Jonas Vingegaard won stage 18 of the Tour de France in the yellow jersey to take a potentially decisive step towards sealing his first overall title.
Tadej Pogacar, who had shook hands with the Dane when he waited for him after a crash on the descent of the Col de Spandelles earlier in the day, was left behind with four kilometres left of the climb of the Hautacam as Vingegaard won by a minute from the Slovenian.
It was Vingegaard’s second stage win of the race, having taken yellow with victory on the Col du Granon on stage 11 when Pogacar suffered his first crisis.
The Jumbo-Visma rider now leads by more than three minutes, with Saturday’s 41km time trial expected to be the final chance to create any significant time gaps.
The final mountain stage of this race delivered scenes which will go down in Tour history.
Pogacar had tried to attack on the descent of the Spandelles, and had Vingegaard under pressure when the Dane almost lost control on a left-hander, pulling one foot out of his pedal before rebalancing.
But a few corners later Pogacar ran wide, off the tarmac, and took a tumble in the gravel.
Vingegaard opted not to take advantage, waiting for his rival to ride back and accepting a shake of the hand which may well come to represent Pogacar’s concession in the fight for yellow.
Geraint Thomas, distanced by the front two for a second time on the final climb, needed a late bike change and rolled in a little under three minutes after Vingegaard, though the 2018 champion further extended his grip on third place overall, with Nairo Quintana further down the mountain.
Though the battle between Vingegaard and Pogacar defined the day, the best performance belonged to Vingegaard’s team-mate Wout van Aert in the green jersey.
The Belgian attacked from the drop of the flag, won the intermediate sprint and led the remnants of a breakaway on to the final climb before taking over pacing duties for Vingegaard, ultimately coming in third on the stage.
No team has won both the yellow and green jerseys since Team Telekom in 1997, but Jumbo-Visma are now on course to not only do that but also add the polka dots, with Vingegaard moving to the top of the mountains classification.
Van Aert had been setting the pace for Vingegaard at the moment that Pogacar dropped off the wheel, and the yellow jersey paid tribute to his team-mates after the stage.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I said this morning to my girlfriend and my daughter I wanted to win for them and I did. This one is for my two girls at home.
“I think [Pogacar] missed a corner and then he went into some gravel, he tried to steer it out and the bike disappeared under him. Then I waited for him.
“Today I have to thank all my team-mates. They were incredible. You see Van Aert dropping Pogacar at the end. Sepp Kuss was incredible, Tiesj [Benoot], Christophe [Laporte] and Nathan [Van Hooydonck], they were all incredible today. I couldn’t have done it without them.
“I don’t want to talk about (the overall title) yet. There is also tomorrow and a day after tomorrow and then we are in Paris, so let’s talk about it in two days.”
Vingegaard all but seals yellow: As it happened. . .
Pogacar loses over a minute
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) crosses the line 1min 3sec behind Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), before Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finishes third. Vingegaard has increased his lead to 3min 26sec. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finishes fourth, but now trails Vingegaard by eight minutes going into tomorrow’s stage. The Welshman, however, leads David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) fairly comfortably with a margin of 3min 5sec over the Frenchman who moved above Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Vingegaard wins stage 18 at the Tour de France!
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) has done it, the Dane has won on the Hautacam to tighten his grip on the maillot jersey following a superb performance from his team-mates. Nathan Van Hooydonck and Tiesj Benoot both played their part, but the performance from Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert on that final climb were otherworldly, particularly that of the maillot vert who managed to extend his lead further still in the points classification after finishing third.
1km to go
Jonas Vingegaard is moments away from winning his second stage at this year’s Tour de France, but more importantly he is about to extend his lead and all but seal his first maillot jaune.
1.5km to go
Tadej Pogacar’s jersey is unzipped, as it was last week when he lost the yellow jersey, a telltale sign he is struggling. Jonas Vingegaard has gained over 40sec now and will be taking a 3min+ lead into Saturday’s time trial – a very healthy advantage.
2km to go
Huge crowds on the upper slopes of the Hautacam, a tunnel of spectators cheering on the Tour de France champion elect.
3km to go
Jonas Vingegaard is finishing off the job here today, turning the screw on Tadej Pogacar. He has already gained 30sec on the Slovenian.
3.5km to go
Tadej Pogacar bridges over to Wout van Aert, but the Belgian will just sit on the UAE Team Emirates man’s wheel.
4km to go
Tadej Pogacar trails Jonas Vingegaard by almost 20sec.
