CYCLING: The pain was worth the gain, as Alaphilippe now up 2:02 on Thomas after stage 14!

Tour de France Stage 14 hero Thibaut Pinot (FRA)

Brutal, uphill climbing stages are what win major stage races like the Tour de France. Saturday’s final climb up the Col de Tourmalet in the Pyrenees Mountains was the kind of soul-testing challenge that showed France’s Julian Alaphilippe could be the first French winner of the most famous race in cycling since 1985.

After scaling the 1,469 m Col du Soulor earlier in the stage, the final climb up the Tourmalet – a 1,114 m climb over 19 km with grades of 7.4% – was sure to break almost everyone. In the final 5 km, a group of about a dozen riders started to break up. Colombia’s Nairo Quintana fell back, as did Alejandro Valverde (ESP) and Mikel Landa (ESP). New Zealand’s George Bennett was at the front, leading his Jumbo-Visma teammate Steven Kruijswijk (NED), trying to get back into contention for the overall title.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas (GBR) and fellow Team INEOS rider Egan Bernal (COL) were right in the mix, but so was Alaphilippe, riding right on Thomas’s wheel.

As the climb continued and the riding got harder, Bennett fell back, so did some of the contenders, like Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) and Rigoberto Uran (COL). With just more than 1,000 m left, Alaphilippe moved past Thomas, who began to fade.

A group of five, led by a suddenly-fresh Thibaut Pinot (FRA) moved toward the finish and Pinot sprinted away with about 250 m left and easily won the stage at the end, six seconds ahead of a storming Alaphilippe, who held off Kruijswijk at the line, followed by Emanuel Buchmann (GER) and Bernal.

Thomas has tired noticeably, but rallied to finish eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot, but also 30 seconds behind Alaphilippe, who with the six-second time bonus for finishing second, added 36 seconds to his overall lead, now 2:02. The leaders:

1. 56:11:29 Julian Alaphilippe (FRA)
2. +2:02 Geraint Thomas (GBR)
3. +2:14 Steven Kruijswijk (NED)
4. +3:00 Egan Bernal (COL)
5. +3:12 Emanuel Buchmann (GER) and Thibaut Pinot (FRA)

For cycling-mad France, having Pinot as the stage winner on the Tourmalet and Alaphilippe extending his lead in the yellow jersey is as close to a perfect summer’s day as it gets.

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The race is hardly decided, however. On Sunday is another climbing stage, with four major ascents over 185 km, including a final 12.5 km up the Pray d’ Albis, and the final week of racing has three punishing stages in the Alps before the final ride into Paris.

But right now, you’d much rather be in Alaphilippe’s position than anywhere else. Summaries so far:

UCI World Tour/Tour de France
France ~ 6-28 July 2019
(Full results here)

Stage 1 (194.5 km): 1. Mike Teunissen (NED), 4:22:47; 2. Peter Sagan (SVK), 4:22:47; 3. Caleb Ewan (AUS), 4:22:47; 4. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA), 4:22:47; 5. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA), 4:22:47.

Stage 2 (27.6 km Team Time Trial): 1. Jumbo-Visma (NED), 28:57; 2. Team Ineos (GBR), 29:17; 3. Deceuninck-Quick Step (GER), 29:18; 4. Team Sunweb (GER), 29:23; 5. Team Katusha Alpecin (SUI), 29:23.

Stage 3 (215.0 km): 1. Julien Alaphilippe (FRA), 4:40:29; 2. Michael Matthews (AUS), 4:40:55; 3. Jasper Stuyven (BEL), 4:40:55; 4. Greg van Avermaet (BEL), 4:40:55; 5. Sagan (SVK), 4:40:55.

Stage 4 (213.5 km): 1. Elia Viviani (ITA), 5:09:20; 2. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), 5:09:20; 3. Ewan (AUS), 5:09:20; 4. Sagan (SVk), 5:09:20; 5. Dylan Groenewegen (NED), 5:09:20.

Stage 5 (175.5 km): 1. Sagan (SVK), 4:02:33; 2. Wout van Aert (BEL), 4:02:33; 3. Matteo Trentin (ITA), 4:02:33; 4. Colbrelli (ITA), 4:02:33; 5. van Avermaet (BEL), 4:02:33.

Stage 6 (160.5 km): 1. Dylan Teuns (BEL), 4:29:03; 2. Giulio Ciccone (ITA), 4:29:14; 3. Xandro Meurisse (BEL), 4:30:08; 4. Geraint Thomas (GBR), 4:30:47; 5. Thibaut Pinot (FRA), 4:30:49.

Stage 7 (230.0 km): 1. Groenewegen (NED), 6:02:44; 2. Ewan (AUS), 6:02:44; 3. Sagan (SVK), 6:02:44; 4. Colbrelli (ITA), 6:02:44; 5. Jasper Philipsen (BEL), 6:02:44.

Stage 8 (200.0 km): 1. Thomas de Gendt (BEL), 5:00:17; 2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA), 5:00:23; 3. Alaphilippe (FRA), 5:00:23; 4. Matthews (AUS), 5:00:43; 5. Sagan (SVK), 5:00:43.

Stage 9 (170.5 km): 1. Daryl Impey (RSA), 4:03:12; 2. Tiesj Benoot (BEL), 4:03:12; 3. Jan Tratnik (SLO), 4:03:22; 4. Oliver Naesen (BEL), 4:03:22; 5. Stuyven (BEL), 4:03:22.

Stage 10 (217.5 km): 1. Wout van Aert (BEL), 4:49:39; 2. Viviani (ITA), 4:49:39; 3. Ewan (AUS), 4:49:39; 4. Matthews (AUS), 4:49:39; 5. Sagan (SVK), 4:49:39.

Stage 11 (167.0 km): 1. Ewan (AUS), 3:51:26; 2. Groenewegen (NED), 3:51:26; 3. Viviani (ITA), 3:51:26; 4. Sagan (SVK), 3:51:26; 5. Jens Debusschere (GER), 3:51:26.

Stage 12 (209.5 km): 1. Simon Yates (GBR), 4:57:53; 3. Pello Bilbao (ESP), 4:57:53; 3. Gregor Muhlberger (AUT), 4:57:53; 4. Tiesj Benott (BEL), 4:59:21; 5. Febio Felline (ITA), 4:59:21.

Stage 13 (27.2 km Indiv. Time Trial): 1. Alaphilippe (FRA), 35:00; 2. Thomas (GBR), 35:14; 3. De Gendt (BEL), 35:36; 4. Rigoberto Uran (COL), 35:36; 5. Richie Porte (AUS), 36:45. Also in the top 25: 9. Joey Rosskopf (USA), 36:01; … 17. Chad Haga (USA), 36:22.

Stage 14 (117.5 km): 1. Thibaut Pinot (FRA), 3:10:20; 2. Alaphilippe (FRA), 3:10:26; 3. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), 3:10:26; 4. Emanuel Buchmann (GER), 3:10:28; 5. Egan Bernal (COL), 3:10:28.

21 July: Stage 15 (185.0 km): Limoux to Foix (mountains)
22 July: Rest day
23 July: Stage 16 (177.0 km): Nîmes to Nîmes (hilly)
24 July: Stage 17 (200.0 km): Pont du Gard to Gap (hilly)
25 July: Stage 18 (208.0 km): Embrun to Valloire (high mountains)
26 July: Stage 19 (126.5 km): Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes (high mountains)
27 July: Stage 20 (130.0 km): Albertville to Val Thorens (high mountains)
28 July: Stage 21 (128.0 km): Rambouillet to Paris (flat)

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