Tour de France: Alaphilippe extends buffer in polka dot standings
Fernando Gaviria waves goodbye to the race with two stage victories in the bag.
Julian Alaphilippe made sure of wearing the prized polka dot jersey at least until the weekend after infiltrating himself in the large breakaway which took off on the first climb of the stage between Bourg-Saint-Maurice and Alpe d'Huez (178.5 kilometers). The extreme heat, fast pace and Col de la Madeleine, tackled for the 26th time in history, made things difficult right from the off, setting the tone for what in the end turned out to be a race of attrition.
Averaging 6.3% over 25.3 kilometers, Col de la Madeleine witnessed the group getting splintered under the impetus of several riders, only for things to get back together seven kilometers from the top. The status quo continued until close to the summit, when Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) tried to surprise the other riders with an attack from behind, but Julian Alaphilippe responded with ease, dropped his countryman and became the tenth Frenchman in history to win Col de la Madeleine.
Alaphilippe's adventure in the lead group continued until after the stunning Lacets de Montvernier, where he scored other points which secured the KOM jersey at the end of the day. Following that raid, he sat up on the lung-busting Col de la Croix de Fer (29km, 5.3%) and was swallowed by the reduced bunch, who at that point of the race was trailing the remnants of the breakaway by six minutes.
"I felt good in the morning and wanted to feature in the break to add more points to my tally in the mountain standings. Having accomplished the mission makes me happy, because each day in the polka dot jersey is a special one. After being reeled in, I rode the second part of the day in the gruppetto, which was a nice experience, as I got many cheers and applause from fans. Hopefully, the next days will be calmer and I will have a long run in this jersey. It's still early to say what will happen, but I am prepared to keep fighting", said Julian after opening a 14-point lead over his closest opponent.
The day, which included 5000 meters of elevation gain, wasn't all perfect for Quick-Step Floors, as the gruesome Alpine climbs – some of which are said to have been part of Hannibal's campaign 2200 years ago – spelled the end of Fernando Gaviria's debut Tour de France, who pulled out on Croix de Fer. The 23-year-old was one of the riders to call it a day 12 stages into the race, but leaves with two stage victories and a stint in the prestigious yellow jersey, which he wore after the opening day.
It was a tough stage also for Bob Jungels, but the Luxembourg Champion fought bravely and displayed a remarkable never-say-die attitude, despite being dropped early on the Alpe d'Huez, which he climbed for just the second time in his career. Not only that he managed to limit the losses, Bob also gained two places in the general classification and is now 13th, with the next mountain stages set to come on the third week, when the bunch will be in the Pyrenees.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images