The Colombian climber won alone, out-climbing his breakaway companions. Alaphilippe cracked, but regained the GC group on the descent in dramatic fashion.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) quieted his critics with a dramatic stage victory, sneaking into the day’s big breakaway, fending off the efforts of his own team to pull him back, and outpacing everyone on the slopes of the Col du Galibier to win alone in Valloire.
“I knew this could be a big day for me,” Quintana said after his win. “I came to the stage with a strategy to try to win and move up to Landa on GC. It was very frustrating when I lost time early in the race. This victory is dedicated to my teammates, to my family and friends, and to my compatriots who always support me in the ups and downs. It is an illusion to win over the Galibier.”
Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) arrived second, 1:35 back, his consolation prize being the lead in the KOM competition.
In the battle for the GC, there was chaos on the road. With 3km to go to the Galibier summit for the GC group, Egan Bernal (Ineos) attacked and distanced the rest of the contenders. Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) led the chase for Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). With 1km to go to the summit, Geraint Thomas (Ineos) attacked. Alaphilippe, wearing yellow, started to crack. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) counterattacked and pulled back Thomas.
Bernal crossed the summit five and a half minutes back from Quintana, but almost 30 seconds ahead of his teammate and the others. Alaphilippe was almost another 30 seconds behind.
Less than halfway down the descent from the Galibier, Alaphilippe pulled back the other GC contenders and sliced his way to the front. He went straight onto the attack and gapped Thomas, Pinot, Kruijswijk, Landa, and the others. But it was short-lived.
“I took some risk, but in the end I was on my limit on the top of the Galibier,” Alaphilippe said. “But the gap was not too big so I just went full-gas on the descent. I just gave everything. I knew that it would be a really hard day. Everybody wants to attack and push me to my limit. And they did.
“But I’m really happy to save my yellow jersey for one more day.”
Bernal rolled in 4:46 down to Quintana. The main GC group crossed at 5:18.
When the dust settled, Bernal moved into second overall, 1:30 back of Alaphilippe. Quintana jumped to seventh overall, 3:54 down. Thomas dropped to third.
“Unfortunately we ran out of guys and it didn’t seem quite hard enough, so the call was made for Egan to jump,” Thomas said. “Hopefully that would kick it off — but it didn’t really. On a nice road, they were kind of just riding tempo again. That’s when I had a little dig to just see what would happen. They obviously followed me over the top but I think it was a good day for Egan gaining some time.”
“There are two big, big days now so obviously we knew it would be hard to do anything to drop Alaphilippe today, but it was a big day and there’s two more big days to come.”
How the stage unfolded
After some 40 kilometers, a group of 33 riders broke away from the peloton, with the most notable riders among them being Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), wearing the polka dot jersey, was also part of the breakaway, hoping to consolidate his lead in the KOM competition.
The full list of breakaway riders included: Dylan Van Baarle, Max Richeze, Romain Bardet, Mickael Chérel, Mathias Frank, Damiano Caruso, Matthieu Ladagnous, Nairo Quintana, Andrey Amador, Carlos Verona, Gorka Izagirre, Alexey Lutsenko, Amund Jansen, Mike Teunissen, Alberto Bettiol, Mike Woods, Adam Yates, Daryl Impey, Christopher Juul Jensen, Greg Van Avermaet, Simon Geschke, Serge Pauwels, Sergio Henao, Julien Bernard, Nikias Arndt, Lennard Kämna, Luc Périchon, Stéphane Rossetto, Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Tim Wellens, Paul Ourselin, Nils Politt, and Amaël Moinard.
Once the peloton settled down, the break’s lead quickly expanded to six minutes as it began to climb the Col de Vars. Deceuninck-Quick-Step took to the front of the peloton to control the pace, working for overall leader Alaphilippe.
Wellens had to fight against Bardet, but he was able to take the maximum 10 points the at the top of the Col de Vars. The peloton was 7:40 behind.
With 105km to race, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) crashed along with Nicholas Roche (Sunweb) in the peloton. He was up but visibly shaken and seemed to have hurt his right leg or hip. He remounted his bike and continued on.
On the descent, Nikias Arndt jumped out to a solo lead, but by the time the break reached the lower slopes of the Col d’Izoard, the group was back together again.
Next to make a move was Van Avermaet, who was soon joined by Bernard. Their lead quickly grew, and with 86km to race, their lead was 1:16. The peloton was 8:04 back. In the virtual standings, Quintana moved up to fourth overall.
Suddenly, and strangely, back in the peloton, members of the Movistar team started to ride strongly at the front of the group, splintering the field. With Quintana up the road, it was difficult to understand the rationale, though the discord within the Movistar team was apparently well known with sport directors at other teams.
Marc Soler and Mikel Landa (both Movistar) ticked away at the front of the field up the Col d’Izoard. The leading group of contenders was slashed to some 20 riders. Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) and one of Pinot’s main helpers, David Gaudu, were among those who were dropped.
Up front, it’s as if Quintana got news of what his team was doing behind, and he began to ride harder in the break, following the lead of Bardet and Yates. Eight total riders linked up and were all chasing Bernard, now solo off the front.
Just before the KOM line, however, Caruso and Bardet surged past the Frenchman to take first and second at the summit. The reduced peloton of GC contenders passed over the summit 5:10 back.
On the lower slopes of the Col du Lauteret, which led to the day’s final climb over the Galibier, Wellens attacked, seeking more KOM points. When the dust settled, he didn’t make the split, but a group of seven riders pulled away and built a 20-second lead over the second chase group. The peloton was still over five minutes back.
Out front, Van Avermaet did a lot of work to set up his teammate Pauwels. Behind, Amador pulled hard to bring Quintana back to the leading group. With 37km to race, Yates, Quintana, Bardet, and Caruso rejoined the lead group, making it 10.
Team Ineos took over control of the front of the peloton, gradually upping the tempo as slowly but surely one rider after the other was dropped.
In the leading group, Yates was dropped. Then Pauwels. Caruso charged hard with Quintana, Bardet, Lutsenko, and Woods. Then, with just over 26km to race, Quintana put into a big dig to ride away solo. Bardet led the chase from behind.
With 3km to go to the Galibier summit for the GC group, Bernal attacked and distanced the rest of the contenders. Enric Mas led the chase for Alaphilippe.
At the summit, Quintana held a 1:43 lead over Bardet.
With 1km to go to the summit, Thomas attacked. Alaphilippe started to crack. Pinot counterattacked and pulled back Thomas.
Bernal crossed the summit five and a half minutes back. Thomas and company were another 30 seconds back.