Tour de France
Tour de France
Intense battle to Paris
fizik
07/25/2019

After 17 stages, the General Classification battle in this year’s Tour de France couldn’t be more finely balanced! Tensions are beginning to show in the peloton as the temperature soars, with the lead riders hiding their exhaustion, elation, hopes and fears behind poker faces and the season’s oversized mirrored eyewear.

The pressure is on Team Ineos and Infinito R1 Knit-wearing defending champion Geraint Thomas with a 1:35 deficit and threats from every angle. The main GC contenders, including Team Ineos’ “G” and Egan Bernal, and Team Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk (just 12 seconds behind in third) survived the heat and stress of stages 16 and 17, maximising efficiency to save energy for the decisive three Alpine stages.

Team Jumbo Visma

Going into Stage 18 there are just 39 seconds between positions 2 and 6, with the Movistar Team duo of Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde following closely behind, and ready to attack. With Ineos and Jumbo-Visma both caught between the conflicting demands to attack and defend, and that challenge amplified by depleted squads, it’s also a tactical minefield. The main protagonists might not always see eye to eye, but they share a focus:

 

“Last year was pretty good in the Alps, so to do something similar would be nice. It’s a totally different situation now, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Geraint Thomas

Tour de France

 

“The next three days will be really tough”.
Steven Kruijswijk

Tour de France

 

“A podium finish? Why not. I won’t be able to do it alone, though: I’ll need my team-mates, and I know they’re ready to give it their all.”
Mikel Landa

Ahead of them on today’s 208km Stage 18 are four increasingly high climbs, culminating in the 2,642m Galibier that steepens throughout its 23km and offers bonus seconds at the top before 20km of descent to the line. Then, shorter at 126.5km, Stage 19 is dominated by the single, long HC climb of 2,770m Col de l’Iseran with its steep finale… which could make or break dreams ahead of the uphill finish in Tignes. After that, anyone still in contention on Saturday will face multiple opportunities to attack – or demands to defend – on the 4,450 metres of ascent packed into the 130km of pain to the high altitude summit finish in Val Thorens.

On Sunday’s processional roll-in to Paris, only the final sprint is contested and the GC champion will be toasted with champagne. But who?