Copyright: Lotto Soudal

Just like yesterday the Tour peloton had to cover a mountain stage in the Alps. The eighteenth stage started in Briançon and finished on top of the Izoard after 179.5 kilometres. Again a very large front group was established in the beginning of the race, this time it consisted of 54 riders. Lotto Soudal was represented by four riders: Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin and Jürgen Roelandts. After sixty kilometres seven riders jumped away from the group, but they were caught again after a short while. The peloton followed at eight minutes, but that would not be enough for one of the escapees to win the stage.

 

On the way to Col de Vars the front group split into two, Benoot and Roelandts were part of the first group. After Roelandts was dropped Gallopin joined the front group. Together with Atapuma, Lutsenko and Sicard he created a small gap before the top. Six riders would join them in the following kilometres. The group got smaller on the way to the Izoard and Lutsenko was alone by the foot of the climb. 6.5 kilometres from the top Atapuma joined him and left him behind not much later. In the meantime the GC riders were getting closer and closer. Polka dot jersey Warren Barguil rode to the front and took his second stage win. Tony Gallopin finished fourteenth, at 1’37”. Tiesj Benoot was 22nd at 3’23”.

 

Tiesj Benoot: “There were over fifty riders in the front group and that was good for me. I survived when the group was split. The Izoard was a very hard climb and I suffered. I could stay at the front for a long time, but at a certain moment I felt cramps coming up and I knew I couldn’t go over my limit anymore. I set a nice result today. I am nineteenth on GC now and that’s a proof that I coped well with the events the past three weeks. I have learned a lot and I hope to benefit from it in autumn and on the long term. I am very happy to be standing here on top of the Izoard. Tomorrow is a dangerous stage and on Sunday we will support André Greipel in the stage to the Champs-Elysées.”

 

Tony Gallopin: “It was no easy beginning for me. I was dropped a few times, but could always come back and even attacked a few times. It was even hard to hang on in the large front group. I was not riding at the front when the selection was made. On the Col de Vars I returned to the front and I felt better. I know that climb and descent, so I decided to attack before the top. There was no cooperation though. Atapuma was the best of the escapees. Winning the stage was impossible for me because the GC riders were so close and because the others were stronger. Still, I can be satisfied.”

 

“Since I have recovered from my ankle injury I have always done my work for the team or I joined a breakaway. I am very pleased about my condition. I hope to ride a good time trial on Saturday. It’s a distance I like and there’s a hill on the course. At the end of the Tour the freshness often counts. And of course I want to help André Greipel win a stage.”