Thursday, July 20, 6:55 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. ET
Yes, you’ve read that right: the stage finishes atop the Col d’Izoard. In other words, this stage is a challenge and a gamble. It’s a technical challenge from both a logistical point of view and from the racer’s perspective. It’s a gamble because ASO believe that the top riders will view it as a decisive stage. To add even more drama to the day, double KOM points are on offer at the summit. Will the polka dot jersey be decided on this day? Will the yellow jersey be decided as well?
The ascent of the Izoard will be completely new for defending champion Chris Froome. Yet, as former Tour boss Jacques Goddet wrote of the giant pass: “It is the Izoard’s privilege to designate the champion.”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Two great champions are jointly honored by a monument in the place known as La Casse Déserte, on the southern side of the pass, two kilometers from the summit: Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet. Between 1949 and 1954, this pair completely dominated on the Izoard, the Italian leading the race alone over the summit on two occasions and the Frenchman on three. In doing so, the pair established a standard that became indispensable for those aiming to join the small group of riders described as fuoriclasse, champions of world class: the best riders must cross the summit of the Izoard at the front of the race alone.
In 2017, the ascent of the Izoard will be the final mountain test for the favorites. It’s a battle that promises to be worthy of the Tour’s greatest moments. There has never been a stage finish at the top of this mythical pass.
Stage 18: Barguil king of Izoard; Froome flawless
Wearing the polka-dot king of the mountains jersey, Warren Barguil won the Tour de France’s stage 18 summit finish atop the Col d’Izoard Thursday. Not far behind, Romain Bardet did his best to attack Chris Froome but could not shake the yellow jersey. Darwin Atapuma slotted into second behind Sunweb’s climber and ahead of Ag2r La Mondiale’s Bardet. Froome was fourth on the stage.
“It’s really fantastic. I can’t believe this win for me,” Barguil said after his second win of this Tour.
“I did not really believe in it, but there were many who believed in me and told me, ‘With the form you have on the Tour, you can make an impression,’ and yeah I impressed myself.”
Although Bardet couldn’t take significant time on Froome, he moved up to second overall, ahead of Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán. Bardet is 23 seconds behind Froome in the overall. Urán sits third, 29 seconds down.
Stage 18, top 10
1. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) in 4h40:33.
2. Darwin Atapuma (COL/EAU) à 0:20.
3. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:20.
4. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:20.
5. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:22.
6. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 0:32.
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 0:37.
8. Daniel Martin (EIR/QST) 0:39.
9. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 0:59.
10. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 1:09.
1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky) in 78h08:19.
2. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) at 0:23.
3. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:29.
4. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 1:36.
5. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 1:55.
6. Daniel Martin (EIR/QST) 2:56.
7. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 4:46.
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 6:52.
9. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) 8:22.
10. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 8:34.
Barguil went up the road with 6km to go on the Izoard, following Alberto Contador’s (Trek-Segafredo) attack. The Spaniard couldn’t keep up, and soon Barguil was alone, picking off riders from the early breakaway.
“I attacked. Contador was not that far away, so I wanted to try to move up in the overall,” Barguil said. His move worked. After stage 18, he was ninth overall, 12 seconds ahead of Contador.
The 25-year-old Frenchman caught the leader, UAE Team Emirates’s Atapuma, just before the final kilometer. Atapuma was part of the early breakaway. Earlier on the climb, the Colombian caught and dropped Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko who led into the base of the finish climb.
With one kilometer remaining, Barguil dropped Atapuma on the steep final pitch.
In addition to the glorious stage win, Barguil secured his polka-dot king of the mountains prize with no mountain stages remaining. “I’m just living in my dream,” he added.
In the group of GC favorites, Sky’s Mikel Landa kicked off the attacks. He went up the road after teammate Michael Kwiatkowski pulled off and came to a stop, empty from the effort.
Bardet attacked the group of eight that was chasing Landa. He was isolated in the group after his Ag2r team did the lion’s share of the work on the Col de Vars and the valley leading into the Izoard.
“I made my move shortly before the descent. I risked everything,” said Bardet. “I have nothing to regret.”
Only Froome and Urán could follow Bardet. After they caught Lotto-Soudal’s Tony Gallopin, Froome counterattacked into a slight downhill.
Urán dragged Barguil back up to the Brit and soon the trio caught Landa. On the steep final kilometer, Bardet attacked once more but could not shake Froome.
“Of course it would have been nice to take a little bit of time today. All and all I’m pretty happy,” said Froome. “I tried to give it a bit of dig behind, I thought I had a gap, but Rigoberto Urán brought it back.”
Friday’s stage 19 will favor the sprinters with a flat finish in Salon-de-Provence. However, it is the Tour’s longest stage at 222.5km. Then, the GC riders will have one more chance to challenge Chris Froome Saturday, a 22.5km individual time trial.
“It’s still close,” Froome added. “If everything goes well, I fancy my chances in the time trial against the other guys. Anything can happen. It’s still very close.”