Quintana wins stage 18 as Alaphilippe maintains Tour de France lead with phenomenal descent

GC leader Alaphilippe showcased incredible endurance over three Category 1 climbs.

Quintana secured stage 18 on Thursday afternoon.
Quintana secured stage 18 on Thursday afternoon.
Image: Thibault Camus

JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE KEPT the Tour de France lead on Thursday as Colombians dominated the Alpine slopes with Nairo Quintana storming to the stage victory and Egan Bernal climbing from fifth to second overall.

The 22-year-old Bernal, the youngest man in the race, launched an attack three kilometres from the summit of the 23-kilometre Col du Galibier.

He overtook Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas, the defending champion, in the standings to become Alaphilippe’s main challenger in the next two daunting Alpine stages.

For Quintana the stage win saved his Tour de France. The Movistar captain blew his lines in the Pyrenees, but gained almost six minutes on the main contenders to finish the first full day in the Alps sixth overall.

Alaphilippe seems unstoppable. After he was dropped on the climb, the Frenchman galvanised himself, limiting his losses before the crest, and then catching all his rivals, except Bernal, with a virtuoso descent, frequently adopting his ‘supertuck’ aerodynamic downhill crouch to stunning effect.

It was also a day of redemption, of sorts, for French climber Romain Bardet, who had dropped to over 25 minutes off the overall pace.

Even though he was dropped by Quintana in the battle for the stage win, Bardet claimed the polka dotted king of the mountains jersey and his smile, after spending two weeks looking like a broken man.

- © AFP, 2019

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