Michal Kwiatkowski of the Ineos Grenadiers team, won stage 18 of the Tour de France in La Roche-sur-Foron after breaking clear with teammate Richard Carapaz, while overall leader Primoz Roglic maintained his hold on the yellow jersey, after the last of four consecutive mountain stages.
The Polish rider’s success, 24 hours after defending champion Egan Bernal quit the race, will have been a balm for his team boss, Dave Brailsford, who has been heavily criticised over his team selection for this year’s race.
Behind the Ineos pair, Mikel Landa, of Bahrain-Merida, derided by some for failing to capitalise on the hard work of his team on Wednesday’s summit finish at the Col de la Loze, moved ahead of the leaders group at the foot of the final climb, the Montee du Plateau des Glieres, but once again was unable to really distance race leader Roglic, of Jumbo-Visma, and the rest of the leading contenders.
But Landa’s attack did enough to crack the resistance of some of his rivals for a top five finish in Paris. Adam Yates, of Mitchelton-Scott, Rigoberto Uran riding for Education First and Alejandro Valverde, of Movistar, were also dropped on the climb to the Glieres, as Landa sought to climb the overall standings.
Instead 30 kilometres from the finish it was Tadej Pogacar, of UAE Team Emirates, second overall, who stretched the group of favourites before Roglic himself accelerated on the gravel road leading to the Col des Glieres, distancing Richie Porte of Trek Segafredo, after the Australian suffered a front wheel puncture. Earlier Marc Hirschi, winner on stage 12 to Sarran, had been a part of the Ineos Grenadier-led breakaway but the Team Sunweb rider crashed at speed on the descent of the Col des Saisies and lost contact with the front group, which then reduced to a trio of Carapaz, Kwiatkowski and Pello Bilbao, Landa’s teammate.
On the short but steep six kilometre climb to the gravel road across the Plateau des Glieres, the Ineos pair proved too strong for Bilbao, who was dropped with 35 kilometres to race. The due motored ahead and descended into La Roche-sur-Foron, but such was their advantage on their pursuers, that they were able to cross the finish line arm in arm, with the nod for the stage win being given to Kwiatkowski, who claimed his first Grand Tour success.