Tadej Pogacar took his third stage victory at Luz Ardiden the day after he won at col du Portet, giving one more evidence that he’s by far the strongest GC contender of the 108th Tour de France. Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz rounded out the podium at the top of the last uphill finish. Pogacar added to the yellow and the white jerseys the polka dot jersey he already won last year as well.
5 riders in the lead
144 riders took the start of stage 18 in Pau at 13.48. Chris Juul-Jensen (BikeExchange), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) and Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash) rode away from km 1. Many counter-attacks took place. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) caught up with them at km 32. At km 55, Juul Jensen waited for the peloton to help his team-mates who were trying to split the peloton ahead of the intermediate sprint. The advantage of the four remaining leaders reached 1’20’’ on the line in Pouzac where Alaphilippe passed in first position and Mark Cavendish won the bunch sprint ahead of Michael Matthews.
Latour first at col du Tourmalet
Alaphilippe and Mohoric started climbing to the Tourmalet with an advantage of 1’30’’ over the peloton led by Vegard Stake Laengen for UAE Team Emirates while four Frenchmen gathered in between: Pierre Rolland (B&B-KTM), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ). 6km before the summit, 9 riders were united at the front: Alaphilippe, Mohoric, Latour, Elissonde, Madouas and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Omar Fraile (Astana), Ruben Guerreiro (EF) and Ion Izagirre (Astana). Latour and Gaudu crested the Tourmalet (souvenir Jacques-Goddet) together in that order with an advantage of 50’’ over the peloton led by Ineos Grenadiers. Rigoberto Uran (EF) was dropped and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) extended his lead in the KOM competition over Michael Woods (Israel-Start Up-Nation).
Gaudu the last to surrender
Gaudu rode Latour off in the downhill. He had 45’’ lead over the yellow jersey peloton led by Ineos Grenadiers with 20km to go and started climbing to Luz Ardiden alone at the front. The Breton climber was swallowed 9.5km before the end. With 5.5km to go, Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) took over from the British and made the group explode. Pogacar sped up to make a front group of 5 riders with 3.5km to, along with Carapaz, Vingegaard, Kuss and Mas. The latter sped up on two occasions but Pogacar didn’t let a third victory go. It’s already as many as last year before the individual time trial on the eve of the grand finale.