Bardet unleashes daring descent off the Col du Glandon, grits out final 40 kilometers to win. Froome keeps yellow, calm and in control.

His climbing legs put him a position to win, but Romain Bardet’s bike-handling skills on the descents delivered him to victory in Tour de France stage 18. The 24-year-old Ag2r La Mondiale rider claimed his first career Tour stage win after attacking over the top of the Col du Glandon, driving up the Lacets de Montvernier and again descending with skillful sangfroid to victory in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Thursday.

“It was a crazy stage,” Bardet said. “We attacked right at the start. I had quite a lot of chances with [teammate] Christophe Riblon in the break with me. I knew I just had to get a gap, and everyone was really tired. I can’t believe it.”

Though the GC riders attacked each other on the Glandon, they all finished together, keeping the standings intact.

Top 10, stage 18

 

Top 10, GC

Twenty-nine riders made the early breakaway in the 186.5km stage from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Their lead remained steady early on but never much more than five minutes.

After the day’s only intermediate sprint, ahead of the hors-categorie Col du Glandon, Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) gave the break the slip, attacking alone in the Alpine valley. He had about 70km left to race at that point, and 11 riders chased 15 seconds behind, remnants of the break.

At the base of the Glandon, de Gendt was caught and dropped by the lead group, which had a 2:10 advantage on the peloton with 60km to go. The group included several notables, such as polka-dot jersey and double stage-winner Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Cannondale-Garmin’s Andrew Talansky, who was second place the day prior, and Bardet.

Behind, in the peloton, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) launched an attack and was joined by Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling).

Next, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) hit out from the peloton, riding alone, midway up the climb. He quickly bridged to Barguil’s group.

In the final five kilometers of climbing, Jacob Fuglsang (Astana), Bardet, and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked out of the break. Then, Fuglslang crashed out of the front group, after swinging out to his right and colliding with a race moto. Bardet carried on, joined only by Winner Anacona (Movistar). The duo went over the top of the Glandon with a little over two minutes’ advantage on the peloton.

Bardet got away at the top of the descent, gapping Anacona.

With a couple attacks from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), the group of GC favorites was quickly whittled down. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) followed the second move and then countered. Only three others could follow: Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo), Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome (Sky). Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was dropped, but not significantly off the back.

Valverde made good use of the twisting descent, catching back on to the yellow jersey group, which eventually absorbed Contador.

With 30km to go, Bardet was 20 seconds ahead of the first chase group, and 2:45 ahead of the peloton. Ten kilometers later, his lead had stretched to 35 seconds over the seven riders behind.

At the base of the category 2 Lacets de Montvernier climb, Jungels attacked the chasers. He was followed by Cyril Gautier and his Europcar teammate Rolland, as well as Anacona.

Bardet reached the top of the 17 switchbacks with a lead of about 42 seconds and 10 kilometers left. With masterful poise on the descent, he took a little more time out of the chase and rode alone to victory.

After the attacks on the Col du Glandon, the GC group stuck together in the finale, leaving the standings unchanged. The king of the mountains classification, however, tightened up on Thursday as Bardet pulled even with Rodríguez at 68 points apiece.

“It couldn’t have gone much better for us in terms of keeping myself and Geraint [Thomas] up there in the GC,” said Froome. “It never let up today. It was riding all day, and then the attacks started going toward the top of the Glandon. Everyone was on their limits there. I think tomorrow is going to be really critical.”

On Friday, the race resumes with a start in Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne and a 138km ride to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles. The race will take another trip over the Col du Glandon and offer a summit finish at La Toussuire, an 18-kilometer category 1 climb.

Stage 18 results

General classification

Best young rider

Points classification

Mountains classification

Teams classification