Tour de France: Top 10 for Richeze in Pau
Julian Alaphilippe goes into the final mountain stage with the KOM jersey firm on his shoulders.
Not the long and straight roads of the Hautes-Pyrénées department, nor the furious chase of the peloton in the first kilometers of stage 18 could stop Niki Terpstra from jumping out of the field and establishing a breakaway group of five who had to work hard in order to gain a maximum lead of two minutes, which was all they could get in their fight with the sprinters' teams so keen to keep things under control and ensure a calm day for their leaders.
The first Dutchman in over three decades to conquer Ronde van Vlaanderen, Terpstra brought his fair share of work in the front group, which remained in the lead until after the last classified climb of the day, with 18 kilometers to go, when they were pegged back by the pack, who began preparing the penultimate bunch gallop of this Tour de France.
"I believed in the break's chances of going all the way, but the peloton were a bit afraid of us, seeing so many strong riders in the break, so they didn't give us too much space. Many squads were committed to the chase, so despite giving everything out there, it was really hard to make it. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with my day spent at the front and the effort I put in" said Niki Terpstra in Pau, where the race returned for the second consecutive year.
In the absence of double stage victor Fernando Gaviria, Maximiliano Richeze took over for Quick-Step Floors and finished sixth in the hectic sprint of Thursday, won by Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), for his first top 10 at this Tour de France. Up until today the only home rider victorious at this edition, polka dot jersey Julian Alaphilippe enjoyed an easy trek from Trie-sur-Baïse to Pau, which came ahead of the final mountain stage, one that will contain the famous Aubisque and Tourmalet climbs.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images