110km to go: Joey Rosskopf has moved up to give Politt a hand. This chase group is now 25secs off the front, with the peloton a further 16 back.
111km to go: Gap is now 39 seconds. Nils Politt is on his own betwixt peloton and breakaway.
Mark Ballard asks something that, coincidentally, is an annual argument in the Guardian office that we’ve already had once this morning …
Can you help settle a family argument please? If it was close after Saturday is there any way that the Paris stage would be GC raced rather than a procession? I (aged 41.5) think it wouldn’t be due to history and convention but my Dad (aged 71 and some) reckons it could be …
Imagine being in charge of selling kit for a team that breaks the tradition.
118km to go: Vincenzo Nibali’s on the move. He’s joined by Dan Martin, Jesus Herrada and Pello Bilbao Lopez de Armentia. It’s a pretty convincing break from this quartet – the gap is 17 seconds and rising.
122km to go: Three riders attempt to burst clear, but the break fails to have a decisive air and the peloton – for now – looks largely unconcerned.
124km to go: Tim Wellens looks a reluctant breakaway leader, looking round to see who’s around him. He’s happy to give way and it’s a predictably tentative start.
On the weather front, much, much, much kinder temperatures for the riders today. It’s looking like a steady 21C in Tignes through to the finish, but – interestingly – raining. Will be fascinating to see if slick roads play a part on the descents.
Christian Prudhomme is waving his flag. Stage 19 is now under way. Strap in folks.
Alaphilippe looks utterly at ease, chatting with green jersey holder Peter Sagan as the riders prepare for the rollout. A lovely reception from the fans and locals in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne as the easy 4.8km begins.
Declan Clark writes:
I don’t want this Tour to end … Not just because it’s been the most beguiling, exciting and wide-open editions in years, but also because to me, the end of Le Tour is the end of the summer, autumn’s chilly dawn being heralded by the start of the football season next weekend.
True, La Vuelta is still to come … but that’s a bit like being deserted by your teenage sweetheart, and her trying to get her rather dowdy friend to go out with you instead. It just isn’t the same. The desolation outweighs the attempt at consolation.
If anyone with Photoshop skills fancies mocking up a Vuelta preview poster with that as the tagline, absolutely feel free.
And indeed, Brailsford is giving nothing away. Speaking to Eurosport, the Team Ineos manager says:
We came in here wanting to win it – we still want to win it. There comes a point in time where it’s all or nothing. The person who’s willing to die the most is going to win it. The one who’s turning himself inside-out is Alaphilippe.
We want to win. This is coming down to a man-on-man GC battle. There’s six guys fighting it out, and two of those are from the same team. We’ve got to make that count.
And so, to the Team Ineos question. Bernal outclimbed and outfought Thomas yesterday, and goes into today with a five-second advantage over the defending champion.
So who is the de facto team leader for the remainder of the race? Dave Brailsford told French broadcasters yesterday: “We will discuss this between ourselves – we are going to decide tonight. For me, there is no difference of level between the two. They are two good climbers.”
Word is the decision has been made, and I’m sure the team will let the riders show the outcome rather than pre-announcing.
Bradley Wiggins, speaking on Eurosport, thinks Thomas should be The Man. It’s going to be fascinating, as the Welshman has had the air of a man clinging on for several days. Is there a huge effort in him, given how lightly he raced in preparation for this year’s Tour?
Europop? 90s alt-rock? Dinosaurs? Where’s the live cycling (q: two different emailers)
We’re just under half an hour from the start of today’s racing, folks.
Jonathan Dando writes:
I love this Tour … it’s brilliant. For the first time in years it feels like it’s about the ‘sport’. There isn’t anyone in the top 10 I would not like to see win.
We all want to see a French winner, just for the love of the event, but who would complain if we also see a Colombian or Welsh winner?
Despite all the money it’s still the only event/sport which lets the fans in. People want to get dressed up as a polka-dot sperm to run up the hill with the cyclists. I would love to see that in football.
Oh my days. Can you imagine polka-dot-clad sperm running up and down the line with the officials at the football? Make it happen Uefa.
And you didn’t think I’d missed that surname, did you? Did you really? I’ll be less obvious and give you a version of the original though …
Quick reminder of yesterday’s events …
Geraint Thomas chased a fierce attack by his Team Ineos teammate Egan Bernal, yet still lost second place overall to the Colombian as the tension in the Tour de France ramped up another notch and the unflappable Julian Alaphilippe again clung on to his overall lead.
