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by Shane Stokes
July 25, 2018
Photography by Cor Vos
Having already taken a mountain stage in this year’s Tour de France and also holding the polka dot jersey for much of the race, Julian Alaphilippe continued his success on stage 16 of the race. The French QuickStep Floors rider was second over the summit of the day’s final climb, the Col du Portillon, swept past Adam Yates when the Mitchelton-Scott rider slid out on the descent, and then hit the line first in Bagnères de Luchon.
He finished 15 seconds ahead of chasers Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Yates and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), while Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) completed the top six.
“Today it was a really crazy day,” said Alaphilippe. “A lot of pain in my legs, and I think [the same] for everybody. I can’t believe I won for the second time. I knew the final, especially the last climb and the downhill.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but I just paced myself pretty well. I didn’t go too much into the red on the way up. I knew it was a difficult descent and that either myself or Adam Yates would win it, and that the other might fall. I was just really happy to get to the end and take the stage win.”
His showing on the stage bolstered his lead in the King of the Mountains competition: he is determined to wear that to Paris. “I am going to fight really hard to keep the jersey. I am trying to enjoy every day.”
Izagirre was accepting of the runner-up slot, although he really wanted to win. “It is another occasion when I finished in second place, but that is how cycling works,” he said. “I tried my best. I congratulate Julian Alaphilippe as he was super today. That’s how the Tour works. I tried to do what I could, but in the end that wasn’t good enough as Julian was too strong.”
The day’s break went clear after 100 kilometres and established a huge lead over the peloton. Earlier, the racing had been disrupted when police sprayed protesting farmers with pepper spray and managed to also affect the riders, including race leader Geraint Thomas, his Team Sky teammate Chris Froome and green jersey Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe).
Perhaps because of this, the bunch had a somewhat controlled day, with the riders from the break being able to stay clear until the finish and the GC leaders not opening any gaps over each other.
Instead, they rolled into the finish together, eight minutes and 52 seconds behind the stage winner. The top 12 remained the same as before, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) staying one minute 39 seconds ahead of teammate Chris Froome and one minute 50 ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) is at two minutes 28 seconds in fourth, while Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) stay fifth and sixth. A day which offered many opportunities ended up in stalemate, raising the stakes for Wednesday’s ultra-short 65 kilometre mountain stage to Saint Lary-Soulan.
Stage 16 of the Tour de France was a very testing one, with five categorised climbs enlivening the 218 kilometre route between Carcassonne and Bagnères de Luchon. The difficulty became more intense towards the end of the 218 kilometre stage; the early climbs were the category four Côte de Fanjeaux (km 25) and the Côte de Pamiers (km 72), with things then getting decidedly tougher in the second half of the day. Following an intermediate sprint at Saint Girons (km 124), the roads pitched upwards for the Col de Portet d’Aspet (km 155.5), the Col de Menté (km 171) and, after a descent, the Col du Portillon (km 208).
The first attacker of the day was the eternally-aggressive Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal). That move didn’t work, but it acted as the touchpaper for a series of other forays. Then, after 13 kilometres, Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) accelerated in search of King of the Mountains points. Other riders joined him but that too was brought back. Barguil did accelerate again, racing away to nab the single point at the top of the Côte de Fanjeaux (km 25).
The jumping around continued after the summit, but the race organisers were forced to call a halt to things when a roadside protest led to riders inadvertently being pepper-sprayed by police. This necessitated medical attention for those affected, including Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Tayler Phinney (EF Education First) and others.
The botched attempt at protest control also affected the police themselves, likely endearing the sprayer to his or her colleagues.
The race was restarted after approximately 20 minutes. Very soon afterwards, 40 kilometres after the start, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida) and Stefan Kung (BMC Racing Team) got clear. However this move was also unsuccessful.
A more promising break went after approximately 57 kilometres. King of the Mountains Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep Floors), his big rival Barguil, Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) joined forces to open a gap, and were soon joined by Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Michael Valgren (Astana) and Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ). They had a gap of 20 seconds after 70 kilometres of racing. Alaphilippe beat Barguil at the top of the climb, cancelling out the point his rival had got at the earlier prime.
