Michal Kwiatkowski beat his teammate Richard Carapaz to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France. Slovenian Primoz Roglic remains at the top of the general classification.
Michal Kwiatkowski, who arrived arm in arm with his teammate Richard Carapaz to win the 18th stage, saved the honour on the last alpine day of the Tour de France for the Ineos team, orphaned by Egan Bernal.
Away from the fight for the yellow jersey, which is still worn by Slovenian Primoz Roglic with an unchanged advantage (57 sec) over his compatriot Tadej Pogacar, the British team has converted to stage hunting. To the delight of Michal Kwiatkowski, one of the great riders of the peloton often confined to the role of road captain or lieutenant in the Tour.
The Pole crossed the line a few centimetres before Carapaz, the Ecuadorian winner of the last Giro, in a scenario reminiscent of the memorable arrival of Bernard Hinault and the American Greg LeMond in the Alpe d’Huez stage of the 1986 Tour. .
“We decided it between us, Richard offered it to me. We both won. The audience shouted encouragement, it was an extraordinary atmosphere. I’ll never forget !”
The 30-year-old Pole, whose record includes races as important as the 2014 World Championship and Milan-Sanremo 2017, had a thought for Bernal, the outgoing Tour winner who retired on Wednesday morning: “We were very sad for him, we wish him good luck for the future. ”
Van Aert transformed into a climber
“For three days, we have been doing everything to be in the front,” said Kwiatkowski, whose team placed four riders in the initial breakaway of around thirty riders.
At the front, a quartet ended up emerging after the first pass (Cormet de Roselend) . The fall of the Swiss Marc Hirschi in the descent of the Col des Saisies then left the Spaniard Pello Bilbao caught between Carapaz and Kwiatkowski.
On the very steep slopes of the climb to the Glières plateau (6 kilometres at 11.2% average), Bilbao let go some 37 kilometres from the finish. His two companions then widened the gap to reach the finish together, with 1 min 51 sec ahead of the Belgian Wout Van Aert, third in this mountain stage.
In the group of candidates for the podium, the Spaniard Mikel Landa took the lead. The pace dictated by Van Aert, transformed into a climber, pushed several top 10 riders (A. Yates, Uran, Valverde) to a break and caused Landa’s attempt to fail.
Tribute to Portal
Roglic, titillated for a few moments by Pogacar, insisted on leaving the stony sector in the lead following the climb in which the Australian Richie Porte was delayed due to a puncture, as he approached the National Monument to the French Resistance during the Second World War.
Porte, 4th in the standings, managed to enter the final without damage. Unlike Briton Adam Yates (now 7th in the standings) and Colombian Rigoberto Uran (8th), who was let go in the climb and fell two places.
For Ineos, the name since last year of the Sky team which has won seven of the last eight editions of the Tour, the success of Kwiatkowski accompanied by a double softens a record hitherto catastrophic. The most powerful and richest team in the peloton was outclassed by the Jumbo of Roglic and Van Aert.
Focused exclusively on the general classification (Bernal 1st and Thomas 2nd last year), the formation of Dave Brailsford obtained Thursday its first success since the departure from Nice, a day after the abandonment of its leader and titleholder, Egan Bernal. His first also in a stage of the Tour since the victory of the Briton Geraint Thomas at L’Alpe d’Huez on July 19, 2018.
“A lot of people have passed judgment on what we’re doing in this Tour, on the absence of Nico (Portal) in the car,” Kwiatkowski said of the team’s sporting director who died earlier this year.
“We miss him a lot, it’s true. Success or not, we always remember him. He would certainly have appreciated what we did and our state of mind in this Tour. We are inspired by him.”
Friday, the 19th stage is aimed at sprinters and backpackers, concluding the 166.5 kilometres leading from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole. On the eve of the only time trial of the event.