A dangerous prank that could have seriously injured scores of Tour de France competitors was a key talking point on stage 10 of the famous race, as BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet added time to his general classification lead.
Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) delighted home fans on the 158.5km stage from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand to produce an excellent solo victory but many of his rivals could have been wiped out by a daredevil’s desire for some camera time.
With around 95km remaining in the stage, riders were on a relatively flat spot of a mountain climb when a BMX rider went flying above their heads.
The daredevil only narrowly missed the riders, and given the speed of his jump, a slight miscalculation could have caused major injuries and potentially led to race withdrawals.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) July 17, 2018
This year’s stunt came on the same day as Alaphilippe’s brilliant performance, the 26-year-old becoming the first local to win a stage in this year’s race.
“It was a big objective to take a stage in the Tour de France and a really proud moment for me to win,” he said afterwards.
“I was able to enjoy it a bit on the downhill and realise what I’d done. It was an incredible feeling in the last kilometre.”
Alaphilippe beat home Bahrain-Merida’s Ion Izagirre (+1 min 34 secs) and Direct Energie’s Rein Taaramae (+1 min 40 secs).
Also able to soak in the limelight of an excellent day’s racing was Van Avermaet, who worked his way into the breakaway group in the early stage and ended up finishing fourth, one minute and 44 seconds adrift of Alaphilippe.
That helped him extend his lead on second-placed Geraint Thomas, of Team Sky, to two minutes and 22 seconds.
“We were expecting that from Van Avermaet … it would have been nice to take the yellow jersey but it’s the Tour de France,” Thomas said.
“It doesn’t come easily and doesn’t come just because you want it.”
Froome also made a move on stage 10, moving up into sixth, three minutes and 21 seconds behind Van Avermaet, despite some issues.
“It was a little bit of wacky races going on there,” he said.
“I had a puncture, got a spare wheel from a teammate only to find out that was flat as well.
“So it was a little bit of a comedy of errors … thankfully it was still far from the finish, so the race wasn’t too crazy and I was able to get back in [the peleton].
“For the first big mountain stage, I think the guys showed exactly what we have been training for and it was great to see we had the numbers there.”
Alaphilippe made his move early, starting his attack before six kilometres of the day’s stage had been completed.
He was part of an early breakaway group that eventually grew in size, reaching 21, before Alaphilippe shrugged off his challengers to lead the way over the toughest climb of the day.
The local was clearly wrestling with the dilemma of going it solo, or riding with others, and although he was joined by Taaramae at times, Alaphilippe always looked a stage winner.
And so it proved, as he kicked clear over the final climb, allowing the celebrations to start with around three kilometres of the stage remaining.
Behind him, the general classification race was hotting up as Van Avermaet, still a big outsider in this year’s race due to his ability through the mountains, worked hard to extend his advantage.
And while it is likely to be wiped in the coming days, Van Avermaet’s efforts were still a source of joy for a BMC Racing team still reeling from the injury-enforced withdrawal of Australian and general classification contender Richie Porte on stage nine.
Stage 10 results
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) 4 hrs 25 mins 27 secs
2. Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) + 1 min 34 secs
3. Rein Taaramae (Direct Energie) + 1 min 40 secs
4. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) +1 min 44 secs
5. Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data) + 1 min 44 secs
6. Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) + 2 mins 24 secs
7. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) + 3 mins 23 secs
8. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) + 3 mins 23 secs
9. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) + 3 mins 23 secs
10. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) + 3 mins 23 secs
General classification standings
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) 40 hrs 34 mins 28 secs
2. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) + 2 mins 22 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) + 3 mins 10 secs
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) + 3 mins 12 secs
5. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) + 3 mins 20 secs
6. Chris Froome (Team Sky) + 3 mins 21 secs
7. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) + 3 mins 21 secs
8. Mikel Landa (Movistar) + 3 mins 21 secs
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) + 3 mins 27 secs
10. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) + 3 mins 36 secs