The Tour de France entered the Alps on Thursday, and there was no easing into things. The 208-kilometer stage featured four categorized climbs, including the Izoard and the Galibier. Knowing that the stage 18 winner was likely to come from the breakaway, a fierce battle to escape up the road began at kilometer zero. EF Education First Pro Cycling was amongst the action, eventually putting Alberto Bettiol and Mike Woods in the move.
“We set out what we wanted to achieve,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “Alberto and Mike were earmarked to go into the break – Alberto to try to support Rigo for longer than he could otherwise and Mike to attempt to win the stage.”
Woods did not win the stage. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) seized that honor with a bold attack up the Galibier. Quintana’s attack countered an earlier move by Woods.
“My big goal here is to go after a stage win,” Woods explained. “I’m really focused on that. When I attacked today it was with the goal of trying to win. When I was brought back, Lutsenko and Quintana went flying away. At that point I realized the stage wasn’t up for grabs, and I suffered my way to the finish.”
“It was cool finishing in the top 10 and getting lots of love from back home, but I’m going for broke,” Woods added. “I’d rather try to win, fail and come seventh than come home second or third on a stage.”
The race for the yellow jersey heated up in Woods’ wake. Egan Bernal (INEOS) went on the attack, gaining time and leap-frogging up three spots on the general classification, surpassing his teammate and defending champion Geraint Thomas.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) could not match Bernal but was able to stay with the rest of the general contenders to keep the yellow jersey. Rigoberto Urán finished alongside Alaphilippe and Thomas to maintain ninth overall.
“Rigo is getting very strong at high altitude and in the last week,” said EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “His earlier broken collarbone [at Paris-Nice] may have hurt his sharpness initially, but for the next few days, his relative freshness will be a weapon.”
The Tour de France peloton reached France on Monday with 207-kilometer day between Binche and…