4.5km to go – Pogacar cracks!
Wout van Aert pulls team-mate Jonas Vingegaard away from Tadej Pogacar. The defending champion just cannot respond and the Dane is riding towards certain victory.
5km to go
Sepp Kuss peels off, and after doing a huge turn on the front of the stage for the entirety of this horrible climb, Wout van Aert takes over on the front for Jonas Vingegaard. He is absolutely burying himself here, what a display of power from the Belgian on, coincidentally, his national day.
5.5km to go
Wout van Aert peers over his left shoulder, it looks as if he is watching out for team-mate Jonas Vingegaard as he prepares to lend a helping hand to Sepp Kuss. Daniel Martínez drifts off the front.
6km to go
Sepp Kuss, as is his wont, is barely breathing as continues to drag the main protagonists from this quite thrilling edition of the Tour de France ever closer to the line. The trio is 24sec off the pace of Wout van Aert and Daniel Martínez now. Is Tadej Pogacar going to chuck on final haymaker?
7km to go
Alexey Lutsenko and Carlos Verona are swooped up by the maillot jaune’s group as Sepp Kuss focuses on his high cadence, while Geraint Thomas is dropped. They trail stage leaders Wout van Aert and Daniel Martínez by 29sec.
8km to go
Wout van Aert and Daniel Martínez lead what is now a four-man maillot jaune group – Sepp Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar and Geraint Thomas – by 1min 1sec.
8.5km to go
Wout van Aert rises out of his saddle, stamping down on his pedals on this hard Pyrenean climb.
9.2km to go
And Wout van Aert attacks! The Belgian distances Thibaut Pinot, only Daniel Martínez is able to follow the wheels of this Swiss Army knife of a rider – he can do it all.
9.3km to go
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) and Carlos Verona (Movistar) are 33sec behind stage leaders Wout van Aert, Daniel Martínez and Thibaut Pinot, while the maillot jaune is another 30sec down the road.
10km to go
Louis Meintjes is hanging in there with the race leaders and has, I understand, moving up the general classification again. And as soon as that was typed, the South African is dropped.
11km to go
Sepp Kuss, the wonderful mountain domestique who has come into his own in the Pyrenees, has closed the gap on stage leaders Thibaut Pinot, Wout van Aert and Daniel Martínez: 1min 40sec.
12km to go
Thibaut Pinot is out of his saddle, the Frenchman who sounded despondent following yesterday’s stage is attempting to shake off Daniel Martínez and Wout van Aert. In the following group, Tiesj Benoot peels off allowing team-mate Sepp Kuss to take over pulling ahead of Jonas Vingegaard, with Tadej Pogacar at third wheel. Following the spills and thrills on the descent of the Spandelles, this is the last chance for any serious assault on the maillot jaune. Does Pogacar have what it takes? Is Vingegaard ready for the expected onslaught, or will he be the one landing the knock-out punch?
13km to go
Thibaut Pinot, Wout van Aert and Daniel Martínez lead the stage as it hits the Hautacam. The maillot jaune trails by 2min 28sec.
14km to go
Now approaching the beginning of the final climb of the Tour de France, Jona Vingegaard has team-mates Tiesj Benoot and Sepp Kuss for company, alongside Tadej Pogacar, Geraint Thomas, Louis Meintjes, Valentin Madouas and Hugo Houle.
17.5km to go
The fight appears to have fizzled out of the action at the front of the stage, for now at least. A couple of minutes ago Tadej Pogacar was spotted chatting with his team, and it didn’t look too cordial. Be fascinating to know what was said.
21km to go
Just heard from my colleague Tom Cary who is on the summit of the Hautacam. Apparently, there was spontaneous applause from the gathered crowds as Vingegaard and Pogacar shook hands following that act of sportsmanship a few minutes ago.
28.8km to go – Pogacar crashes!
Perhaps taking a risk too many in an effort to pile the pressure onto his rival. Tadej Pogacar loses his line on a left-hand bend before crashing.
In a superb act of sportsmanship, Jonas Vingegaard eases off and waits for Pogacar once the Slovenian was back in the saddle, waiting for him to catch back up. One reunited, the pair shook hands.
31km to go – Vingegaard wobbles!
Jonas Vingegaard has, for the first time in three weeks, shown a small sign of weakness. Once onto the descent, Tadej Pogacar pressed on with the Dane on his wheel, although after his front wheel looked to lock up he needed to readjust himself .
