Tadej Pogacar hammered the last nail in the coffin of his closest GC rivals on Thursday with his second consecutive stage win in the Pyrenees. After winning Stage 17 yesterday, Pogacar showed his dominance in Stage 18 of the Tour de France, which included a brutal ascent of Col du Tourmalet today.

Stage 18 Tour Le de France Tadej Pogacar Luz Ardiden
Tadej Pogacar from UAE Team Emirates rode to another victory in the Pyrenees mountains with a win at Stage 18 Luz Ardiden. (Image: Reuters)

With three stages remaining, Pogacar essentially locked up Le Tour. Pogacar seized the yellow jersey in Stage 8 after Mathieu van der Poel held on to it for six stages. It’s been a race for second place since last weekend.

The defending champion has a chance to add a fourth stage win to his record during the individual time trial in Stage 20 on Saturday. Pogacar won his first stage of 2021 with a sensational ride in the first time trial in Stage 5 before adding two more soul-crushing stage wins in the Pyrenees.

2021 Tour de France – Stage 18 Results
  1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 3:33:45
  2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +00:02
  3. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +00:02

The big drama in Stage 18 occurred last night when French police raided Bahrain Victorious’ hotel and seized the phones and laptops of every team member. BV secured back-to-back stage wins when Matej Mohoric won Stage 7 and Dylan Tuens won the first mountain stage in the Alps in Stage 8. A French prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into doping allegations and the team’s transportation of illegal substances.

Stage 18: Pau > Luz Ardiden

Stage 18 began in Pau with a short 129 km ride to Luz Ardiden, which included the punishing Tourmalet. Wout Poels and Matej Mohoric from Bahrain Victorious led the first breakaway, but Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) chased them down. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) caught the breakaway just before the ascent of the legendary Tourmalet.

“It was super hard,” Pogacar said. “Already on the Tourmalet, it was a pace where you just sit on the wheel and forget about everything, and just focus. The last climb, it was the maximum.”

With 3.2 km to go on the final climb, Pogacar attacked and was followed by Richard Carpaz (Ineos), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), and Enric Mas (Movistar). Mas attacked in the final kilometer, but Pogacar smoked him with 400 meters to the finish. Once again, everyone was gassed and unable to counter Pogacar’s final push.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Pogacar. After yesterday, I felt good and I’m really happy with the win. It’s crazy. It was a game for me since I started, and I’m enjoying playing it. I’m super happy. You never know. It’s still three days to go, but it looks good.”

For the second day in a row, Vingegaard and Carapaz finished in second and third place behind Pogacar. Mas finished in fourth place in Stage 18.

Vingegaard held onto second place in the GC standings, but he’s now 5:45 behind Pogacar after losing six seconds. Carapaz is 5:51 back in third place.

On Deck Stage 19: Mourenx > Libourne

After surviving the Pyrenees and the final mountain stages, it’s time for the sprinters to return to the spotlight in Stage 19. The 207 km ride from Mourenx to Libourne is flat, which provides Mark Cavendish an opportunity to break Eddy Merck’s long-standing record of 34 stage wins. The two are tied and Cavendish has two chances to take the lead with Stage 19 and on Sunday in Paris with Stage 21.

2021 Le Tour – Overall GC Standings
  1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 75:00:02
  2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:45
  3. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:51
  4. Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen Team) +8:18
  5. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +8:50

There was a bit of a shakeup in the top five in the GC standings. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) got dropped on Tourmalet and finished in 43rd place in Stage 18, nearly nine minutes behind Pogacar. Uran tumbled out of the top five and slipped to 10th overall. He’s 16:25 behind Poagcar overall.

Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen Team) is 8:18 back and moved into fourth place. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) moved into fifth overall, but he’s still trailing the leader by 8:50.

In case you’re wondering, the betting markets for the Tour de France are ridiculous with Pogacar at -5000 odds to win.

Check out more coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.