However, despite their efforts, the bunch got back up to them. Finally, after 100 kilometres of racing, 27 riders got away and built a lead of a minute and a half. Those present were Barguil and Alaphilippe, Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Silvan Dillier, Matthias Fränk and Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale), Simon Geschke, Soren Kragh and Edward Theuns (Team Sunweb), Maxime Bouet, Romain Hardy, Amäel Moinard and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izagirre, Ion Izagirre and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Adam Yates and Matthew Hayman (Mitchelton-Scott), Andrey Amador, Daniele Bennati and Marc Soler (Movistar Team), Damiano Caruso, Greg van Avermaet and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Marcus Burghardt and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Magnus Cort and Michael Valgren (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Julien Vermote (Team Dimension Data), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Bauke Mollema, Julien Bernand, Koek de Kort and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Christophe Laporte, Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Marco Minaard and Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
Of those, Van Avermaet was the highest placed overall, sitting 15th at 18’22”. The group built a five minute lead with 100 kilometres to go.
Laporte won the intermediate sprint at Saint Girons, beating Boasson Hagen and Van Avermaet. Peter Sagan was absent from the move but so too was his green jersey rival Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates). That made things mathematically impossible for the Norwegian to win the competition; Sagan simply needs to finish the race in Paris and he will take a record-equalling sixth green jersey.
Gilbert was hunting a stage win and attacked on the Col de Portet d’Aspet. He was 55 seconds clear at the summit, while behind Alaphilippe beat Barguil for second. Gilbert continued down the descent, trying to maintain his lead, but dramatically flipped over a wall and down a drop on the other side. The crash looked potentially lethal, but fortunately Gilbert was able to clamber out and then continue in the race.
The time lost meant that others were ahead of him, with the new leaders being Amador, Caruso, Van Garderen, Durasek, Slagter, Gesink and Bernard. Then, from this group, Barguil, Gesink and Caruso got away on the Col de Menté, but Barguil then cracked and went back to the chasers.
Alaphilippe jumped up to the leaders and then got past them for the prime points, further strengthening his grip on the mountains jersey. Barguil missed out on the points, putting Alaphilippe 33 ahead overall.
Alaphilippe and Muhlberger got clear on the descent but were caught by 11 others with 36 kilometres left. Others also bridged, including Barguil, making it 17 leaders. They were those three, plus Fränk, Latour, Gesink, Caruso, Izagirre, Pozzovivo, Yates, Amador, Soler, Valgren, Molard, Vanendert, Mollema and Martin.
Those riders led the race across the border into Spain and headed onto the Col du Portillon. Behind, Movistar was chasing to safeguard its lead in the team contest, and helped hew the gap down to 10 minutes 20 seconds with 20 kilometres to go.
Barguil, so dominant in the mountains in last year’s Tour, was the first of the leaders to be dropped on the climb. Then, with just over 17 kilometres to go, Valgren and Molard attacked. They were joined by Gesink and Pozzovivo, who pushed ahead.
Gesink was doing all the work and let Pozzovivo under the 15 kilometre to go banner. They were soon joined by Mollema, finally coming into better form at this point in the race. Soler, Izagirre and Yates then joined, with Alaphilippe getting across soon afterwards.
Yates surged with 13 kilometres left and got a solid gap. He went over the top alone while Alaphilippe attacked from the chasers and was riding second on the road. However he moved into the lead when Yates crashed on the descent, and raced on to take his second stage win of the year’s Tour. Izagirre was second, Yates third, and Mollema and Pozzovivo fourth and fifth.
Meanwhile back in the peloton, Jakob Fuglsang and Jesper Hansen (Astana) had tried to get clear but were chased down. There were no major splits over the summit, and on the descent Mikel Landa (Movistar) tried to get away. He was brought back and Team Sky led the peloton in towards the finish. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) sat on yellow jersey Geraint Thomas’ wheel, while Chris Froome crossed the line just ahead of them, preserving the gaps for the top three overall.