33.3km to go
Over the top of the Spandelles goes Wout van Aert to add 10 points to his tally in the mountains classification, but that will not concern the Belgian today. A few people have asked why has Van Aert been riding so hard on the front today? Well, I suspect he is thinking that if he sets a fast pace it will deter others to attack Jonas Vingegaard while putting himself in the ideal position to help his team-mate when they are reunited later in the stage.
34.5km to go
For the first time in three weeks, a few minor gaps are showing between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard with each additional stamp on the cranks from the defending champion. Remember, Wout van Aert is up the road ready and able to help his team-mate Vingegaard.
35km to go
A huge acceleration from Tadej Pogacar creates a small gap between these two heavyweights, but Jonas Vingegaard closes the gap. That burst of power and pace was enough to pull back Geraint Thomas who now looks to be struggling.
36km to go – Thomas attacks!
Geraint Thomas, for the first time in almost three weeks, has attacked. The Welshman drifts off up the road, but there is no reaction from Tadej Pogacar. Jonas Vingegaard appears to gesture to his team-mate Sepp Kuss as if to tell him to chase the Ineos Grenadiers man down. Thomas has team-mate Daniel Martínez up the road.
36.5km to go
Following a brief regrouping of some of the general classification contenders, Tadej Pogacar swings another punch, but fails to land one on Jonas Vingegaard who appears the have the measure of the defending champion.
37km to go
The three-man maillot jaune group is nearing Louis Meintjes and picked up a number of stragglers from the earlier breakaway. Alexandr Riabushenko (Astana Qazaqstan), rather generously, gives Tadej Pogacar a cold shower as he squirts the defending champion down with a cold bidon.
38km to go
Sepp Kuss has danced up the climb and onto the wheel of his team-mate Jonas Vingegaard. The American gets on his radio, no doubt messaging his team car letting them know the situation.
39km to go – Pogacar attacks!
Tadej Pogacar rises out of his saddle and attacks the maillot jaune, but once again Jonas Vingegaard is able to respond. The move came 6km from the summit of the Spandelles and we till have the entire 13.9km of the Hautacam to climb. I say ‘we’, obviously I mean they.
39.5km to go
Romain Bardet (DSM) and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) are struggling to hold the wheels of the maillot jaune group as splits start to appear.
40km to go
Like a yo-yo, Louis Meintjes has dropped down the virtual standings after Nairo Quintana and the maillot jaune group pushed on. They trail the stage leaders by 2min 46sec now, with Meintjes at 2min 11sec.
41km to go
Nathan Van Hooydonck peels off from the maillot jaune’s group , leaving Brandon McNulty to take over on the front ahead of team-mate Tadej Pogacar. Race leader Jonas Vingegaard has just Sepp Kuss for company now, although the American is actually sat on his leader’s wheel. Wout van Aert is doing a huge turn at the front of the race. Tiesj Benoot is also in the leading group, so Vingegaard may be able to lean on them later on this afternoon.
42km to go
The stage leaders are entering new territory now as the Tour hits the category one Spandelles for the first time in the race’s history. Enric Mas (Movistar) has been dropped by the Louis Meintjes group, not great for the Spaniard who may lose his 10th spot on general classification to Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) later today. The Kazakh rider, by the way, is in the leading group.
43km to go
Louis Meintjes has Enric Mas (Movistar), Luis León Sánchez (Bahrain Victorious), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Chris Hamilton (DSM) for company on the descent. They have lost some time to the stage leaders, but lead the maillot jaune by around 2min 20sec.
47km to go
Nairo Quintana’s Arkéa-Samsic team-mates are helping the Colombian down this climb, riding hard on the front in an attempt to close the gap on Louis Meintjes. Almost immediately, Tadej Pogacar follows and squeezes in at second wheel, Jonas Vingegaard follows and takes third wheel. Is this an early sign of hostilities?
50km to go
Following a short climb, the road drops down again towards the bottom of the second climb of the day, the category one Spandelles. Unlike yesterday, there are barely any valley roads connecting the climbs today meaning that as soon as they reach the bottom, it will be time to start climbing once again. There is not a single moment to relax and concentration will be key, especially if your name is Jonas Vingegaard and are expecting to be attacked.
55km to go
Tom Pidcock has been spotted riding alongside a Movistar and B&B Hotels-KTM rider, the trio are some distance off the front of the race.
58.5km to go
Descending off the Aubisque, the stage leaders appear to be taking things relatively smoothly on the narrow, twisty roads. Thankfully the road is dry and appears to be in decent condition.
