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Friday, July 22, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Tour de France stage 18 team reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Jonas Vingegaard's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Jonas Vingegaard has won his second stage victory in the Tour de France. He also put his nearest competitor, Tadej Pogacar, further behind. On top of that, the Dane of Team Jumbo-Visma took the lead in the mountain classification.

Jonas Vingegaard has almost won the Tour. Almost. ASO photo.

With Wout van Aert and Tiesj Benoot in the front group, Team Jumbo-Visma prepared for the stage's challenging final. On the penultimate climb, the Col de Spandelles, Vingegaard didn't budge. After Pogacar crashed in the descent, Vingegaard showed sportsmanship and waited for the two-time winner.

Van Aert was the strongest in the front group. After he had taken over the lead from the equally strong Sepp Kuss, the Fleming personally ensured that Pogacar could no longer keep up with the pace. Vingegaard took full advantage of the green jersey wearer's execution and finished the job professionally.

"This is unbelievable. This morning I told my girlfriend and daughter that I wanted to win for them and I did. I am super happy", Vingegaard said. "It was a tough day and I'm glad it's over. The team was super strong and I want to thank Wout, Sepp, Nathan, Tiesj and Christoph. I won thanks to them. Tadej was strong and made some solid efforts on the Col de Spandelles. I was afraid he would attack again on the final climb because I was at my limit. Luckily I had Wout with me who was able to make the difference."

Vingegaard considers taking the polka dot jersey as well a beautiful bonus. "It's very nice, but the most important thing is that I extended my lead in the GC. We must stay focused for a few more days; the Tour is not over yet."

Sports director Grischa Niermann was relieved that the plan to put pressure on Pogacar on the final climb worked out well. "We had a tactical plan all day and it's unbelievably nice it worked. The guys really did a great job", Niermann said. "Wout is a great champion. We've heard that green and yellow can't be combined, but Wout has shown it can be."

Van Aert was proud of the team. "I am delighted that I could play a major role in Jonas' victory. The plan was to be in the breakaway. From the first kilometre I did everything possible to get in. That worked out well and in the end, everything came together perfectly. It gave me extra motivation when I heard that Pogacar was dropped. Actually, I was already at my limit, but I wanted to keep it up for one more kilometre."

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Here's the report from Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

The 18th stage of the Grande Boucle offered the last climbs of this Tour de France: 143.2km from Lourdes to Hautacam.

The start saw an explosion of attacks though no group immediately found any leeway by the peloton.

On the second climb, the Col de Spandelles, the work of Brandon McNulty begins, placed at the head of the group to dictate the pace.

With less than 40km from the finish, Pogačar lunched the first attack, with only Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) able to keep up with him.

On a fast and dirty descent, there was a moment of panic when Pogačar crashed on a bend, though would later remount and join the leaders again.

On the final 14km a group formed by Pogačar, Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) and the duo of Vingegaard-Kuss (Jumbo-Visma).

With 4km to the line Pogačar lost touch of the leaders, before fighting back to finish in second position behind the Yellow Jersey.

Pogacar on his way to finishing second. Sirotti photo

Pogačar: “I gave it all today, I wasn’t thinking about the stage win, I was thinking about the yellow jersey. I gave it my all on the second to last climb, crashed on the downhill, gave it my all on the last climb but second place is the best for me. I think I did all I could and I think I can be proud of the result.”

Tomorrow is a sprinters stage with 188.3 km from Castelnau-Magnoac to Cahors.

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Here’s the report from Geraint Thomas’ Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Geraint Thomas took another strong step towards third place at the Tour de France with another accomplished climbing performance on stage 18.

The final day in the mountains saw Thomas again ride to his own tempo, finishing fourth atop the Hautacam, extending his third-place margin out to three minutes and five seconds in the process.

Daniel Martinez riding to 7th place. Sirotti photo

Thomas was helped by teammate Dani Martinez on the final climb. The Colombian has continued to get stronger in the final week, again making the day’s break and putting himself in position to help the Welshman late on. Martinez had begun the final climb in a group of three, but the trio, which included Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), saw their advantage quickly closed down by the yellow jersey group. Dylan van Baarle had also been part of the early move.

