Julian Alaphilippe of Quick Step Floors put in a sensational performance to win the first Pyrenean stage of the this year’s Tour de France and secure his second victory of the race.
The win came after a late solo breakaway by Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates. After what has been an arguably ordinary performance by the Aussie outfit at the biggest bike race of the year, for 10 minutes or so it seemed Yates was enjoying the team’s moment in the sun.
But those dreams literally came crashing down as the 25yo Brit fell during a fast descent with 7km to go and Alaphilippe hot on his tail.
Protest Halts Proceedings
In what was a particularly drama-filled stage the race was temporarily neutralised at the 29km mark after local farmers attempted to block the route as part of a protest. French police used what appeared to be pepper spray to disperse the protesters. They then cleared the bails of hay from the road and allowed the race to continue.
But not before riders – including race leader Geraint Thomas – were seen to be rinsing over spray from their eyes.
Phillipe Gilbert Crashes Over A Wall
Later in the stage veteran Quick Step Floors rider and former world champion Phillipe Gilbert was involved in a spectacular crash, the Belgian misjudging a high-speed downhill bend, hitting a rock wall and flying over an embankment into a ravine.
With many fearing significant injuries from the shocking crash, Gilbert emerged a minute or so later. Helped up the the two-metre high wall, he sat for a moment before giving the thumbs up to television cameras – and then returned to the race.
Gilbert was awarded most combative rider of the stage, but later retired from this year’s event after revealing he had suffered numerous injuries including a fractured kneecap.
Thomas Holds Yellow, But For How Long?
Geraint Thomas retained the yellow jersey and is now preparing for the short but brutal 65km stage 17 which features three climbs, including a final steep and unclassified ascent touted as being the toughest of the 105th edition of the race.
“It’s a crazy day with so much climbing in a short space of time,” Thomas said about the stage ahead.
“I think we can expect attacks, maybe from the gun. It would be a bit daring to go that soon though as it’s a really demanding day and the last climb is super hard, maybe the hardest of the Tour, but we’re expecting the worst.”
With still no mention of whether Geraint Thomas will go for the overall win of the 2018 Tour himself, or if team leader and four-time winner Chris Froome will attack, the thrilling racing and team politics looks set to continue for at least another stage yet.
Tour de France Top 5 After Stage 16
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 68:12:01
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +1:39″
3. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +1:50″
4. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) +2:38″
5. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) +3:21″