63km to go
Giulio Ciccone added another 20 points to his tally in the mountains classification a few minutes ago, taking him to within three points of competition leader Simon Geschke who has well and truly popped. Now onto the descent, the stage leaders have an advantage of around 3min 30sec on the maillot jaune.
66.5km to go
It has just been confirmed that, as it stands, Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has moved up to fourth overall in the virtual general classification. He has had a miserable few years, but the South African arrived at the Tour de France in, arguably, the best form of his life and is now on course for his best finish in a grand tour – he has twice finished eighth at the Tour (2016 and 2017).
67.5km to go
Jonas Vingegaard has Jumbo-Visma team-mates Nathan Van Hooydonck and Sepp Kuss leading him up this hors catégorie climb, while Tadej Pogacar has just Brandon McNulty for company. Beautiful sunny day out in the Pyrenees this afternoon.
69km to go
Louis Meintjes has Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan) for company, the duo having gained 1min 30sec which, as it stands, would see him leapfrog Romain Bardet (DSM) to sixth on general classification. Should he gains another 30sec or so he may move above David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) in the virtual general classification, while Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) may also be worried about his fourth spot should the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux keep making gains.
70km to go
Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has gained 50sec on the maillot jaune’s group, but the South African climber is still a minute down on the stage leaders. Looks like Enric Mas (Movistar) is in the front group, as is Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious). By contrast, it looks as if Simon Geschke has popped. That looks like his challenge for the polka dot jersey may be ending today.
72.5km to go
Giulio Ciccone is back in the leading group which is now comprised of around 23 riders.
73.7km to go
Quite a bit of excitement as Tadej Pogacar moves off the front of the maillot jaune’s group . . . before everybody realises he was just off the get a bottle or gel. Geraint Thomas, by the way, has team-mate Adam Yates alongside him, although I have been hearing from my colleague Tom Cary that the Bury-man was feeling a little under the weather ahead of today’s stage.
75km to go
Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), who has had a disappointing Tour following his late call-up, is riding some distance off the rear of the peloton. Giulio Ciccone is part of a three-man group at the front of the race alongside Trek-Segafredo team-mate Bauke Mollema and Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), the Italian clearly off in pursuit of the mountains points. Back in the reduced maillot jaune group, Jonas Vingegaard has just one team-mate – Sepp Kuss – for company, while Tadej Pogacar is supported by Brandon McNulty.
77km to go
The maillot jaune is inching its way up this tough ascent of the Aubisque. Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) has attacked from the peloton, no doubt looking to climb the general classification, while up the road a massive group leads the stage by 17sec. Simon Geschke is in the second group on the road, with the maillot jaune another minute back.
82km to go
Simon Geschke has peeled off the front of the peloton as it hits the bottom of the Aubisque. A number of riders, including Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) are sat on the German’s wheel, but the race has completely splintered. It is utter chaos.
84.7km to go
Wout van Aert wins the intermediate sprint, of course he does.
90km to go
The 32-man breakaway has a lead of just 30sec, though I suspect that will splinter once it reaches the first climb of the day, the hors catégorie Aubisque. Cofidis are still working hard to try and get their man onto the move of the day, but I fear they have missed the boat.
Bauer in car-crash TV moment
Nasty moment for Jack Bauer (BikeExchange-Jayco) who went straight into the back of a UAE Team Emirates team car. The support vehicle appeared to slow as the road narrowed, while a press motorbike squeezed the gap down the left-hand side meaning the Kiwi was unable to round the car.
Angry words were exchanged, but the rider is back in his saddle now.
96km to go
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has managed to get into the leading group on the road which has grown to 31-strong now. They are around 10km from the intermediate sprint.
98.5km to go
More and more riders have bridged over to the leading group on the road, but the peloton does not look too keen on allowing them all their day in the sun.
100km to go
The leading group has grown out to 21 riders. Plenty of teams represented, but sadly for Cofidis Simon Geschke was unable to make the move. They lead by just 30sec at the moment.
104km to go
A big group of 16 riders has finally gone off up the road. Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Stan Dewulf (Ag2r-Citroën), Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers) and Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe) are all in there, but it is not looking entirely organised just now and another group looks to be chasing.
107.5km to go
Simon Geschke managed to escape from the clutches of the peloton along with a decent-sized group, but no sooner had they bridged over to the breakaway had the maillot jaune’s group closed them down. Wout van Aert soon counter-attacked, but again he was then reunited with the main bunch. Today represents a bit of a last-chance saloon for lots of teams who have failed to make a mark on this year’s race and so it is not that surprising to see such infernal racing so early.
