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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 16, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

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Tour de France stage 18 reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

We'll start with stage winner and GC leader Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

Tadej Pogačar made Tour de France history on his way to winning stage 18 from Pau to Luz Ardinen, becoming the first rider even to win back to back summit finishes in the yellow jersey.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar wins at Luz Ardiden. ASO photo

After the success of yesterday on the Col du Portet, the leader of UAE Team Emirates also triumphed in Luz Ardiden having also climbing the Col du Tourmalet which came close to the halfway point.

The big names in the race came to fore on the final climb, 13.4 km at 7.5% average gradient where a sustained pace from Rafal Majka narrowed down the group. Pogačar made a move at -3.1 km, taking only Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) and Enric Mas (Movistar) with him. The quintet arrived in the last kilometre together before Pogačar made his move on the last ramp to arrive with a handful of seconds over his rivals.

The Slovenian consolidates his yellow jersey (5’45’’ up on Jonas Vingegaard, 2nd) and the white jersey of best youngster (Vingegaard at 5’45”), as well as jumping to the top of the mountain classification (107 points , Wout Poels is second with 29 points behind).

Pogačar: “The stage was very tough, already on the Tourmalet the pace was high. I concentrated and was waiting for the last climb, where I gave my all. I’m speechless. After what happened yesterday I’m so happy to have done it again.
As for Saturday’s time trial, I can say that time trials are a discipline in which I have always done quite well in, but it is also true that I can have a bad day, but I still have a good advantage in the standings, I am confident”.

Stage 19 features an undulating profile and will start from Mourenx and end in Libourne (207 km).

Here's the report from second-place Jonas Vingegaard's Team Jumbo-Visma:

After the last mountain stage of the Tour de France, Jonas Vingegaard has the podium in Paris within reach. On Luz Ardiden, the occasional leader of Team Jumbo-Visma finished second behind Tadej Pogacar, just like yesterday. By finishing second, the Dane has extended his lead with a few seconds on Richard Carapaz.

Jonas Vingegaard

Jonas Vingegaard (in white jersey) and Richard Carapaz finish stage seventeen. Sirotti photo

In the short Pyrenean stage, which also included the Col du Tourmalet, an early breakaway was kept under control. Vingegaard was well surrounded by his three remaining teammates Sepp Kuss, Mike Teunissen and Wout van Aert. The battle for the day’s victory and the general classification erupted on the final climb. In the end the top three remained in the front. Vingegaard held on well, but had no answer to Pogacar’s splitting attack in the last few hundred metres.

Vingegaard was delighted that he managed to stay with the best. “I didn’t have my best day today. It was very hard and a mental battle. So you can imagine that I am very happy with my performance. The fact that I am second in the Tour de France after the last mountain stage is great. I started the Tour in service of Primoz, but I had not dared to dream this. I also have to thank the team. Sepp, Wout and Mike were amazing.”

“It is looking good now for the podium in Paris”, Vingegaard continued. “But we have seen before in this Tour that it can also go differently. So tomorrow we have to survive another stage and then go full steam ahead in the time trial.”

Wout van Aert was still with the favourites until five kilometres from the line. “Maybe I could have hung on a bit longer, but hanging on for the sake of hanging on doesn’t work either. I was able to do my job for Jonas and I think we did a great job as a team, despite all the setbacks. It’s a pity we didn’t win the stage with Jonas, but it’s beautiful what he’s showing here as a young rider. If you can finish like this without coming to the Tour as a leader, then there is definitely more in it for the future.”

“We still have a fight for second and third place”, sports director Grischa Niermann said. “The difference is barely a few seconds. But we have taken a step in the right direction. With this form, we are confident that Jonas can ride a good time trial and keep his position.”

Here's the report from third-place Richard Carapaz's INEOS Grenadiers team:

Richard Carapaz further solidified his podium position at the Tour de France with a strong third place on stage 18.

The Ecuadorian once again found himself in a summit finish shootout with his nearest GC rivals, crossing the line behind stage victor Tadej Pogacar and second-placed Jonas Vingegaard atop Luz Ardiden.

