Christophe Riblon has won the 18th stage of the Tour de France, winning on the double ascent of the Alpe D’Huez. The Queen stage of the 2013 Tour had all the hype, the danger and the intrigue that could be hoped for in a grand tour stage. With everyone anticipating chaos on the slopes, and a flurry of attacks on the first ascent of Alpe d’Huez, and disaster on the descent of the Sarenne nothing major came. Only a few riders were active from the group of favorites: Mikel Nieve – in search of Polka Dot points, Andy Schleck – in search of previous form and Voeckler and Rolland – in search of French glory.
Up the road was Teejay Van Garderen, working with Christophe Riblon and Moreno Moser, together having formed a strong break and nursing an 8 minute lead on the main peloton, they were the first riders over the Alpe. The first to see the descent, they weren’t without small mishaps. Vangarderen lost his chain on the bumpy descent and had to stop, and Riblon went cyclocrossing after riding straight into the ditch.
The favorites came through next, with Contador and Kreuziger pushing the pace on the descent, but when Movistar grouped back together catching Amador up the road and with Castroviejo catching on, they hammered the pace for Quintana and brought everything back together across the flat to the base of the climb. In the first steepest slopes on the Alpe, Valverde attacked to make space for Quintana, but the latter didn’t join. Richie Porte and Sky pushed the pace, but for the first time, Froome looked laboured. Shortly thereafter, Mollema, Ten Dam and Kreuziger cracked under Porte’s effort, and finally Joaquim Rodriguez and Valeverde made a strong effort but Froome was quick to close.
Up the road, Van Garderen had a substantial lead but was really hurting as Riblon was turning himself inside out to claw him back as it appeared the two would be dueling for victory. Further back, J-Rod and Quintana were working with Froome, while Porte and Valverde were trying to latch back on. Porte was desperately needed as Froome for the first time faltered. He was able to bridge and assist Froome, but Valverde couldn’t find the extra gear to close. Alberto Contador struggled again on the climb and was being distanced by the select few. Chris Froome, meanwhile, was ahead looking worse by the moment as he couldn’t keep with Porte, in a strange displsy, he was frantically waving his hand calling for what appeared to be food or gels. Porte dropped back and got it for him inside the illegal zone, a move which penalized Froome 20 seconds.
With Froome struggling and Porte at his side, Contador further down the hill, and both Belkin riders in trouble Quintana and Rodriguez went off looking for time. Riblon ahead had overtaken TJVG and soaked in the win bringing some celebration for the French and AG2R. Just over two minutes later Quintana came over the line with J-Rod just behind. A minute later came Froome, Porte and Valverde and another minute down the Contador group.
Tomorrow is another heavy stage and some riders are showing weakness. Will Saxo Bank be able to defend their positions now vs a hard charging Quintana and Rodriguez? Will Froome recover overnight?
Stage 18 Top Twelve
1. Christophe Riblon (AG2R)____4h51’32”
2. Teejay Van Garderen (BMC)___+59″
3. Moreno Moser (CAN)__________+1’27”
4. Nairo Quintana (MOV)________+2’12”
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)_____+2’15”
6. Richie Porte (SKY)__________+3’18” (+20″ penalty)
7. Chris Froome (SKY)__________ST (+20″ penalty)
8. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)____+3’22”
9. Mikel Nieve (EUS)___________+4’15”
10. Jakob Fuglsang (AST)
11. Alberto Contador (TST)
12. Roman Kreuziger (TST)______+4’31”
Overall Classification after 18 stages
1. Chris Froome (SKY)________65h15’36″
2. Alberto Contador (TST)______+5’11″
3. Nairo Quintana (MOV)______+5’32″
4. Roman Kreuziger (TST)_____+5’44″
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)___+5’58″
6. Bauke Mollema (BEL)_______+8’58″
7. Jacob Fuglsang (AST)______+9’33″
8. Michael Rogers (TST)______+14’26″
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQ)__+14’38″
10. Laurens Ten Dam (BEL)_____+14’39″
11. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)___+14’56″
12. Andrew Talansky (GRM)_____+16’24″
13. Daniel Navarro (COF)_____+19’18″
14. Maxime Monfort (RLT)_____+19’56″
15. Mikel Nieve (EUS)_________+24’13″
16. Daniel Moreno (KAT)______+30’05″
17. Romain Bardet (AG2R)_____+30’45″
18. Andy Schleck (RLT)_______+31’19″
19. Dan Martin (GRM)__________+34’22″
20. Richie Porte (SKY)________+37’42”