Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) ends the Tour de France's final mountain day with "no regrets" after having tried to break Chris Froome's grip on the yellow jersey with two Col d’Izoard attacks on stage 18.
The 26-year-old Frenchman had his Ag2r La Mondiale team-mates controlled the day for his eventual sorties on Sky's Tour reign, but Bardet was unable to shake Froome.
"We raced to win today," Barguil said at the never before used summit finish at 2,360 metres.
"I tried to make a gap to Froome, but I didn't succeed when trying it. I have no regrets because I gave everything.
"I gave everything, so much I thought I couldn't breathe after the finish line."
Bardet still sits second overall, trailing Froome by 23 seconds with three stages to race to Paris but his hopes and France's dream of its first win since Bernard Hinault collapsed on the summit of the famous Col d'Izoard. At best it seems he can only hope for a second place like he achieved in 2016.
"Everybody dreamed about a big move, but I am living in reality. There were many Sky riders around Froome and a bit of headwind on the Izoard. I knew that I had to make one sharp attack, not like yesterday," Bardet said.
He moved at three kilometres remaining and then again in the final kilometre. Froome and Urán responded immediately. Another Frenchman, Warren Barguil (Sunweb) rode clear to the stage win from an earlier move.
"I played tactics," he added. "I acted as though I was not feeling well when Froome was around and then I did my attack before the descent [near the top of the Izoard]."
Bardet trails Froome by 23 seconds, which will be too much to overcome in the 22.5-kilometre Marseille time trial on Saturday given past performances.
His real race could be to hold off Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), who sits at 29 seconds or just six seconds behind Bardet.
"Nothing is done, there is still the time trial, but I like the time trials at the end of the Tour," Bardet said. "I feel motivated."
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