Dutch rookie Wout van Aert on Monday won stage 10 of the Tour de France as Julian Alaphilippe extended his overall lead after a blistering late charge split the peloton.
Maillot jaune wearer Alaphilippe launched the attack from 38km out, where a narrow road and a crosswind created perfect conditions for the devastating attack.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas and his Team Ineos leaped into the fray in what turned into a rampage all the way to the quaint Tarn town of Albi.
Pre-stage title pretenders Richie Porte, Thibaut Pinot, Jakob Fuglsang, Rigoberto Uran all lost 1 minute, 40 seconds, while Movistar’s Mikel Landa lost more than 2 minutes.
Frenchman Alaphilippe leads second-placed Thomas by 1:12, a second Team Ineos rider, Egan Bernal, is at 1:16 and Van Aert’s teammate Steven Kruijswijk is another 11 seconds behind in fourth.
Pinot, who started in third place, dropped to 11th, 2:33 behind his countryman.
“We knew there was a chance of a split,” 27-year-old former soldier Alaphilippe said. “I have my ambitions and we will defend this jersey every day.”
Team Ineos general manager Dave Brailsford said the stage went exactly as he had planned.
“I feel like we just scored a goal,” Brailsford said. “It’s really rare that you put that much time into so many top guys. This race is like no other, if you lose your attention you can end up losing major time, and that’s what happened to all those guys.”
“We saw the weather and spoke about this in the pre-race briefing,” said the Briton, who has plotted six Tour de France victories from the past seven.
Thomas, the reigning champion, looked like the cat that got the cream.
“It was just a positioning error from them and they lose a minute and a half. That’s how it goes,” Thomas said.
Bernal, 22, took the best young rider’s maillot blanc.
“It was wild, but that’s the Tour, every day is super-hard here and anything can happen,” said the slightly built Bernal, who proved again that he can keep up with the burly riders who do well in crosswinds.
Nairo Quintana of Movistar was all smiles, too, after finishing in the mini-peloton after an exhausting long-range dash.
“I was fortunate to be aware of what was happening, I feel lucky in a way, that’s racing,” Quintana said.
Team Jumbo-Visma’s Van Aert claimed his first Tour de France victory beating top sprinters drained by the high-speed run-in.
On his debut Tour, Van Aert, who also won two stages on the Criterium du Dauphine after converting from cyclo-cross, is the latest breakout star on an unpredictable Tour.
For Jumbo-Visma, it was the third individual stage victory this year, following Mike Teunissen and Dylan Groenewegen. The Dutch outfit also won the team time trial.
“That’s three stage wins for us so far,” the 24-year-old multiple cyclo-cross world champion said.
“It was great for me and Stevie [Kruijswijk],” said Van Aert, after he pipped Elia Viviani at the finish line. “I came from the back with a really fast launch, I planned it that way because it’s the fastest way to finish.”
Slovakian star Peter Sagan, the best-paid rider in the peloton at 4 million euros (US$4.51 million) per season, won in Albi six years ago, but finished fifth on Monday.
On a 217.5km stage that embarked from the breathtaking vantage point of the citadel of Saint Flour, it was the crosswinds rather than the three hills that blew away the chances of stage 10’s many losers.
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