Stunning Tour de France TT keeps Julian Alaphilippe in yellow as Geraint Thomas says rival is now favourite
Alaphilippe produced the time trial of his life to complete the lumpy 27km course in 35 minutes flat, 14 seconds faster than second-placed Thomas who now trails the Deceuninck-Quick Step man by 86 seconds overall.
There remains an expectation that Alaphilippe, who did not start the Tour targeting the general classification, will soon fall away, but after he survived Thursday’s first Pyrenean stage and then pulled out time on a world-class time triallist such as Thomas, the question is when.
“I didn’t really expect that,” Thomas said. “He’s obviously going incredibly well, so he’s certainly the favourite and the one to watch at the minute.”
Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has been happy to dismiss Alaphilippe’s overall chances, but Thomas is beginning to take him seriously.
Asked if he was a threat, Thomas said: “For sure, the way he’s riding. If he can keep that up then he’ll win. There’s a long way to go, there’s a lot of hard stages to come now.”
Alaphilippe sounded just as surprised as Thomas. He said: “It’s incredible. I’m really happy. I didn’t think I could win the stage, especially with such a big gap against Geraint Thomas.
“The first part suited me but I surprised myself in the second part of the race. I pushed my limits.
“With the help of the public, I gave everything til the line. I heard that even in my team car they all cried.”
Thomas’ failure to pick up time was not the only disappointment for Team Ineos as Egan Bernal could only manage 22nd on the stage, 96 seconds down on Alaphilippe, and so slipped from third to fifth on the general classification. The Colombian also conceded the young rider’s white jersey to Alaphilippe’s team-mate Enric Mas.
Less of a surprise was seeing the time trial cause a shake up at the top of the standings, with Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates among the losers.
Yates finished 34th on the day, two minutes eight seconds down on Alaphilippe. That saw Yates drop from seventh to tenth, three minutes and 55 seconds down.
French hope Thibaut Pinot performed well and moved up to seventh, albeit still three minutes 22 seconds off yellow.
Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert had started the stage as one of the favourites for victory but the young Belgian’s hopes – and his Tour – ended in a nasty crash when he clipped the inside of a fast right-hand bend inside the final two kilometres.