Published: Fri, July 27, 2018
Sport | By Ashley Hunter

Thomas closes in on victory after passing final mountain test

Thomas closes in on victory after passing final mountain test

The six-pack of mountains on the course make this truly the queen stage of the 2018 edition.

Sprinters Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen - who had each won two stages in this Tour - called it quits during Stage 12 to Alpe d'Huez. But given the length of the time trial this year, Dumoulin might need to make up time on Friday to have a chance on Saturday.

Demare, who had been accused by fellow sprint specialist Andre Greipel of holding on to his team auto in Wednesday's mountain stage to avoid missing the time cut, was perfectly set up by Italian teammate Jacopo Guarnieri.

It was a brutal day for the defending champion, who started stage 17 in second place overall, but finished in third, two minutes and 31 seconds behind Thomas.

Greipel, who also quit in Stage 12, later apologized on Twitter, saying he had relied on "incorrect" information.

'It was a tough day, an intense day, but I've got no regrets, ' he said. "It's a shame that people cast doubts over my performance and my hard work".

"I thought a lot about [Greipel] today". (Cheating) is not my philosophy.

"This isn't how I wanted to finish my Tour and leaving it like this really hurts". "I just did my pace on the last climb, and I finished OK". UAE-Emirates have a stage win but not for Alexander Kristoff so it's probably all in for him unless they put a man in the escape. With another gruelling trip across the Alps and Pyrenees, who will wear the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees?

There were no changes to the overall classification as Geraint Thomas continues to lead the race by 1min59sec on Tom Dumoulin and 2min31sec to teammate Chris Froome ahead of the last mountain torture test - 200.5km and six climbs, including the Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque. "It's like we are nearly used to it, and that's bad".

"I think guys will try to take any opportunity they can".

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"Hopefully we won't have to use Froomey".

"But we have to keep on fighting".

"I thought it was maybe an accident, just maybe an overly exuberant fan", Thomas said.

Pictures and videos were plastered over social media as Froome reacted angrily and shouted "F**k you" at the police officer, who appeared unapologetic for his actions having grabbed the Briton by the arm.

One fan who reached over the barriers almost took Thomas down Wednesday. "It's not nice. It's not what you want". Since Sir Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, the yellow jersey has only once left British hands, thanks to Chris Froome's wins in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. "We will see if it's possible".

The Slovakian's team said in a statement that a decision was yet to be taken on whether Sagan would ride stage 18, which finishes in Pau.

Unlike in 2012, when Bradley Wiggins took his first Tour win, this Tour has been characterised by minimal individual time-trialling, a trend that seems increasingly to be taking hold with the race organisers.

Five riders - Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Mathew Hayman (Mitchelton-Scott), Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott), Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) - were involved in an early breakaway. But with so many teams eager to chase, they were eventually reeled in 17km from the finish.

Former Sky rider Mikel Landa, now a rival with Movistar and hoping to lift teammate Nairo Quintana from fifth, warned: "Friday will be our day".

Gilbert was helped out and got back on his bike to finish the remaining 57km of the stage.

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