Alaphilippe hits the bottom of the final Col. He has over five minutes on Froome and the GC contenders, over a minute on Van Avermaet and co, and 26 seconds on Rein Taaramae.
Julian Alaphilippe is riding a wonderful race today. He’d be a deserved winner if – and it’s quite a big if (in fact it’s about 8.5km of if, at an average gradient of 7.5%) – he can get over the Colombiere without cracking.
Van Avermaet, along with Gesink, Calmejane and Izagirre reach the summit around 45 seconds behind Alaphillipe.
Team Sky still have six riders on the front of the peloton as they sweep up the stragglers from the earlier break. Alaphilippe, meanwhile, has dropped Taaramae and is riding himself into polka dots.
Indeed Alaphilippe has dropped his young countryman and reached Taaramae.
Gaudu and Alaphilippe are the pair hunting down Taaramae.
Taaramae has 40 seconds on the chasers, where Alaphilippe and a couple of cohorts are beginning to drop the estimable Greg van Avermaet.
Taaramae has just 23 seconds on the yellow jersey group. Meanwhile, Barguil has been swept up by the peloton and might end up being spat out the back.
Barguil has spoke about deliberately losing time in order to go for stage wins … but at 2min 37sec down he could ride himself into yellow in he makes this attack work. He’s a long, long way from the finish line though and has more than five minutes to make up on Taaramae and co at the front of the race.
The pace is shredding the back of the pack – by the time we get to the summit of the Col de Romme we’ll have a very select group at the front of the race.
Warren Barguil attacks from the peloton. No reaction from the bunch as yet.
Astana, Movistar and Team Sky are prominent on the front of the group. Meanwhile, Taaramae has made his move stick and has a few seconds on the rest of the leaders.
Taaramae jumps off the front, completing the old one-two from Direct Energie. Meanwhile, five and a half minutes down the road, the peloton have reached the foot of the climb.
Attacks from the front. Calmejane – again – steps up the pace. He has a Direct Energie teammate in the break, in the shape of Rein Taaramae. Impey is the next to drop off the back.
The early slopes of this climb are the steepest and the break is quickly labouring. Gilbert immediately falls off the back.
The break hit the foot of the climb with an advantage of just over six minutes – very much a will-they-won’t-they lead.
Here are the two final climbs of the day, followed by 13km downhill and a little ramp to the finish (as Anna van der Breggen discovered to her cost earlier):
Before we hit the penultimate climb of the day, take a minute to read up on the extraordinary finale to La Course earlier. Here’s Jeremy Whittle’s report:
Sagan at last gets swept up into the peloton, along with his teammate Lukas Postlburger, the Austrian national road race champion. The pair wave at the Sky train as it trundles past.
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There’s just over 55km to go – given the terrain ahead that means about 90 minutes of racing is still ahead. The breakaway group still have over seven minutes. The first haymaker of the finishing double-punch, the Col de Romme, starts with around 37km to go.
Ah, I miss Tour Tommy V.
Froome’s issues have slowed an already not-exactly-flying peloton further so that gap to the break has grown once more. There’s enough buffer now for someone to stay away. If his legs are there, it strikes me as a stage for Tony Gallopin, though he has 17 rivals in that lead group.
Bardet is being paced back to the peloton after a mechanical/comfort break. This wide, flat valley road is a good time to sort out any minor “inconveniences”.
Another mechanical for Chris Froome on the valley road this time. It’s not a major problem for him, though, and he’ll quickly be back in the line.
And as I type that, it drops below seven minutes – clearly some issue with the time gap data.
There’s a stiff ramp here – the Col des Fleuries. It’s not categorised but it’s still tough. The lead for the break is close to eight minutes now.
Van Avermaet’s grip on the yellow jersey is tightening too – he’s still in the lead group. Of the other riders up front, Calmejane is just over 5min behind on GC, as is Serge Pauwels.
There’s a chance for the 14-man breakaway here – the lead is over seven minutes now.
Froome is safely back in the peloton, having bagged a wheel from Jonathan Castroviejo.
Why always him? If one rider was to puncture on this gravel section – and it does seem to be only one – Chris Froome would be your first guess.
Team Sky and the peloton hit the gravel path now.
On the way up, by the by, the leaders were jumped by a mountain biker:
Also well worth mentioning is the fact that the top of this mountain is home to the national museum to the French Resistance. More than 100 resistance fighters were killed by the Wehrmacht on these hills during a battle in the second world war.
The uphill section of the gravel is a little more lumpy but I’ve seen cycle paths in the UK that are much, much worse. (Though that may say more about the UK’s cycle paths than it does about the road at the top of the Glières.)