Race leader Julian Alaphilippe of Deceunink-Quick Step and defending champion Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos were among the big winners on today's Tour de France Stage 10 into Albi as the race was blown apart by crosswinds. The pair were in a front group that also included Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Mitchelton-Scott's Adam Yates, but Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot was among the big names to find themselves on the wrong side of the split, losing more than a minute and a half. The stage itself was won by Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert from Deceuninck-Quick Step's Elia Viviani.
Team Ineos had already tried to harness the impact of crosswinds with around 66 kilometres remaining of the 217.5-kilometre stage from Saint-Flour, Luke Rowe moving to the front of the peloton to up the pace, resulting in around 30 riders being distanced.
The big damage came later on as EF Education First came to the front as the race entered its final 40 kilometres, and while the splits they helped cause would help wreck the hopes of a number of leading names in the overall standings, their own leader, Rigoberto Uran, would be among those to lose time.
Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey sensed an opportunity to put some rivals under pressure and took to the front, with Movistar’s Nairo Quintana joining him in setting a pace that resulted in the peloton breaking apart and the day’s escapees being swept up with 25 kilometres still to ride.
Besides Pinot and Uran, the second group contained other big names such as Richie Porte of Trek Segafredo and Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang and they rode frantically to try and bridge across to the group with Thomas and Alaphilippe.
They reduced the gap to just 13 seconds at one point, but the effort of riding flat out took its toll and they would eventually cross the line 1 minute 40 seconds behind the front group.
Losing even more time today was Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett. Bizarrely, despite lying fourth overall this morning, the New Zealander appeared to have been sent back to his team car to collect water bottles at exactly the wrong moment and would lose the best part of 5 minutes.
Thomas rises to second overall, 1 minute 12 seconds behind Alaphilippe, with fellow Team Ineos rider Egan Bernal moving into third place 4 seconds further back and also taking the best young rider’s white jersey from Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone who was among those dropped today.
The Italian had been second on GC this morning, with Pinot third and Bennett fourth, but is the only one of that trio to remain in the top 10, occupying 10th place, 2 minutes 32 seconds off the lead.
Moving into the top 10 are Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott, 1 minute 47 seconds behind Alaphilippe, and Dan Martin of UAE Team Emirates, who is a further 22 seconds back.
In claiming his first Tour de France stage victory today, van Aert continues Jumbo-Visma's storming start to the race, with Mike Teunissen and Dylan Groenewegen also having taken stage wins and the Dutch outfit also winning the Stage 2 team time trial.
Stage winner Wout van Aert
I can’t believe it. It’s not easy to win here. Over the past ten days I have experienced how great this race is. To win during my Tour debut is great.
Today, everything falls into place for me. The fact that echelons were created, was not ideal for us. Both Dylan [Groenewegen] and George [Bennett] were not with us. Though it gave me an opportunity and I took it.
I started the sprint from afar. Viviani came up strong, but in the end I could take the win. This shows how strong we are as a team.
In addition to the team time trial, we’ve also won three sprints with three different riders. I hope it also gives Steven [Kruijswijk], our leader for the general classification, a boost.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe
The crosswinds made everything really nervous, but we knew we had to stay alert and did a great job together.
The entire team was at the front and went full gas to try to win the stage with Elia. We didn’t take the victory, but we rode like a great squad today and we can be proud of that.
On the other hand, I kept my lead in the classification and Enric [Maes] moved up several places, so we can be pretty satisfied with the outcome. It was an interesting, action-packed stage, but now I’m glad we’ll finally have a rest day.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas
It’s a really good day for us in the end. We had a little go earlier, but the conditions weren’t quite right.
EF and Quick-Step both had a go too, so we just had to make sure we were ready. We were in the perfect position when it split - we all committed when we needed to.
When they tried to close it as quickly as possible but couldn’t manage it, that’s when the elastic snapped and we really gained a bit of time.
It’s a good gap now - and we’ve landed a good blow on a day when you wouldn’t really have expected it. To gain a minute and a half due to a positioning error on their part is great from our point of view.
In the end it’s a really good day for us.
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.