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There are few riders who’ve impressed as much at this year’s Tour as Julian Alaphilippe. The young French rider has been one of the race’s great aggressors, daringly claiming the KOM jersey on stage 10 and holding it with panache ever since. His exploits on stage 16 only serve to underline what has already been a stellar performance.
The beginning of stage 16 was fast-paced, protest-interrupted, and fiercely fought. Whilst it took 100km and a flurry of attacks for a break to stick, a third of the peloton was eventually off the front – a group of 48 containing plenty of big hitters, including Phillip Gilbert, Julian Alaphilippe, Greg Van Avermaet, Warren Barguil and Adam Yates.
As the race entered the mountains proper, Gilbert struck out alone, while behind him, his teammate Alaphilippe outsprinted Barguil for the KOM points at the top of the Col de Portet d’Aspet. Gilbert’s was a strong but ill-fated move – in a frightening crash on the descent, he locked up going into a corner, tumbling into a ravine. Whilst he was able to get back on the bike and ultimately battled to the finish, he withdrew from the Tour at stage’s end with a broken patella. Having passed his stricken teammate on the descent Alaphilippe dropped back to conserve energy in the break, and extended his lead in the polka dot jersey up the road on the Col de Mente.
A reduced breakaway hit the Col du Portillon, with Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) nipping off the front tailed by a select chasing group including Robert Gesink (Lotto NL-Jumbo), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Alaphilippe. Yates crested the col with a 20 second advantage over a fast-closing Alaphilippe, but with 6.7km remaining, hit the deck after his front wheel slid out on a corner. Alaphilippe passed for a second stunning stage win of this year’s race, and with an almost unassailable lead in the KOM classification to boot.
Stage 17 is arguably the most hotly anticipated of the entire race – a short but ferocious 65km over three major climbs – but until then, sit back and enjoy this gallery from a memorable first day in the Pyrenees, with photography from Jered & Ashley Gruber, Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos.