Tour de France Stage 18 Preview: Leaders Pulling Away?

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Tour de France Stage 18 Preview: Leaders Pulling Away?
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The Tour de France  heads well into the Pyrenees on Wednesday with the 89-mile Stage 18 from Lourdes to Hautacam. 

The first 30 to 35 miles are flat, but the race's second half is fierce. It presents another stage to see a change to the overall “General Classification.” 

Stage 17 - The Short Version

Stage 17 was a mountainous stage as the riders went from the flats into the mountains. Two big climbs punctuated the 81-mile stage. 

While Tadej Pogacar just fished around after the first big one, he was almost too content not to attack the climb to the James Bond Airport. The final ascent had undulations as high as 16-20%.

It was clear that Jonas Vingegaard would stay glued to Pogacar’s back wheel. Even though Vingegaard was long isolated from his teammates, that mattered little. Despite the best efforts of American Brandon McNulty (Team UAE), the Danish rider stayed just close enough. 

By the end, Pogacar did win his third stage of the tour, just out-sprinting Vingegaard. After that, all the Slovenian rider managed was a four-second time bonus gain as the Hautacam comes next.

Stage 18 – The Final Mountain Climbs

As the riders journey through the Pyrenees, what will happen next? Roman Bardet attacked too early and got hammered. Adam Yates was dropped early and never recovered. The McNulty attack decimated the entire general classification except for Vingegaard and Pogacar. Even with four riders left, Team UAE showed a potential setup for Thursday.

General Classification After Stage 17

Position Cyclist Country Team Time Back
1 Jonas Vingegaard Denmark Jumbo Visma —
2 Tadej Pogacar Slovenia Team UAE 2:18
3 Geraint Thomas United Kingdom Ineos Grenadiers 4:56
4 Nairo Quintana Colombia Arkea Samsic 7:53
5 David Gaudu France Groupama-FDJ 7:57

The Hautacam headlines the 18th stage of the Tour de France. First, though, there is the almost 10-mile Col d’Aubisque. 

A “beyond category” climb is not all that pleasant. After a fast hour or so of riding, the cyclists will feel like they did on Wednesday. The second half will be like hitting another brick wall.  

Was Pogacar just posturing for Stage 17? Pogacar attacked but realized that it would not work. Again, that appeared to be more shadow boxing than anything else. 

If the Slovenian has anything left, the decisive climb up the Hautacam has to be where the attack comes.

If it were not for Brandon McNulty, the breakaway likely would have succeeded. Now, if McNulty has anything left for Stage 18, look out. 

Again, Pogacar is down 2:18 and probably needs at least a minute or more to have a shot come Saturday’s time trial. Anything less, and Jonas Vingegaard likely takes the yellow jersey to Paris.

From the American perspective, Neilson Powless stands 12th at 27:07 back. The EF-Education rider lost a ton of time. McNulty is now third in the White Jersey (best youngest rider) standings but almost 55 minutes behind Pogacar. 

Thursday figures to create a chaotic Stage 18 and an amazing beyond-category finish. Our pick is Pogacar to win, but it will not be enough to change the general classification. 

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Chris Wassel

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