Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ has won stage 14 of the Tour de France.  The 29-year old took his third career stage win as Julian Alaphilippe further extended his overall lead ahead of Geraint Thomas, as George Bennett finished just outside the top ten after a fantastic display of climbing.

The first of the short but climbing-packed stages of this year’s Tour, the 111km from Tarbes to the Tourmalet took in three categorised climbs, an early cat 4 climb but then the first category Col du Soulor and finally the 19km legendary Col du Tourmalet.  It was to be the first day where Julian Alaphilippe’s lead in the GC would truly come under fire.

After a couple of early attacks it was a surprising duo who formed the early breakaway.  Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain Merida and Peter Sagan of BORA-Hansgrohe took off to establish themselves at the front of the peloton and initially they looked like they’d be spending potentially much of the stage alone, but in the end 15 other riders bridged across to join the champion pair.

Geraint Thomas lost time on the maillot jaunt and even his teammate Egan Bernal but still sits 2nd overall, photo Sirotti

Total Direct Energie had Romain Sicard, Rein Taaramäe and Lilian Calmejane, Lotto Soudal had Tim Wellens, Astana had Luis Leon Sanchez, Nibali had Matej Mohorič, Arkéa-Samsic had Élie Gesbert, Wanty-Gobert had Guillaume Martin, Katusha-Alpecin had Marco Haller and Ilnur Zakarin, UAE Team Emirates and Sergio Henao, Movistar had Carlos Verona, Groupama-FDJ had Mathieu Ladagnous, AG2R La Mondiale had Alexis Vuillermoz and Team Sunweb had Lennard Kämna.

The break quickly reached a lead of 2.45mins as Groupama-FDJ decided to set the tempo at the front of the race.  Thibaut Pinot’s men did a good job of containing the lead of the break as the riders reached the Col du Soulor.  Peter Sagan had done a good job of staying in the break, knowing that his ‘finish line’ was the intermediate sprint directly after the descent with 31.5km to go.  The pressure was on, however, from within the breakaway; sending a number of riders back to the peloton.

Back in the bunch Luke Rowe of Team Ineos along with Andrey Amador and Marc Soler of Movistar shared pace-setting duties; breaking up the peloton slightly as the likes of pure sprinter Andre Greipel fell back.  With 5km left of the climb Peter Sagan also began to lose the wheels of the likes of Zakarin, Nibali, Wellens and co who were now piling on the pace.  An attack from Tim Wellens saw Vincenzo Nibali and Élie Gesbert bridge across.  Zakarin was also not willing to let the leaders go just yet and he went off the road in pursuit of them, but it was Wellens and Nibali who crested the summit first and second respectively; with Zakarin about 31 seconds behind them at the top.

Back in the peloton Movistar had arrived en masse at the front of the peloton, with Julian Alaphilippe almost isolated but looking confident at the front in the company of teammates Dries Devenyns and Enric Mas.  George Bennett was also present in the group for Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma as the bunch went over the summit 1.43mins back.  The pace was too much for AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, though, as he fell over 2 minutes behind with another climb to come.

Peter Sagan was caught on the descent of the Soulor as Nibali, Wellens and the return of Gesbert continued to lead the race but with an ever-descending advantage that was down to 1 minute with 34km to go.  The trio led through the intermediate sprint with a small group trailing them, and then Peter Sagan leading the peloton through to collect minor points.  Eventually the small group joined Nibali, Wellens and Gesbert, as Sanchez, Kämna, Calmejane, Sicard and Zakarin found their way back to the front of the race; but with 29km to go the gap was down to 40 seconds and the catch was imminent.

Julian Alaphilippe extended his overall lead to over 2 minutes, photo Sirotti

Movistar continued to set a powerful tempo at the front of the race that at one point threatened to eliminate the break’s lead altogether before the climb of the Tourmalet even began.  In the end, however, they allowed the break to regain a lead that went out to 1.30mins by the time the climb began.

At the foot of the climb it was Romain Sicard who had attacked the rest of the break and gone up the road solo, holding onto a 1.20min lead with 17.2km to go.  That lead dropped steadily as Movistar continued to up the tempo, dropping Adam Yates and putting the likes of Dan Martin under a great deal of pressure.  Ineos had their wheel, with Jumbo-Visma sat behind them and then Deceuninck-Quick Step behind them.  


The catch to the break was made with 10km to go just as Nairo Quintana began to flounder off the back of the group and Team Ineos took up the pace.  As they did Warren Barguil of Arkea Samsic went on the attack.  Wout Poels led the much-fragmented GC group as George Bennett held second wheel before Dylan van Baarle, Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas also moved forward in the group.

Barguil got a 15 second lead before Groupama-FDJ took over at the front of the pack with Jakob Fuglsang close at hand.  It appeared that the tempo set by Groupama-FDJ was beginning to tell on the likes of Geraint Thomas even; as Julian Alaphilippe continued to hold his ground.  Eventually Barguil was back in the group with 5.7km to go as Richie Porte and Enric Mas became the next to fall off the pace.  David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ was doing the damage for teammate Pinot, even launching a mini attack of his own as Jumbo-Visma took over the lead of the GC contenders with Laurens De Plus and George Bennett setting tempo.

The gaps to the likes of Mas and Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet were growing rapidly, with the GC group now heavily reduced as the race reached 3km to go.  De Plus continued to lead the way for Kruijswijk in a very confident display from the Jumbo-Visma team.  Bennett took over with 2.7km to go and looked to thin out the group a little more with Kruijswijk ready for assault on the stage.  The Kiwi had many riders on the limit with Geraint Thomas, Julian Alaphlippe, Jakob Fuglsang and Warren Barguil on the back of the group.

Bennett continued to lead the way as Barguil and Fuglsang, then Rigoberto Uran, finally cracked.  Landa and Pinot tried to go to the front of the group but Bennett was back on the front leading a group that was now just eight strong with Alaphilippe, Thomas, Bernal, Pinot, Buchmann, Kruijswijk and Landa together.  

Thibaut Pinot celebrates a glorious day for France, photo Sirotti

It was an attack by Emanuel Buchmann of BORA-Hansgrohe that finally cracked Geraint Thomas, with Bennett dropping back along with the defending champion.  Six riders were left at the front of the race with Rigoberto Uran digging deep to limit his losses and pass Thomas.  

With just under 300m to go Thibaut Pinot gradually ramped up the pace and steadily opened up the sprint as he sensed that the rest of the group wouldn’t be able to go with him.  It proved an inspired move from the Frenchman as he accelerated away to the stage win with Alaphilippe second at 6 seconds ahead of Kruijswijk, with Emanuel Buchmann and Egan Bernal 4th and 5th.  The clock continued on with Geraint Thomas finally crossing the line 36 seconds back.  

George Bennett, after a masterful display of climbing, crossed the line 11th on the stage ahead of world champion Alejandro Valverde.  The news got pretty bad behind him though, as Richie Porte surrendered 2.05mins, Nairo Quintana 3.24mins, Dan Martin 5.35mins and Adam Yates 6.42mins.  Worst off, though, was Bardet who finally arrived home 20.19mins back.

Overall Julian Alaphilippe extended his lead to 2.02mins, with Thomas second and Steven Kruijswijk up to third place at 2.14mins.  Egan Bernal moved up to 4th place at 3 minutes, with Emanuel Buchmann 5th and Thibaut Pinot sixth at 3.12mins.

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