Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) won stage 18 on Hautacam to take his first victory at the Tour de France while wearing the yellow jersey.
Vingegaard soloed ahead from his teammate Wout Van Aert and rival Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to win the stage by over a minute ahead of second overall Pogačar.
An early breakaway of riders eventually crumbled on the high mountains of the Pyrenees. Only Van Aert, Dani Martinez and Thibaut Pinot survived when the race crested the Col de Spandelles and led the race on the descent.
The fast and technical descent from the mountains was expected to raise the riders' stress levels. Pogačar and Vingegaard repeatedly attacked each other and drama followed. The gravel on the mountain road caused Pogačar’s front wheel to slip, bringing him crashing to the ground. In a brilliant display of respect, Vingegaard waited for him, enabling him to catch back up.
The drop in pace enabled multiple riders to rejoin Pogačar and Vingegaard as they began the climb to Hautacam. Van Aert, Martinez and Pinot remained in front. With nine kilometres left, Van Aert put in an attack distancing Pinot but Martinez was able to answer. Eventually Van Aert dropped back due to the group containing Vingegaard tearing up the road behind him. They then dropped Pogačar and Martinez due to the pace being set by the Belgian.
Vingegaard pushed on in search of a stage win in the yellow jersey as the crowds parted ahead of him. Pogačar was hot in pursuit but it would prove to be too late for the Slovenian. As he crossed the line, Vingegaard blew a kiss to the crowds to cap a superb second stage victory for the Danish rider.
Pogačar finished in second place but lost more time to Vingegaard ahead of the final three stages. Van Aert finished third to cap a superb team performance for Jumbo-Visma.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a dramatic sprint to the line at Peyragudes yesterday, Tadej Pogačar won stage 17 to add to the two stage wins he took earlier on in this year's Tour de France. Prior to stage 17 beginning, the Slovenian was still in second place in the overall standings.
Before the 143 kilometre stage 18 to Hautacam began, Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) tested positive for Covid-19 and was pulled from the race. Finishing atop the Hor Categorie, Hautacam, stage 18 would also see the riders tackle the Col d’Aubisque and the Col de Spandelles.
Once the flag dropped, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) attacked. Van Aert’s teammates Laporte and Benoot were also in action as Jumbo-Visma looked to pressurise UAE Team Emirates. Mikkel Bjerg was visibly struggling at the back of the group. Van Aert and the other riders that joined him were brought back together, but Jumbo-Visma continued to drive the pace. Multiple attacks kept coming.
With more than 40 kilometres of racing complete, there was drama as Jack Bauer (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM) were brought crashing to the floor after a motorbike and the UAE Team Emirates car suddenly braked in the road.
Before the climb of the Col d’Aubisque began, Van Aert won the intermediate sprint at Laruns to take another 20 points in the green jersey competition. The high intensity meant that it was difficult for a breakaway to form.
Once the climbing had begun, a solid 20 group of riders managed to get away. The 16.4km long climb at 7.1% average gradient enabled Van Aert, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) and Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) amongst others, to consolidate a lead of 3-19 over the yellow jersey group.
At 62 kilometres to go, the breakaway and yellow jersey group summited the Col d’Aubisque and were into the descent. Louis Mentjes (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert) and Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) were sandwiched between the two. Halfway down the descent of the Aubisque, the riders began climbing the short Col du Soulor pass before continuing towards the category one Col de Spandelles. Trek-Segafredo had Mollema in the breakaway along with Ciccone and were pushing the group on.
As the race ticked past 47 kilometres, Arkea-Samsic were flying down the descent of the Col du Soulor. Pogačar was straight into their slipstream looking to take advantage of the increase in speed to hurt Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). However, as he had done since the Alps, Vingegaard policed the move ensuring they wouldn’t be allowed to form a dangerous gap. What was left of the breakaway had begun to climb the Col de Spandelles and the yellow jersey group was 3-57 behind them.
As the yellow jersey group began climbing the Spandelles, Brandon McNulty would be back on the front of the group driving the tempo for Pogačar. McNulty would slowly begin to chip away at the breakaways advantage. Meanwhile, Van Aert would continue to push on at the front of the race. 39 kilometres remained and Pogačar launched a stinging attack forcing Vingegaard to follow. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) was able to go with them. The gradients would begin to do the damage as Lutsenko dropped away from the leaders with Meintjes hot in pursuit. After a brief respite, Pogačar would go once again but was unable to shake Vingegaard on the mountain road.
Whilst the top two were watching each other, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) then launched an attack hoping to take advantage of the chaos. Pogačar would then launch his most powerful move yet, bringing Vingegaard with him as they swept up some of the remnants of the breakaway and flew past Thomas.
Van Aert would lead Martinez and Pinot over the top of the Spandelles as they began the technical descent. Just behind them, Pogačar sprinted to the summit to get a head start over the yellow jersey as they came off the climb. The winding, technical descent was expected to do some damage, and as Pogačar hammered down the mountain his front wheel slipped in the gravel causing him to crash. Vingegaard sportingly waited for the Slovenian.
16 kilometres to go and the trio of leaders were nearing the foot of the Hautacam climb. Pogačar and Vinegaard had been caught by the group containing Thomas, Kuss and other riders from the early breakaway and it was only a matter of time before Pogačar would attack again. With 8 kilometres left of climbing, Van Aert would put in an attack that distanced Pinot, although Martinez was able to answer. Van Aert would eventually drop back in order to pace Vingegaard through the final kilometres just behind him.
As Van Aert increased the pace, Pogačar and Martinez would be dropped before Vingegaard would then push on ahead in search of a second stage win of the race. Pogačar was second on the road but struggling to limit the final damage being inflicted by the Dane.
Vingegaard blew a kiss to the crowds as he punched the air to celebrate a second stage win at the Tour de France. Pogačar finished in second place on the day, losing more time to the Danish rider and Van Aert took third place.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022, STAGE 18 RESULTS
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 3-59-50
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-04
3. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-10
4. Geraint Thomas (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-54
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-58
6. Aleksey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan, at 3-09
7. Daniel Martinez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
8. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 3-27
9. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 4-04
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4-09
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 18
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 71-53-34
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-26
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8-00
4. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 11-05
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic, at 13-35
6. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux, at 13-43
7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 14-10
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 16-11
9. Aleksey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan, at 20-09
10. Adam Yates (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at 20-17
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