Richard Carapaz

Richard Carapaz leads Tadej Pogacar in the final meters of stage 17. Sirotti photo

The result saw Carapaz firm up his third place, now 2:27 ahead of fourth placed Ben O’Connor. The Grenadier still sits just six seconds back on Vingegaard, with the pair locked together on the two Pyrenean summit finishes.

With a sprint stage expected on Friday, the final GC battle looks set to be Saturday’s time trial to decide the finishing order in Paris.

The Grenadiers backed their leader on the final day in the mountains, with Dylan van Baarle putting in a massive turn to take the team over the famous Col du Tourmalet. The Dutchman still wasn’t done as he took up the early running on Luz Ardiden. Michal Kwiatkowski took over, before Tao Geoghegan Hart dug deep to pace the peloton further up the climb.

When UAE Emirates hit the front, Jonathan Castroviejo was there to help position Carapaz, before the contenders went toe to toe one final time in the mountains. Pogacar made his accelerations with 3.3km to go, splitting the race apart on route to a third stage victory.

Richard Carapaz:
"I’m very happy after the incredible effort from the team. Our goal was to try to win the stage and we tried until the end. We knew that our rivals were stronger and we are pretty happy with the result we achieved. There was nothing to lose for us.

"There are two days left and anything can happen but I think the podium is almost decided. It has been a hard stage. We rode really fast, and the result was good because we were in the fight for the stage win."

Here's the report from Wilco Kelderman's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Paris was getting closer every day, but the view of the French capital and the Tour de France’s grand finale was obscured on stage 18 by some formidable mountains.

The first two climbs on the 129.7km parcours – one of the shortest road stages of the race – were easy by Tour de France standards, but from the day’s halfway point it would become painful.  First came the legendary Col du Tourmalet before climbing the Luz Ardiden for the summit finish.

The attacks started as soon as the stage did, with multiple attacks and counter-attacks stretching out the peloton and with several groups spreading out on the road, but after 30km these groups started to join up, leaving a group of five out ahead with a slim lead of 1:30. The steep slopes of the Col du Tourmalet with its average gradient of 7.3% saw the breakaway start to splinter and the time gap begin to fall, with just over a minute separating the peloton and the leaders. The main bunch made the most of their descent of the Tourmalet to draw the escape closer, sweeping up the second group on the road, leaving just one rider in front.

By this point, the select GC group had shrunk dramatically, but Wilco Kelderman had made it across the day’s climbs well, supported by Patrick Konrad in the early stages before dropping back 2km into the Luz Ardiden. Emanuel Buchmann then took over from the Austrian rider, protecting and pacing the BORA-hansgrohe team leader.

While the yellow jersey attacked with 3km to go, Wilco knew he wasn't able to respond to the sudden attacks, but with his teammate’s support until the final 2km, Wilco kept the leaders in sight and crossed the line in ninth position. The Dutchman’s consistent performances in the incredibly tough mountain stages brought him into the GC top five, rising to fifth as the race entered its final few days.

Lutsenko and Kelderman

Alexey Lutsenko leads Wilco Kelderman in stage 11. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It wasn't a great day for me, I was still feeling a bit sore after yesterday's crash. There was a big battle until the finish, it was the last mountain stage, so it was an all-out fight. Emu and Patrick were also pretty good today, they helped me and it was good to have Emu in the finale. He brought me to the final 2km, which was perfect. I'll give my absolute best in the fight for GC positioning. I think I have the possibility of edging up one spot but even if I don't make it, fifth overall is also a good result. We'll see, the final big clash will come on Saturday." – Wilco Kelderman

"Overall, we can be very happy with the day, I think it's the optimum we could have achieved. The team worked very well and supported Wilco. Patrick and Emu were able to stay with him for a long time with Emu sticking to him in the finale. As it was witnessed on TV, Wilco thanked Emu for his effort, it was crucial to have him in the steep slopes of the final climb. The whole squad was perfect and Wilco, once again, rode a strong race. He thinks there wasn't really any chance to launch an attack or try any crazy move. The pace was high already from the Tourmalet, so it was a matter of just sitting there and trying to hold on. This is what he did, very well, until the final 2km, when Pogačar attacked. The front group split into pieces but Wilco stayed with O'Connor and the two of them reached the finish together. On Saturday, there will be an interesting fight in the TT for fourth and fifth in the GC but, today, we got the best result we could." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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