Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ has won Stage 14 of the Tour de France to stake his claim as potential champion of the 106th edition of the race, on a day when overall leader Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step put yet more time into defending champion Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos.
Pinot finished 6 seconds ahead of Alaphilippe, second on today's stage, but more importantluy the man in the yellow yersey took a further 36 seconds from Thomas, who finished 8th today.
Alaphilippe now leads the race by 2 minutes 2 seconds from Thomas, with Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma 12 seconds back in third place
Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ colleagues, and in particular David Gaudu, did sterling work to set their team leader up for a stage win that puts him right back in the frame for the overall.
But the story of the day was Alaphilippe not only holding on to the yellow jersey, but extending his lead.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider had been expected to cede time to Thomas on yesterday’s individual time trial in Pau.
As it turned out he won the stage, and increased his lead at the top of the overall standings by 14 seconds over the Welshman.
Despite that performance, Alaphilippe was expected to cede time to the overall contenders today. Instead – barring Pinot – he took yet more time.
The absence of four-time winner Chris Froome of Team Ineos after his crash last month at the Criterium du Dauphiné already meant that this was shaping up to be the most open edition of the Tour de France in years.
And with the race finishing in Paris a week tomorrow that is exactly what we have.
Alaphilippe is untested in the third week of a Grand Tour, true, but Pinot – having lost time in crosswinds on the stage to Albi on Monday – is resurgent.
Thomas, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be in the form he was in 12 months ago.
We have an intriguing week’s racing ahead of us.
Stage winner Thibaut Pinot
Our tactic was planned before the race. That’s why we got our time trial specialists to pull the bunch and maintain the gap under three minutes. I clearly wanted the stage win and nothing else.
It was out of question to make a show. What we didn’t plan was Movistar to make the race hard in the Soulor and that hurt.
David Gaudu’s attack was planned as well. I had a strong desire to win. My goal now is to make the top 3 in Paris again.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe
When I saw some big names losing contact before me, I got thrilled. I’m happy to profit from this exceptional moment I’m having. The hard work pays off.
After today’s big damages, there’ll be more changes in the overall ranking. One more day in yellow, I couldn’t ask for anything better. The closer we’ll get to Paris, the more I’ll ask myself if I stay in the lead but firstly I need to recover from today’s hard stage.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas
I just didn't feel quite on it from the start really to be honest - just quite weak. At the end I just knew I had to try to pace it. I didn't really attempt to follow when they kicked. I thought it was better just to try to ride my own pace and limit my losses that way, rather than stay with them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. Maybe I should have tried to stay with them - it's just one of those days.
I was hoping I'd come round a bit. On the last climb it was just a matter of staying there for as long as possible.
It was a tough day out there. There's still a lot more to come and hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.
Egan Bernal, back in the white jersey
What happened today is a big surprise for many. It was the first day of the pure battle for the overall with big climbs. Personally I felt well and that makes me happy. As a team, Geraint Thomas has lost some time and that’s not good. I was available to help him but through the radio, they told me to not wait for him.
We all have a bad day at the Tour de France, yesterday was mine. I don’t know if we can win the Tour de France. I know that the defending champion is my team-mate. I won’t go against the instructions of my team. If I’m asked to help, I will do. If I’m given freedom, I’ll try to make the best of it.
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.