FRANCE, July 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Welshman Geraint Thomas soared to victory in the 11th stage of the Tour de France to take the overall leader's yellow jersey.
Thomas, of Team Sky, completed an impressive ride on the 108.5km stage from Albertville to the summit of La Rosiere by overtaking Spaniard Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton) in the closing metres.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) finished second at 20sec, just ahead of Sky leader and four-time champion Chris Froome.
"It’s unreal I didn’t expect it at all," Thomas said.
"I knew there was a good chance (of going into yellow) but I didn’t know how everyone else was going to ride.
"Wearing the yellow jersey is a massive honour. I managed to do it last year and to do it two years in a row is really nice."
Thomas, who wore the yellow jersey for four days in 2017 after winning the opening time trial, now leads teammate Froome by 1min 25sec in the overall standings.
Dumoulin is third at 1:44, while the Spanish Movistar team's best-placed rider is Mikel Landa at 2:56, in seventh.
"We didn't do as well as we expected," said Movistar climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, who dropped to ninth overall at 3:16 behind Thomas.
"It was a very hard rhythm all day long. We lost a few seconds that, I hope, don't ruin our chances of aiming for the overall victory."
Thomas had struggled to hide his disappointment after missing the chance to race into the lead on Tuesday when, sitting only 43secs behind Belgian Greg Van Avermaet, Sky's tactics fell short of his personal expectations.
But a day before a third and final salvo in the Alps, which ends with the race to the summit of the legendary Alpe d'Huez, the formidable British outfit gave the Welshman a chance to make amends.
A 20-strong breakaway group that escaped early on the first of the day's four climbs contained no threats to Sky's race-winning ambitions.
And when Sky finally did come under threat, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde attacking them 5km from the summit of the Cormet de Roselend 33km from the finish, it proved too little too late.
Valverde raced over the summit to find Movistar teammate Marc Soler up ahead and, further up the road, found another ally in Dumoulin.
But the Spaniard's limits soon became clear when he refused, or was unable, to help the Dutchman when it came to taking his turn at the front.
With 15km and the final climb remaining, Sky's impressive pace-setting was holding firm. Only 40sec behind Valverde and Dumoulin, they had the pair well within their sights.
The final remnants of the earlier breakaway were left to their own devices when Nieve attacked 9km from the finish.
One kilometre further on, Valverde was reeled in by Sky and soon dropped.
The real drama came after the 5.5km to go mark, however.
An attack by Thomas prompted climbing specialist Romain Bardet to counter, which in turn prompted Froome to counter the Frenchman.
An attempt by Dan Martin to leave Froome in his wake was answered in defiant fashion by the Kenyan-born Briton, who spun the pedals in furious fashion to catch and then overtake the Irishman.
With less than 3km to the summit, Thomas and Dumoulin had Nieve only 30sec up ahead.
And when the Spaniard came within sight, the Welshman accelerated inside the final 500 metres to overtake him and solo over the line punching the air in triumph.
FRANCE, July 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe turned on the style to secure his maiden Tour de France 10th stage win on Tuesday as Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet stubbornly held on to the yellow jersey.
Alaphilippe, of the Quick Step team, launched an audacious lone attack on the third and penultimate climb and went on to solo over the finish several minutes ahead of the main peloton after a first day in the Alps marked by Van Avermaet outfoxing Team Sky in the yellow jersey stakes.
Days after France's World Cup victory, Alaphilippe handed the hosts their maiden win of the race -- and soothed the personal pain of two frustrating years hoping to bag his maiden Tour stage win.
"I can't describe it. Going for a win like this was a big dream for me," said Alaphilippe, who twice came close to winning a stage on his debut in 2016 before being sidelined by injury in 2017.
"I've worked really hard for this. Not everyone realises how important it is for a cyclist to take part in the Tour.
"For a Frenchman it's simply unavoidable.
"I'm happy the last 10 km was downhill because it gave me the chance to understand what was happening to me."
Expected to challenge overnight leader Van Avermaet for the right to wear the race's fabled tunic into the 11th stage, the Sky team of champion Chris Froome failed to muster a challenge despite their best-placed rider, Geraint Thomas, sitting only 43secs behind the Belgian in the overall standings.
Van Avermaet, who is not a specialist climber, appeared under threat at the beginning of the 158.5 km race from Annecy featuring four categorised climbs and with a downhill finish into Le Grand Bornand.