Bernal, widely tipped for victory before the Tour began, was finally unleashed by Team Ineos in the thin air on the approach to the 2,642-metre summit of the Col du Galibier as his fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana rode clear on his own to a third career stage win in the Tour.
“It was Geraint’s decision,” Bernal said of his attack. “He asked me to attack to try to move the race and tried to come with me but when he saw the other guys on his wheel he just stayed with them. But I attacked because he asked me to attack.”
Jeremy Whittle’s full report here …
Jakob Mathiszig-Lee is first into the inbox today …
I have a night shift tonight which is great because it means i have the whole of today to watch what should be an amazing stage.
Here on Guardian sport there is occasionally a pleasing wefting of early sport and late shift. It can be a beautiful thing. Sorry, do continue …
Think there’s going to be some fireworks from pretty early on today after Alaphilippe showed some uphill weakness yesterday. Head says Bernal is wearing yellow in Paris but would very much like to see Julian hold on to it today so i can see how half of France fits on to roadside of the final climb tomorrow.
He’s not that fussed about yellow. Literally gave it away yesterday before giving interviews (beautiful moment, incidentally) …
Now I won’t lie to you, the first minute of this video may be a slight slog if hi-NRG Europop isn’t your bag.
But from 1:01 … oh mama …
General classification standings after stage 18
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 75hrs 18mins 49sec
2 Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos +1:30
3 Geraint Thomas (GB) Ineos +1:35
4 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma +1:47
5 Thibaut Pinot (Fr) Groupama-FDJ +1:50
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe +2:14
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar +3:54
8 Mikel Landa (Sp) Movistar+4:54
9 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First +5:33
10 Alejandro Valverde (Sp) Movistar +5:58secs
11 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo +6:30
12 Warren Barguil (Fr) Arkea Samsic +7:47
13 Guillaume Martin (Fr) Wanty-Gobert +15:11
14 Fabio Aru (It) UAE Team Emirates +16:21
15 Roman Kreuziger (Cz) Dimension Data +17:00
19 Daniel Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates +34:23
27 Adam Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott +49:35
33 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Sunweb +1hr:05:40
And so, the Tour hits the roof. This year’s toppermost peak arrives, the Col de l’Iseran, 2,770m above sea level, for the literal highlight of the first of two remaining mountain stages. Today is beautifully set up, with aspirant GC contenders knowing they’re running out of road this year. They have a very real need to get a wiggle on.
A couple of blips aside, Julian Alaphilippe has looked utterly at home in yellow since first donning it after stage 8, and unless yesterday’s struggles over the Galibier left him more sapped than it appeared, one or more of the chasing pack need to pull out something memorable.
Alaphilippe’s descending prowess could push them to even bigger efforts on today’s climbs – yesterday’s fightback on the downhill was a soil-yourself piece of riding by the Frenchman, as he rounded parked motorhomes so tightly on hairpin bends that you feared someone had convinced him they’re all holograms. It may take a career-pinnacle up-and-down effort from the likes of Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Thibaut Pinot to go into Saturday with any chance still remaining.
Bernal goes into today his closest challenger, as he lies 1min 30 behind the Frenchman, defending champion Thomas is five seconds behind his Ineos teammate in third. Steven Kruijswijk is at 1:47, three seconds ahead of Pinot.
Eyes suddenly look beyond Emanuel Buchmann (2:14) in sixth to see if Nairo Quintana can repeat yesterday’s trick with the altitude holding no fears and a deficit that’s suddenly down to 3:54 from a previously-unlikely 9:30. If the Colombian makes a break for it early on, expect mayhem behind. He jumped from 12th to seventh yesterday.
First to the top of the Iseran gets the Souvenir Henri-Desgrange, the award handed out for those leading the way over the Tour’s biggest climb each year. Point of order: Quintana won it last year after a superb climb up Col du Portet.
Good morning folks. What a day we have in store.
William Fotheringham’s stage 19 preview
Uphill for the first (gulp) 89km, this stage is about one climb, the Col de l’Iséran, the “roof of the Tour” at 2,770m above sea level. It’s rarely used in the race, and still less frequently at the key point in a stage. It will make it hard for a break to stay away, but teams will fire any domestiques with any strength left up the road to support their leaders later – Movistar particularly like this tactic – and the finish will be about who of a very select group has anything left on the short climb to Tignes. Egan Bernal might be the best candidate depending on Ineos’s tactics.