaphilippe and the yellow jersey of Van Avermaet were part of a large breakaway group that went clear early on the 158.5km stage in the Alps, with Alaphilippe looking incredibly strong from the very start while Team Sky took control of the peloton behind.
The break had a lead of six minutes going onto the penultimate climb of the Col de Romme, and while Van Avermaet rode conservatively to stay as far ahead of the GC group as possible, Alaphilippe was on the attack to cross the top of the climb in the lead and then attack Rein Taaramäe (Direct Energie) on the descent.
The Frenchman had a handsome lead going onto the Col de la Colombière, and only extended that up the climb and down the descent to take a handsome stage victory.
Meanwhile Van Avermaet rode hard all the way to the line to finish 1-44 behind Alaphilippe, but more importantly 1-39 ahead of the group of GC contenders to extend his lead at the top of the general classification to 2-22 going into the first summit finish of the race on Wednesday.
How it happened
After the rest day in Annecy, the opening kilometres of stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France saw a flurry of attacks with Direct Energie and Fortuneo-Samsic being particularly active.
Also on the attack was Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), who attacked twice on the slopes of the fourth category Côte de Bluffy but being unable to get away at first.
However Alaphilippe continued to put in little accelerations, taking the one point available at the top of the small climb, eventually being able to draw a large group of 21 riders clear including the yellow jersey of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and the green jersey of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
In the move alongside Alaphilippe, Van Avermaet, and Sagan were Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale), Elie Gesbert and Amaël Moinard (Cofidis), Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Jack Bauer and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Serge Pauwels and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data), David Gaudu, Rudy Molard, and Arthur Vichot (Groupama-FDJ), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lilian Calmejane and Rein Taaramäe (Direct Energie), and Guillaume Martin and Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
With Van Avermaet up the road it was up to Team Sky to set the pace on the front of the main bunch, but didn’t give the large breakaway group much of a lead on the first major climb of the day, the first category Col de la Croix Fry.
At couple of kilometres to go on the climb Calmejane jumped clear with Molard, with the latter taking the maximum points a few seconds ahead of another splinter group from the break that included the yellow jersey of Van Avermaet., while the peloton crossed the line four minutes behind.
Luke Rowe (Team Sky) continued to set the pace on the valley roads on the approach to the Montée du plateau des Glières, keeping the front group of Van Avermaet and co. locked at just over four minutes.
The first hors-categorie climb of the race saw an increase in the pace in the break to open the gap back to the peloton, which was still led by Rowe on the double-digit gradients. The increase in pace also caused a fragmentation of the break, with Van Avermaet, Molard, Gaudu, Pauwels, and Calmejane trying to go clear.
However a number of the rest of the break were able to come back, with Alaphilippe then attacking to take the points at the tip of the climb and lead onto the gravel roads that followed where he even opened up a lead of 15 seconds over the yellow jersey breakaway group.
Back in the peloton Team Sky continued to control things and eased off the pace in order to keep Rowe in contention at the front with the Welshman duly leading the peloton onto the gravel roads 6-30 behind Alaphilippe.
However Sky’s smooth day ended abruptly as Chris Froome punctured almost as soon as the tarmac ended, but was able to easily get back to the group as the descent begun.
As Froome and Bardet also stopped for comfort breaks on the descent from the Plateau des Glières the peloton looked increasingly disinterested in chasing down the break, which was able to extend its lead to more than eight minutes with 65km to go meaning that Van Avermaet was looking forward to another day in yellow.
The approach to the penultimate climb of the day saw the peloton pick up the pace, but the breakaway was working well and took a lead of six minutes onto the Col de Romme.
The early slopes of the first-category climb saw Calmejane launch the first attack to slim the break, while Team Sky and Astana led the peloton onto the climb.
Calmejane was soon caught by the break, before team-mate Rein Taaramäe went on the counter. Meanwhile Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) attacked out of the bunch and was briefly allowed a bit of leeway by the still rather relaxed GC group.
However while Taaramäe was able to open his gap to his erstwhile breakaway companions, Barguil wasn’t able to the same to the bunch, spending five minutes off the front before fading and dropping back to the peloton.
At one point Taaramäe’s lead was up to 35 seconds, but the Estonian was caught by Alaphilippe who moved straight to the front as he eyed the mountains points at the top of the climb which he duly took.
Alaphilippe briefly waited for Taaramäe over the top of the climb, but then pushed on down the descent to lead solo onto the Col de la Colombière about 30 seconds ahead of Taaramäe, 1-30 ahead of a small group including the yellow jersey of Van Avermaet, and 5-30 ahead of the main GC group.
Battling with his bike up the climb, Alaphilippe’s style wasn’t pretty but it was certainly effective as he continued to open his lead to the chasers to hold an advantage of 1-26 over Ion Izagirre, who had caught and passed Taaramäe, by the summit with just 14km to go.
Meanwhile Greg Van Avermaet continued to do sterling work protecting his yellow jersey, holding off the GC group which was two minutes behind the BMC Racing rider by the top of the climb.
However there was movement at the back of the GC group as Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) was dropped by the pace-setting of Michal Kwiatkowski and Wout Poels (Team Sky) while Froome and Thomas looked incredibly comfortable at the front.
With 500m to go to the top of the climb Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) attacked, a move that didn’t see the Irishman open much of a gap ahead of the descent, but did see Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) put into trouble while Alejandro Valverde clung on at the back of the group.
At the front of the race Julian Alaphilippe only extended his lead on the descent, holding a lead of nearly two minutes by the bottom, while Egan Bernal and Chris Froome himself applied the pressure on the front of the GC group.
The final two kilometres into Le Grand-Bornand were a victory procession for Alaphilippe with a lead of nearly 1.5km over Izagirre and Taaramäe, and the Quick-Step rider took his time to enjoy his win as he lifted his arms in celebration with a handsome victory.
1-34 behind, Izagirre out-sprinted Taaramäe for second, while Van Avermaet took fourth at 1-44 from Alaphilippe in a result that extended his lead at the top of the general classification.
Van Avermaet then waited for the arrival of the the GC favourites, who were led home by Dan Martin at 3-23, meaning that Van Avermaet’s lead extended to 2-22.
Tour de France 2018, stage 10: Annecy to Le-Grand-Bornand, 158.5km
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 4-25-27
2. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-34
3. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Direct Energie, at 1-40
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, at 1-44
5. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at same time
6. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, at 2-24
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-03
8. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, all at same time
General classification after stage 10
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, in 40-34-28
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 2-22
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 3-10
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 3-12
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 3-20
6. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 3-21
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at same time
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 3-27
10. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo,at 3-36