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Tour de France Report: Stage 18

An historic King of the Mountains is crowned

By Larysa Pachulski, 2:39PM, Thu. Jul. 24

Tour de France Report: Stage 18

The 101st Tour de France continues through July 27. Click through to read our report of Stage 18.

STAGE 18

Stats

Location: Pau to Hautacam

Duration: 145.5km/ 90.4mi

Terrain: Mountain Stage (two category 3 climbs, two HC (“uncategorizable”) climbs

Weather: 16C/60.8F, 10km/hr winds

Why you should care: Today was arguably the most decisive stage of the Tour de France. The final mountain stage in the Pyrenees, finishing at the famous Hautacam summit, would determine who will win the King of the Mountains jersey this year, and – provided that there are no tragic variables (crashes, foolish fans, etc.) – would likely also determine the winner of the Tour de France for 2014.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), current yellow jersey holder (for the last 15 days) and three-time stage winner in this year’s Tour, was the obvious favorite for the overall win – so much so that Italian President Matteo Renzi has already invited Nibali and “his” yellow jersey to the Palazzo Chigi after the Tour. Will someone please inform President Jinx that the Tour is not over yet?

Rivalries

After yesterday’s “stunt” of using a pole to propel a Pole (forgive me), Rafal “Serial Winker” Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) was granted a pole penalty (someone help me) of 5 KOM points and 10 seconds in the overall standings – a minor penalty for a minor crime which probably ended up costing him more time than anything. Regardless, he still started the day as the King of the Mountains.

None of those riders in contention for placement (in the overall or the KOM) seemed interested in exerting themselves over the col du Tourmalet. The most notable break away came from Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) at around 10km to the summit. Chavanel looked good for a rematch on Tourmalet, as he had crossed the line first on this summit before. However, Blel Kadri (AG2R) and Mikel Nieve (Sky) would not let him claim a second win. Kadri ended up over the Tourmalet first with Nieve in close pursuit.

On route to the final HC summit of Hautacam, competition started to pick up. No one in standings contention made any moves at the base of the ascent. Then, at around 10km to the finish line, veteran rider Chris Horner (Lampré-Merida) attacked the peloton and triggered the Shark (Nibali). Horner is not a threat to the overall or the KOM standings, but the Shark was itching to take any win he could get, and with an attack on Horner, it looked as though he might take the stage, the King of the Mountains, and the overall in one go.

But Rafal Majka was not about to let all of the previous day’s hard work go to waste. He chased after Nibali, who had easily surpassed Nieve on the ascent, and caught up to and surpassed Nieve himself at 7km to go. Poor Nieve was awarded the consolation of most aggressive rider of the day after two failed, but valiant attempts at a first place summit finish.

Several riders began to chase after Majka and Nibali, hoping to at least keep their best time so far, including Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), the American rider from Montana.

Who Won

You’ll never guess who won.

For the fourth time this Tour – just in case we forgot about him – Nibali took the stage victory for himself in the yellow jersey, no less. Majka came in a close third, managing to keep his title of King of the Mountains, and became the first ever Polish rider to win a classification. Tejay remains comfortably in the top 10 overall, with still another flat stage tomorrow and the individual time trial on Saturday.

Many had predicted another stage win for Nibali: He seemed to have the legs, and he’d been extremely fortunate this Tour in terms of crashes and injuries (he hasn't had any). That said, the reaction to his virtual victory of the Tour de France was mixed.

There were supportive spectators:

There were unsupportive spectators:

And there were cautious spectators:

What Next

The Tour has officially bid adieu to the mountains, and the KOM winner has been declared, but this race is not over yet. The sprinters will get one more chance to win a stage tomorrow before the final stage in Paris on Sunday. Pray over your bike tonight that there are no crashes tomorrow.


Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.

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