Team Ineos Grenadiers secured its first stage win of the 2020 Tour de France when Michal Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz crossed the finish line together at Stage 18. The Ineos teammates finished 1-2 at La Roche-sur-Foron, with Kwiatkowski getting the official win in the record books.
“That was some day, I can’t describe how grateful I am to the whole team and to Richard,” said Poland’s Kwiatkowski.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished third, just two seconds ahead of teammate and general classification leader Primoz Roglic.
The stage victory for Ineos comes 48 hours after Egan Bernal dropped out of Le Tour. The 2019 Tour de France champion cracked in Stage 15 on Mount Colombier and tumbled out of the top 5. He fought back and knee injuries during his title defense, but once he cracked on Grand Colombier, he was officially dunzo.
|TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 18 RESULTS|
- Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) 04:47:33
- Richard Carapaz (Ineos)
- Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) +01:51
Bernal came into the 2020 Tour de France as the second-highest favorite on the board behind Roglic.
Roglic retained the yellow jersey once again. Neither Tadej Pogcar nor Miguel Angel Lopez challenged Roglic in Stage 18, so he’s essentially locked up the victory.
“I tried on the last climb but it wasn’t possible,” said Pogacar. “I didn’t have better legs than everyone else.”
Stage 18: Meribel > La Roche-sur-Foron
The third of a trio of difficult mountain stages in the Alps concluded with Stage 18. The 180 km ride from Meribel to La Roche-sur-Foron included Cormet de Roseland near the start of the ride, and the treacherous Plateau des Glieres.
“On the profile, it was one of the toughest stages,” said Pogacar. “And it was really hard.”
The breakaway riders reached the summit of Col des Saisies with a seven-minute edge on the peloton.
By the time Kwiatkowski and Carapaz reached the Category HC climb to the top of Plateau des Glieres, the two Ineos riders extended their lead to more than three minutes on the peloton.
Once Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) crashed, the two Ineos riders were left unopposed after they opened up a 45-second lead over the Stage 12 winner.
Hirschi sought his second stage victory and chased the polka-dot jersey for the top mountain climber in Le Tour.
“I felt good, I took points for the mountains jersey, then I crashed,” explained Hirschi. “Tried to come back, but it didn’t work out. I took too many risks.”
The Peloton caught up to Hirschi, but couldn’t catch the Ineos leaders.
“It was an incredible day for us, and I will never forget that,” said Kwiatkowski. “I’ve had some nice moments in cycling, but that was something new. I had goosebumps for the last kilometers because I knew that the gap was so big that we would make it.”
Carapaz and Kwiatkowski crossed the line at the same time, but Carapaz lost Stage 18 to his Ineos teammate by a hair strand.
“We’re going to celebrate big time tonight because we all deserve it,” said Kwiatkowski. “We put on a show today and we have to enjoy that.”
On Deck Stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse > Champagnole
Only three stages remain on Le Tour. The finale will be Stage 21 in Paris. On Saturday, the lone time trial will occur in Stage 20.
Stage 19 is a flat 166.5 km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole. The biggest challenge is a minuscule Category 5 climb up the Cote de Chateau-Chalon.
The sprinters will be jockeying for position in the final stretch of Stage 19. Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished in third in Stage 18. Can he win his third stage?
|GC STANDINGS THRU STAGE 17|
- Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 79:45:30
- Tadej Pogacar (UAE) +0:57
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +1:27
- Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) +3:06
- Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) +3:28
Adam Yates (Micthelton-Scott) fell out of the Top 5 and slipped to seventh overall. Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) moved into fifth after consecutive strong finishes in the Alps.
“It was two hard days in a row, yesterday and also today,” said Roglic. “Again the team did a great job. So, one day less. After the time trial there will be a decision known of the rankings, but also tomorrow is another day to be really focused. It’s far from being really safe.”
Roglic was being modest, but at this point, only Mother Nature and an unfortunate crash could derail him from winning his first Tour de France.
Oddsmakers at DrafKings list Rogic at -2000 to win the Tour de France. Pogacar is now 14/1 odds to pull off the miraculous comeback.