Romain Bardet (Ag2r) showed another display of daredevil descending after attacking from the day’s escape group over the Col du Glandon and taking a memorable Tour de France stage victory on Thursday.
The Frenchman put in a strong effort over the final 35 kilometres of the mountainous stage 18, which featured the hairpin-strewn climb of Lacets de Montvernier for the first time in the Tour’s history.
Despite a concerted chase, fellow Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) could not catch Bardet and had to settle for second, with Colombian Winner Anacona (Movistar) in third.
The fight for among the overall contenders largely fizzled out towards the end of the stage as, once again, Chris Froome and Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas marked attacks from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
No time was lost or gained by any of the top overall contenders, with Froome safely retaining his three minute and 10 second margin over Colombian Quintana. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is third at four minutes and nine seconds. Bardet moved up to 10th overall for the day’s efforts, whilst Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) leads the mountains classification after vacuuming up points from the day’s escape group.
The Alpine mountains continue on Friday with stage 19, a punishing stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire. The opportunity for Froome’s rivals to attack the yellow jersey are now running out as the race nears its conclusion in Paris on Sunday.