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Tour de France: Simon Yates takes second stage win as Julian Alaphilippe cracks

Pinot powered to second place, Thomas faltered and then rallied, while Alaphilippe finally showed weakness, losing time but holding on to the yellow jersey.

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Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked from the breakaway to take an impressive solo victory on Sunday’s stage, and with it his second win of the race.

Like Saturday’s stage to the Tourmalet, the race exploded on the mountaintop finish above Foix, and there was more drama in the GC fight.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) came home second, showing the confidence and form he displayed in taking victory 24 hours before. Contrastingly, yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) finally showed weakness, losing contact under relentless pressure from Jumbo-Visma and Groupama-FDJ on the final climb of the day.

Ineos’ fortunes looked to have changed slightly as well. Although the reigning Tour de France champion wasn’t able to hold the first round of attacks from the GC group, Geraint Thomas managed his effort to gain time on Alaphilippe and limit his losses to Pinot.

The Welshman finished seventh, on the same time as Steven Kruikswijk (Jumbo-Visma), while his teammate Egan Bernal finished ahead of him to finish fifth on the stage, on the same time as Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Though Alaphilippe lost time, he retains the yellow jersey, and is now 1:35 ahead of Thomas, with Kruijswijk 12 seconds behind him. Pinot is a further 3 seconds back.

“It’s one more day in yellow, I’m happy,” he said. “It was my goal to keep the yellow. I’m really happy I still have it for the rest day and the next stage, but it will be a really hard last week. I just want to enjoy.”

Thomas and Kruijswijk finished together after a series of attacks shattered the GC group on the final climb. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 185km stage through the eastern Pyrenees didn’t have the high elevation of Saturday’s stage to the Tourmalet, though it was equally as tough, with one category 2 and three category 1 climbs,  including the super-steep Mur de Peguere immediately before the summit finish on Prat d’Albis.

The first 50km was full of attacks from large groups, none of which stuck. It took well over an hour for a break to stick, and eventually, two large breakaway groups went clear and merged after the first climb of the day. There were around 40 riders in the super-group, including Yates and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Ineos were the only major teams not to post a man in the break, and both teams put numbers on the front of the peloton, along with Jumbo-Visma.

The race started fracturing on the second climb of the day, with the breakaway splitting into two, and Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s sole mountain helper for Alaphilippe, Enric Mas, falling off the back of the peloton. With the break over five minutes ahead as they approached the climb’s summit, Deceuninck-Quick-Step were forced to start closing the gap, with heavy sprinter Elia Viviani doing a remarkable amount of work.

With Quintana starting the day at 7:19 on GC, his presence in the breakaway made him a threat to the virtual GC standings and the Belgian team were taking no chances.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s team of leadout men and rouleurs were forced into duty in the mountains, but Alaphilippe was left isolated when the action kicked off on the final climb. Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The 9.3km, 7.9 percent average Mur de Peguere, with the final 3km including several 18 percent ramps, was bound to be pivotal in the race. That proved to be the case, with both the breakaway and the now-diminished peloton exploding as they hit the steep slopes.

Simon Geschke (CCC Team) tried his chances with a solo attack from the break, and Yates bridged across to him toward the summit. Behind, Mikel Landa attacked from the GC group, and bridged to teammates Andrey Amador and Marc Soler, who had been in the day’s break.

Between the Landa trio and the lead pair of Yates and Geschke was a 10-man group that included Quintana, and Movistar clearly planned to have their two leaders make contact with each other.

Though Alaphilippe was isolated on the Peguere, Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, and Groupama-FDJ all had their leaders and several helpers in contention. Jumbo-Visma and then Groupama-FDJ led the chase at the front of the GC group to control the threat posed by Movistar.

As the race hit the bottom of the final climb to Prat d’Albis, the race was all over the road, with riders in ones and twos for kilometers.

With 9km to go of the 11km climb to the line, Yates darted away from Geschke, leaving the CCC man for dead. Behind, Landa made contact with the chase group, and rather than pairing up with Quintana, sailed past him, and continued pushing, setting off in solo pursuit of Yates and Geschke.

In a playback of yesterday, Jumbo-Visma set the initial pace in the GC group as they started the climb, before Groupama-FDJ took to the front. Kruijswijk, Thomas, Bernal, Alaphilippe, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora Hansgrohe), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and around 8 more were all there as the intensity increased.

Up the road, Landa continued to power away, coming past Geschke, though Yates showed no signs of slowing, one minute ahead.

On 6km to go, Pinot launched the first of multiple attacks. He initially dropped Kruijswijk, Fuglsang, and Thomas, while Alaphilippe, Bernal, and Buchmann stayed in contact. His second acceleration proved crucial, distancing Alaphilippe and Buchmann. Bernal doggedly hung on for another kilometer before being distanced by the relentless pace set by the Frenchman.

Behind Pinot, Thomas rode steady, aided by teammate Poels, with Kruijswijk, Porte, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sitting on the Ineos pair’s wheels. The group caught the suffering GC leader, and after moves from Kruijswijk and then Thomas, Alaphilippe popped out the back.

Pinot continued to set a fearsome pace to catch Landa with 1.5km to go, with just Yates ahead. There was no catching Yates however, and he crossed the line alone as the stormy skies opened. Pinot continued driving for every remaining meter of the race to take second place, with Landa on his wheel.

“It was an extremely hard day, really from the start to the finish,” said Yates. “I raced the way I like to, try to be aggressive, and I managed to pull it off. I’m really happy.”

Pinot and Landa took second and third place to gain time in the GC. Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Likewise, Thomas pushed all the way to the line, looking to grab whatever time he could on the GC standings, with Kruijswijk and Valverde following. The defending champion buried himself to the line, growing the gap to Alaphilippe, who finished in 11th on the stage, 1:16 behind Pinot and 0:27 behind Thomas and Kruijswijk.

Monday sees the peloton taking a rest before a sprint stage into Nimes on Tuesday as the race heads toward the super-difficult succession of stages in the Alps.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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