Julian Alaphilippe of Quick Step Floors has won Stage 16 of the Tour de France after Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates, who seemed to be heading for a solo win in Bagneres de Luchon on the first day in the Pyrenees, crashed on the final descent.
Even before Yates’s crash, it had been an incident packed day, with riders including Chris Froome and Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas, who remains 1 minute 39 seconds ahead of the defending champion in the overall standings.
Early on in the 218-kilometre stage from Carcassonne a number of riders including Froome and Thomas were subject to the after-effects of a police officer pepper-spraying protesting farmers, with many members of the peloton having to seek assistance from race doctors as the stage was briefly suspended.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment for anyone following the action on TV later on as Quick Step Floors rider Philippe Gilbert, who had attacked from a large break to crest the Col de Portet d’Aspet alone, tumbled over the parapet after losing control of his bike as he sought to increase his lead over his pursuers.
That his head-first fall into a ravine happened on the same descent where reigning Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli lost his life when he crashed while riding with Motorola in the 1995 edition only heightened the anxiety of those watching.
Fortunately, former world champion Gilbert was soon back on his bike, giving a thumbs-up to the TV cameras before remounting.
There was still more drama to come. Yates, out of overall contention, attacked on the final climb, the Col du Portillon, crested with 10 kilometres to go.
But his bike slid out from beneath him as he negotiated a bend, leaving the way clear for Alaphilippe – who consolidated his lead in the mountains competition – to take the stage win.
The winner of one of the jerseys has been settled today. Assuming he reaches Paris, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan is mathematically assured of a record equalling sixth points jersey to tie him with Erik Zabel.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.