112.5km to go
Cofidis have taken over on the front of the peloton, no doubt attempting to get Simon Geschke into the breakaway. The German really needs to take some points atop the Aubisque and Spandelles if he wants to win the polka dot jersey, that is assuming he cannot pull off a surprise stage win today and take 20 points on the Hautacam.
120km to go
A six-man breakaway comprising Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost), Stan Dewulf (Ag2r-Citroën), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Andreas Leknessund (DSM) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) has gained 18sec on the peloton. Some interesting names in there, but am thinking they will be attempting to get into this move in the hope of dropping back to help their team-mates later in the afternoon.
125km to go
Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), who played a key role for team-mate Tadej Pogacar yesterday, has been spotted off the rear of the peloton. The Norwegian may be paying a heavy price for riding on the front for so long, or perhaps he had had an early mechanical? Only time will tell. At the other end of the race, Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) has shifted to the front and is riding hard alongside five others.
131.3km to go
Stan Dewulf, one of just three Ag2r-Citroën riders still in the race, has bridged over to Wout van Aert. The green jersey, though, looks determined to push on. It has been another fast start to racing today.
As it stands . . .
And that man Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) attacked from the flag and the man dressed head-to-tow in green is on his lonesome. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) are in pursuit at around 5sec, with the peloton another 10sec down the road.
And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 18 of the 109th Tour de France, the 143.2-kilometre run from Lourdes to Hautacam.
After 17 days of racing, today is the final mountain stage when, one suspects, second-placed Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) will be crossing himself as he heads out from Lourdes before throwing one final Hail Mary in an attempt to disrobe race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) of his maillot jaune. Pogacar, of course, did his best to do so yesterday, but Vingegaard was able to match the two-time Tour winner pedal stroke for pedal stroke and although he missed out on the stage win, he will have been buoyed after passing his latest test.
Following today’s stage there will in all likelihood be just one more stage – Saturday’s time trial – in which Pogacar can make up time on Vingegaard, although when you look at their head-to-head records there is not too much to separate the two. When Pogacar blew away the field to win last year’s stage five time trial from Changé to Laval Espace Mayenne, over 27.2km, Vingegaard was third at 27sec. Saturday’s time trial is longer at 40.7km, though has a similar profile to last year’s first time trial. Should Vingegaard make it to the summit of the Hautacam today, where his compatriot Bjarne Riis infamously won in 1996, and lose no more than a minute to Pogacar, then his ascension to Tour de France champion will, surely, be assured.
As mentioned, Vingegaard will be dressed in the maillot jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, for a sixth day running and leads by 2min 18sec.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) mathematically secured the points classification when he finished second in the intermediate sprint on Wednesday behind Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck). All the Belgian needs to do now is complete the Tour in Paris on Sunday to seal the competition, and so will once again be dressed in the maillot vert.
Simon Geschke (Cofidis) will remain dressed in the maillot à pois, or the polka dot jersey, as the leader of the mountains classification. The 36-year-old, however, will more than likely need to get into the day’s breakaway if he is to become the first German to seal the competition.
Two-time Tour winner Pogacar, who has led the young rider classification since stage one, will be dressed in the white jersey.
So, what’s on today’s menu?
Similarly to yesterday’s stage, all of the categorised climbs are back-ended into the last half of the short-ish Pyrenean stage. Three climbs – Aubisque, Spandelles and Hautacam – will shape the outcome of the stage and, probably, the eventual outcome of the final maillot jaune of the race. Unlike yesterday, however, there are two hors catégorie climbs where team-mates and numbers may prove crucial. There has been no French winners at this year’s race and so we may see some aggressive racing from the home riders this afternoon, while a few teams will be hoping to get into a breakaway. Whether or not they are allowed to go all the way to the line will depend on how generous Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates are feeling, or indeed how desperate they are for another stage win and some more bonus seconds on the line. Either way, it should be another blockbuster of a stage and Telegraph Sport will be bring you all the action right from the flag.
There are a maximum of 50 points available to any one rider in the mountains classification and so we may see the likes of Geschke and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) attempting to get into the breakaway.
The points competition is all but wrapped up by Van Aert, but I would not be surprised to see the Jumbo-Visma man back in another breakaway, though mainly to act as a satellite rider for team-mate Vingegaard later in the day. However, with a modern-day record up for grabs the Belgian may be targeting more points.
And finally, the weather. . .
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