In the end it was Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who won the stage emphatically, extending his grip on yellow over Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) heading into the final three days.

Adam Yates hung on well to retain a position inside the overall top 10 after the final summit finish. The Brit sits 10th overall, with Tom Pidcock now 18th on the GC. The team again extended their lead in the team GC out to almost 33 minutes.

Geraint Thomas:
"I was going through highs and lows today. I felt alright and when it was kicking off I thought I’d ride my own pace. That’s why I went past those boys (Pogacar and Vingegaard), I’d just had enough of those attacks that they were doing. I just tried to keep riding my pace. On the last climb I wanted to try and stay with them until the steep bit, as that’s the fastest bit – then just ride my own pace. I struggled a bit there, had a bad patch but came round a bit. I realised I had a puncture and I felt a lot better after that. It was a case of just following Dani and he did a great job.

"We still have tomorrow with crosswinds all day. Nothing is straightforward in this race. Then the TT so I’ll try and recover and get ready for that."

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Fifth place David Gaudu's Team Groupama-FDJ posted this report:

Groupama-FDJ once again experienced quite a thrilling day on Thursday in the Tour de France, on the very last mountain stage of this 2022 edition. Between Lourdes and Hautacam, Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas first managed to enter the break in the Col d’Aubisque, but both later helped David Gaudu to make a comeback in the overall standings.

In the final climb, the young man from Brittany was able to go clear from Nairo Quintana and grab fourth place in the general classification with three stages to go. This evening, Valentin Madouas and Thibaut Pinot also sit in the top-15 overall.

Geraint Thomas leads David Gaudu to the finish. Sirotti photo

One last big piece of mountains before the home straight to Paris. This is surely how most of the riders approached stage 18 of the Tour, in the Pyrenees, from Lourdes to Hautacam.

However, the breakaway was as usual long to establish, and the peloton had to fight for about sixty kilometres before things settled down a bit in the first slopes of the Col d’Aubisque, the first climb of the day (17k at 7%, HC). Up front within a large group of fugitives, Valentin Madouas was soon joined by Thibaut Pinot, who counterattacked from the bunch. Things kind of calmed down halfway through the climb, and while the French duo managed to follow the best climbers of the break, David Gaudu could still count on his five other teammates although the yellow jersey group was already quite reduced at that point.

“When you see that we have two men in the breakaway and six in the favourites group at the top of the Aubisque, it’s not bad at all”, proudly said Marc Madiot later. “The guys did great again today”, added Philippe Mauduit. “I think that gave David a certain peace of mind.” At the top of the Col d’Aubisque, Thibaut Pinot took second place. He then tackled the Col de Spandelles (10 km at 8.3%) with Valentin Madouas and a dozen other fugitives, with a lead close to four minutes on the yellow jersey.

However, the fight for the yellow jersey indeed started shortly afterwards, which almost ruined the chances of the leading men. Yet, Thibaut Pinot held on to the wheels of Van Aert and Dani Martinez all the way to the top and was therefore part of a 3-man breakaway. Within the bunch, David Gaudu did not panic when Tadej Pogacar started the attack, and he very quickly found himself with his direct rivals. “My fight was not with the first three but with the others”, said the young man. “So I stayed with them.”

The Frenchman also maintained the gap to a minute or so to the yellow jersey group, both in the climb and in the downhill of the Col de Spandelles. At the bottom of Hautacam (13.5 km at 8%, HC), his teammate Thibaut Pinot was still sailing two minutes ahead of Vingegaard and Pogacar. The margin was however not enough to play the win. “I was already happy to be with Van Aert at the top of Spandelles, and I knew that I could then help David”, said Thibaut. “I wanted to go as far as possible in Hautacam in order to help him later. When I was told that they were coming back fast, I understood that my role was to wait for David. The hope of fighting for the stage lasted two kilometres but it was not the most important thing today”. Nine kilometres from the summit, the three-time Tour stage winner was distanced and then waited for his leader.

