Thursday July 18th, 2013

Stage 18Gap / Alpe-d'Huez

Start 12h30 GMT 2+

Victory for France: Riblon conquers the Alpe!

Stage summary18.07.2013Stage 18- Gap / Alpe-d??Huez

On the day that the race leader lost time to some general classification rivals, he also increased his advantage on the rider in second place. Chris Froome would not finish with the front group. There would be changes to the top 10. The rider in second overall would lose time... but Alberto Contador is still the closest challenger after a dramatic day of racing to Alpe d'Huez - and onward, up and over the col de Sarenne, down into the valley and back to Alpe d'Huez for an encore performance that yielded some of the most exciting kilometres of racing in the 100th Tour de France. Froome had assistance from Porte who paced his leader to the top and limited the losses to the flying Colombian Nairo Quintana who finished fourth in the stage and moved up to third place overall... and while all this was happening their was a USA-vs-France duel unfolding up ahead while Tejay van Garderen did all he could to hold off an impressive pursuit by Christophe Riblon.
The riders who finished first and second - Riblon and van Garderen - had issues on the final descent: one having mechanical troubles, the other racing off a the right of the road at high speed. But they would reclaim their places at the front and race each other to the top of the famous climb. Ultimately it was the Frenchman who got the edge and raced into the lead with 2.2km to go and van Garderen could do little more than get to the finish and lament what might have been.

The progress report
The answer is 42. Or so they say. In stage 18 many other questions were answered about who the strongest in the 100th Tour de France is as this was the anticipated stage from Gap to Alpe d'Huez that boasted two ascents of the famous 21-hairpin climb to the ski station in the Isère department. After almost three weeks of racing in dry conditions, the heavens opened and rain fell for much of the day. There were 177 riders at the sign on with Jean-Christophe Peraud (ALM) the casualty of the time trial to Chorges in stage 17. On the itinerary for the final Thursday of Le Tour 2013 were six categorised climbs: the col de Manse (cat-2 at 13km), Rampe du Motty (cat-3 at 45km), col d'Ormon (cat-3 at 95km), the first ascent of Alpe d'Huez (‘HC' at 122.5km), the col de Sarenne (cat-2 at 131.5km) followed by the climb to the finish at Alpe d'Huez where double points were on offer.

Nine break free after first climb...
The official start was at 12.30pm. There were a series of attacks but none were successful in the opening half hour. Hesjedal (GRS) led over the first climb and, around the same time, Evans (BMC) was dropped from the peloton that was moving at a rapid pace. Saxo-Tinkoff had Hernandez and Rogers forcing the pace and Froome reacted to the early moves of the Australian who was his team-mate in 2012. At 17km, nine riders broke free and the riders involved were Voigt (RTL), Jeannesson (FDJ), Riblon (ALM), Amador (MOV), Chavanel (OPQ), Boom (BEL), Danielson (GRS), van Garderen (BMC), Moser (CAN). At 30km, they were ahead by 3'00” and rain started to fall. By 35km, the nine led by 5'40”. Lutsenko (AST) abandoned before the second climb. Roche and Paulinho (TST) attacked the peloton before the Rampe du Motty and were 5'25” behind the escapees at the top (45km), the peloton was at 5'40”. The average speed for the first hour was 44.6km/h; the second hour, 41.8km/h.
At the foot of the col d'Ornon, Roche and Paulinho were 5'25” behind the nine and the peloton was at 8'20” which was the biggest gain of the escape.

Alpe d'Huez: part 01
Van Garderen attacked the lead group at the base of the first climb up Alpe d'Huez. The counter-attack was at 6'15” and the peloton at 7'35”. Rolland and Voeckler attacked the peloton and were joined by Poels (VCD) and Nieve (EUS). Sky have five riders at the head of the peloton that also saw a brief sortie from Talansky (GRS) around the halfway mark of the climb and he was followed by Schleck: the American was caught quickly but the Luxembourger bridged the gap to Nieve's group while Voeckler dropped back to the peloton. Moser and Riblon caught van Garderen in the last kilometre of the climb and Moser led over the top. Voigt was 4th at 55”, Danielson 5th at 1'30”, Jeannesson 6th at 1'40”, Boom 7th at 2'15”, Amador 8th at 2'45” and Chavanel 9th at 3'05”. The Schleck/Nieve/Rolland/Poels group was at 7'20” and the peloton was behind by 8'18” at the top.

Col de Sarenne: Van Garderen and Riblon hindered on descent
Van Garderen led over the penultimate climb but on the descent his chain got stuck and he lost contact with Riblon and Moser. There was an attack from Contador and Kreuziger on the way day but it never gained any more than 20” on the yellow jersey. Riblon went off the road and lost contact with Moser but caught him with 25km to go; van Garderen then caught the leading pair 17km from the finish. They began the second climb to Alpe d'Huez with a lead of 45” on Voigt.

Contador cracks; Froome falters; Riblon wins...!
On the second ascent of Alpe d'Huez, three men arrived at the bottom together: Van Garderen, Riblon and Moser. The American attacked early. He would ride all the way to the 2.4km to go mark on his own but Riblon never gave up hope: he lost up to 40” but then slowed clawed his way back up to the leader. Once Riblon caught Van Garderen he immediately attacked and would go on to claim his team's first victory in the 100th Tour de France and the first for France. He beat his American rival by 59”. Meanwhile, there were significant changes to GC taking place. Mollema and Ten Dam cracked in the first kilometre of the final climb and would slide down the rankings from 4th and 7th to 6th and 10th... and there was movement up ahead as Quintana attacked and Froome followed. This prompted a pursuit from the Katusha: Moreno and Rodriguez who set the pace of the yellow jersey group and this eliminated Contador and Kreuziger from the group with about 12km to climb.
With 5km to climb, Van Garderen led the stage with an advantage of 40” on Riblon while behind Froome found himself in a crisis and was calling for the team car... initially it seemed like it might have been a mechanical but there may have been more to it. Froome was ultimately paced to the line by Porte and the pair finished 1'13” behind Quintana and 3'18” behind the stage winner. Froome was seventh in the stage and gained time on his nearest rival, Contador (who dropped down to 5'11” behind). The Spaniard was 11th in the stage and lost 57” to Froome but the fact that he was helped to the finish by Rogers and Kreuziger means that there are three from the Saxo-Tinkoff team in the top 10 overall: Contador 2nd, Kreuziger 4th and Rogers 8th.
Quintana moved up to third overall with his fourth place in the stage. He now has 97pts in the climbing classification, seven less than Froome who still leads this category as well as the overall rankings.
Froome will wear the yellow jersey in stage 19.

Stage 18 Gap / Alpe-d'Huez

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 21

Classifications after the stage 21

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These five riders have won sprint stages of the 100th Tour de France. Of these five, who do you think will win in Paris?

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