Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scot attacked from the break win his second stage of the Tour de France inside a week with Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot blowing the overall contenders' group apart and gain big time on his GC rivals, including Deceuninck-Quick Step's Julian Alaphilippe, who cracked for the first time in the race but holds onto the yellow jersey going into tomorrow's second and final rest day.
Alaphilippe was in trouble for the first time in this year’s race, but still retains a lead of 1 minute 35 seconds over defending champion Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos who crossed the line with Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk, who remains third overall, 12 seconds further back.
The performance of the day among the overall contenders, however came from Pinot, who lost 1 minute 40 seconds when he was caught out by the crosswinds on Stage 10 to Albi.
The Frenchman, who 24 hours earlier took a memorable stage win on the Tourmalet, attacked the overall contenders group with 7 kilometres left of the 185-kilometer stage from Limoux to the Parat d’Albis, the final climb making its debut in the race.
He moves from sixth to fourth overall, 1 minute 57 seconds behind Alaphilippe and five seconds ahead of Egan Bernal of Team Ineos, with Emanuel Buchmann of Bora-Hansgrohe nine seconds further back in sixth place.
The continued reshuffling of the general classification after the weekend’s two thrilling summit-finish stages, and the individual time trial on Friday, means that there are five riders within two and a quarter minutes of Alaphilippe.
Should his challenge falter in the Alps, it also means that there are just 39 seconds between Thomas, Kruijswijk, Pinot, Bernal and Buchmann in what has become the most open edition of the race in years as it heads into its final week.
The racing was frantic from the start and it wasn’t until the start of the first of the day’s climbs, to the Cathar castle of Montsegur, that a break got away but when it did, it was packed with quality the likes of which have seldom been seen at the Tour de France.
Besides Yates, it included a host of Grand Tour champions and stage winners who, like him, had entered the race with no designs on the yellow jersey – Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali – or who had seen their ambitions of the overall win dashed, such as AG2R-La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet.
But with Movistar’s Nairo Quintana also in the group and lying 7 minutes 19 seconds off the race lead, the large group would never be afforded much leeway as battle for the GC was joined behind them.
On the second of the day’s three Category 1 climbs, Yates followed a move from Team Sunweb’s Simon Geschke and the pair had an advantage of a minute and a half over the remains of the break as they headed onto the 11.8-kilometre final climb.
Yates was soon on his own, his closest pursuer emerging as Mikel Landa of Movistar, who had managed to bridge across to the break from the GC group and immediately attacked.
The Spaniard would be caught before the line by Pinot, but moves up four places to seventh overall, 4 minutes 54 seconds behind Alaphilippe, with his team-mate Alejandro Valverde a further 6 seconds back in eight place.
Racing resumes on Tuesday with a rare out-and-back road stage from Nimes that suits the sprinters, followed by a transitional stage to Gap ahead of three decisive days in the High Alps and the finale in Paris.
Should the final week follow the pattern of the past fortnight, it’s impossible to predict who will top the podium on the Champs-Elysees, and for once there is no shortage of contenders.
Stage winner Simon Yates
It was on from start to finish. The GC guys were coming fast, I know personally how fast they can go, so I wanted to maintain the advantage to the bottom of the final climb. Simon Geschke was a great companion on the descent, so thank you to him, but I knew I had to go early on the final climb.
I came here with the first objective to help my brother, the second to try to get a stage win. Now I have two so I’m very proud. This one was really hard, the first wasn’t easy, but this one, with the parcours was extremely difficult.
I’m very tired now but there are three very hard stages in the final week so we will try again.
Yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe
I want to thank the team, because they did a great job to control the race and protect me. It was a very hard day, and I expected that, and my goal was to remain in the lead.
I am happy I could do that and although I’m aware that the third week will be a very tough one, I just want to enjoy every moment of this great Tour.
Until then, we have a rest day, and I look forward to it, to training with my teammates and seeing my family.
Thibaut Pinot, fourth overall
Today, with the rain, it was my weather, I had to take advantage of it. It was a stage I like, I felt good. I knew the final of the Prat d’Albis was less steep and I knew not to take too many risks to avoid going into the red when I attacked because if I was counter-attacked, I’d be able to follow.
In the Pyrenees I’ve taken time back on everyone, that’ the main thing. If I have the legs, I will continue to take time.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas
I felt better than yesterday, for sure. It was similar to yesterday, in that I needed to try and pace it when it all kicked off - fair play to Wout [Poels], he was great at that point.
Then I got stuck by Alaphilippe - and I obviously didn’t want to pull at that stage with him in the wheel, so we let him ride a bit and I jumped with around 2km to go.
Tactics-wise, we were stuck a bit between a rock and a hard place, but the positive is that the legs responded a little bit better today. It was a decent day all round to be honest
There’s so many guys still in the mix this year. It’s such a mental game now. Everyone will be feeling it, but you need to try and block out the tiredness - bite the bullet and dig in.
For sure I will look back and draw on my experiences from last year and hopefully that will help - I was suffering at times then as well - the rest day will be welcome for everyone!
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.