A little further down, the latter could already count on the support of Valentin Madouas, back with his lifelong mate on the first slopes of Hautacam. “David played it right and attacked Quintana just before getting back to Valentin”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “This allowed them to make the gap on the group they were in and to chase the Thomas group. Valentin stopped his pull just before David reached Thibaut. It went well”.

After having distanced his Colombian rival, Gaudu therefore tried to gain as much time as possible. Just over five kilometres from the summit, he therefore joined Thibaut Pinot who pushed for him for almost two kilometres. “I gave a hand, even if I would have liked to go even further, to do more”, said Thibaut. “Anyway, I couldn’t pedal anymore when I left him. I gave everything”. “I again could count on a great Valentin and a great Thibaut”, said David. “The hardest thing, eventually, was to leave Nairo behind. But there are days like this, when everything goes well: I attacked Nairo, I dropped him, I came back to Valentin, Valentin pulled, I came back to Thibaut, Thibaut pulled, and I left everything I had on the road. It went perfectly.” In the final, the young man even came back to Geraint Thomas and continued to widen the gap to finally take fifth place on the line, almost three minutes ahead of Nairo Quintana.

After stage 18, David Gaudu is therefore in fourth place overall, 2’30 ahead the Colombian, fifth. “The first three are stronger, I have nothing to be ashamed of,” David said. “By Sunday, they will all have won at least one Tour. Personally, I have never finished in a top-5 on a Grand Tour. This will hopefully be my first. I think I would have agreed for that at the start. In any case, I am proud to be in this place right now, but there are two days left and we will stay focused because anything can happen”. “We saw great team work today,” underlined Marc. “We were up there. Riders and staff really gave their best. It’s a nice moment to experience. We are just outside of the podium this evening”.

The mountains are now behind while a probably lively “transition” stage and the final time trial in Rocamadour are next before the Champs Élysées. “I’m happy to complete the mountains in a good way”, concluded Thibaut. “David climbed to fourth place, so it’s a very good day for us. Even if I have never been at 100% personally on this Tour, we still had quite an adventure with the team. That’s what we have to remember.” One can also remember that three days from the end, Valentin Madouas (12th) and Thibaut Pinot (15th), both sit in the top-15 of the general classification.

Aleksandr Vlasov’s Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

Also the last mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France was a thriller. Unbelievable high tempo from the start and a flurry of attacks opened the race. Still, no group was allowed to make any substantial ground and about 35 riders entered the first climb of the day just 25 seconds ahead of the bunch. BORA – hansgrohe had with Politt, Haller, Schachmann and Konrad four riders in this group and one climb later when the race exploded again this really paid off.

It was Pogacar who tried everything to drop the Yellow Jersey and Aleks Vlasov was in difficulties. But at that point Max and Patrick, who still were in front, waited for their leader. With a great team effort, they bridged to one of the chasing groups in the downhill and Aleks started the final climb together with Quintana and Gaudu. On the last five kilometers he was able to increase his pace a little and, in the end, crossed the line in 9th place. While it looks like Vingegaard has decided the Tour today with an impressive victory, Aleks sits now in 7th place overall just 35 seconds behind fifth place, with a long time trial ahead on Saturday.

Aleksandr Vlasov closing in on the finish line. Sirotti photo

“It was so hard today from the start. There have been many attacks, but no group was allowed to break away. The first climb was easy then in the GC group, that’s why a lot of guys jumped. I also tried it once when Mas and Meintjes moved away, but Quintana and Gaudu have been immediately on my wheel. From there on I just rode conservatively, also with the last climb in my mind.

"On the penultimate climb when the race exploded, I was in difficulties, but I was able to ride my on rhythm and it was perfect to have Max and Patrick waiting for me. We came back in the downhill and also in the beginning of the last climb they did a great job. When Gaudu attacked I just stuck to my rhythm again and on the last five kilometers I had still some energy left. I think we did no mistake today, judged the effort well and did the maximum in the end.” – Aleksandr Vlasov

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