But the wily BMC rider outfoxed Sky by joining an early breakaway that went on to build a healthy lead on the main peloton and stymie whatever plans Sky may have had of taking control of the race.
As Alaphilippe surged towards his memorable first win, Van Avermaet produced a fantastic performance to finish just 1min 44secs behind, with Thomas, Froome and Team Sky crossing the line over three minutes behind the stage winner.
In the overall standings Van Avermaet now leads Thomas, in second, by 2min 22secs, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) now up to third overall at 3:10.
FRANCE, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Colombian ace Fernando Gaviria edged a breathtaking bunch sprint to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France, his second stage success after also winning the opening ride.
The 23-year-old Quick Step rider timed his sprint to perfection to overtake German Andre Greipel and hold off a fast-finishing Peter Sagan, who just got second, in a photo finish.
Team Sky leader Chris Froome, seeking a record-equalling fifth Tour de France victory, and all the key contenders to top the overall standings finished safely in the main pack.
One rider who will take no further part in the race is AG2R's Axel Domont who broke his collarbone after being brought down avoiding a spectator who had strayed into the road to take a photo.
Gaviria won Saturday's first stage on his Tour debut and looks to be the man to beat in the sprints this year.
"Everyone in Colombia is watching the Tour de France and I feel like my nation's representative," said Gaviria.
"The team had to work really hard to catch the escape, nobody else was helping," he added.
The frenetic finish was so close, the riders all watched the replay on a giant screen to see how the shares had been spoiled.
"I took Greiple's wheel, so it could have been better," Sagan joked afterwards.
"Second is better than third," he added.
Asked what he needed to beat Gaviria, Sagan was again quick with a quip.
"Better legs!" he said. "He's faster than me and that's okay. Lets see tomorrow how he does where there's a bit of climbing."
Despite the late fall in the peloton, overnight leader Greg van Avermaet of BMC held on to the race leader's yellow jersey.
"We are happy to have kept the yellow," said Belgian Van Avermaet.
"I hope it brings us luck in the semifinal," he added in reference to the World Cup semifinal later Tuesday which pitches Belgium against France.
Van Avermaet would normally be one of the favourites to clinch Wednesday's hilly run to Quimper, but will face a stiff challenge for the jersey.
"It's the first big stage of this kind and we are going to see time difference in the overall standings, it just depends who wants to go for it," he said.
LA ROSIERE, June 10, 2018 (News Wires) - Team Sky's Welsh rider Geraint Thomas cemented his control of the Criterium du Dauphine after finishing second and penultimate stage won by Spaniard Pello Bilbao.
Bilbao made his move late on during the gruelling stage that is almost the same as stage 11 in the Tour de France next month, with four major climbs and a summit finish at la Rosiere. Thomas came in second, managing to put further valuable seconds between himself and his rivals for the yellow leader.
Briton Adam Yates, riding for Mitchelton, is second overall, 1min 29sec behind Thomas. France's Romain Bardet, of AG2R, jumped to third from seventh overnight and is at 2min 01sec.
"It wasn't ideal but AG2R rode really well, they really took the race on and put us under pressure," Thomas said.
"Fortunately we've got such a strong team that if one guy's not so good, another guy steps up. Tao and Castro (teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jonathan Castroviejo) were really good and fortunately we were always just in control. We never panicked - but fair play to AG2R for taking the race on."
Thomas added to ITV: "I always felt in control, I always felt pretty good, but I didn't want to get too carried away (on the final climb). It's easy to underestimate how far there is to go and I didn't want to go too early, die off, and lose time.
"Obviously there's a big day as well, so I tried to do the minimum and then at the end, I just thought 'I'll go for it and see what happens'. I managed to get a few more bonus seconds which is good."
LONDON, May 28, 2018 (News Wires) - Chris Froome has turned his attention to claiming a fifth Tour de France title after his history-making success in the Giro d’Italia.
Froome became the first Briton to win the race and also only the third cyclist in history to hold all three Grand Tour titles simultaneously on Sunday.
Despite the ongoing controversy over his adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, Froome insists he is fully focused on more success.
Froome told the BBC: “I’m going to take two or three days off to relax with my family, but then it’s straight back into training.
“It’s six weeks to the start of the Tour de France, so that’s the big goal now. I want to be in the best shape possible for the start in July.”
A fifth Tour de France victory for Froome would lift him alongside Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain for the most wins in the event.