Warren Barguil won stage 18 of the 2017 Tour de France after finishing ahead of Darwin Atapuma of UAE Team Emirates at Izoard on Thursday. Team Sunweb's Barguil also collected the polka dot jersey as this year's King of the Mountains earlier in the stage.
AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet finished third, just ahead of Chris Froome. The latter kept the yellow jersey atop the general classification, but Bardet, who collected four bonus seconds, moved up to second in the standings.
Here are the results and updated GC standings, per ITV Cycling:
Omega Pharma–Quick-Step rider Serge Pauwels was at the head of the break with around 53 kilometres to go. Direct Energie's Romain Sicard and Astana's Alexey Lutsenko soon separated from the break, though, with Sicard managing to forge a brief and slender solo lead.
Further back, Team Sky controlled the peloton, with Luke Rowe setting the pace, while Froome was content to bide his time.
Back on the front, Atapuma and Tony Gallopin joined Sicard and Lutsensko to form a four-man breakaway that held a 15-second advantage on the remaining break. Meanwhile, the peloton continued to maintain a steady pace further behind, per Cycling News:
Lutsenko was the first over the summit at Col de Vars, something ensuring good news for Barguil, per ITV Cycling:
Of the leaders, it was Gallopin who broke free first, taking a solo lead as the descent approached with around 42 kms left. Lutsenko, Atapuma and Sicard kept him in sight, as the quartet maintained a 30-second lead over the chasing pack.
Sicard, Lutsenko and Atapuma caught Gallopin with 34 kms left, with Atapuma soon edging into the lead. Things quickly evened out, but the front four still had a near-six-minute advantage over the main group.
As the riders closed in on the final 25 kms, thoughts began to turn to the daunting final climb at the Col d'Izours. The Tour's official Twitter account detailed the challenges awaiting the competitors:
Before the climb, things became congested up front as Nicolas Edet, Daniel Navarro, Tsgabu Grmay and Romain Hardy joined the leading quartet. Hardy was the first to be dropped from this group as the lead reduced to 4:45.
As the riders attacked the final climb, Cycling author Felix Rowe offered a light-hearted salute to the approach adopted by Edet:
Lutsenko, Navarro, Gallopin and Atapuma stayed on the front, but the GC group started to pick up the pace with 10kms remaining. It was Lutsenko who pushed farthest forward, opening up a gap of around 43 seconds on the other three.
Atapuma was the biggest danger to the leader, and the superior climber soon made his move to power ahead. Meanwhile, things in the peloton took shape as Team Sky maintained control, protecting Froome well.
Two more master climbers, Barguil and Alberto Contador, sensed their moment to attack:
It was Barguil who piled the most pressure on Atapuma, reducing his gap to just 1:20, while Froome and his team-mates were 15 seconds back. Team Sky's Mikel Landa made his attack with 3 kms to go as Froome, Bardet and Rigoberto Uran also made their moves.
Up front, Barguil had overtaken Atapuma, and the Frenchman stayed on the front to win the stage along with claiming the polka dot jersey:
They were followed by Bardet, who edged Froome over the line to earn valuable bonus seconds.
It was heartbreak for Atapuma, but Froome will be relieved to have held onto the lead in the GC after Bardet's spirited ride.