Thibaut Pinot emerged as the strongest of the main contenders to win the Tour de France after dominating his rivals for the second successive day in the 15th stage, a 185km mountain battle won by Briton Simon Yates yesterday.
The Frenchman, who claimed victory at top of the iconic Col du Tourmalet on Saturday, left everyone gasping for air with a brutal attack seven kilometres from the finish in the final ascent to the Prat d’Albis.
He crossed the line 33 seconds behind Yates, who prevailed from the day’s breakaway for a second stage win as his fellow Briton, defending champion Geraint Thomas lost further ground.
France’s Julian Alaphilippe was among those dropped but he retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey going into today’s second rest day.
Alaphilippe still leads Thomas by one minute 35 seconds, Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk by 1:47s and fourth-placed Pinot by 1:50s.
Thomas’ Ineos teammate Egan Bernal, of Colombia, who was the last rider dropped by Pinot, is fifth overall, 2:02s off the pace.
No Frenchman has won the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault claimed the last of his five titles in 1985.
Pinot, after some great work from teammates David Gaudu and Sebastien Reichenbach had put some rivals in the red, made his move seven kilometres from the top.
Thomas and Kruijswijk were dropped as Bernal crushed the pedals to join the Frenchman, taking Alaphilippe and German Emmanuel Buchmann in his slipstream.
But another burst from Pinot was fatal to Alaphilippe before Bernal and Buchmann eventually also lost the Frenchman’s wheel.
Yates’s advantage was however, comfortable enough for the Mitchelton-Scott rider to take his second stage win this year.