Julian Alaphilippe takes stage 10 as Tour de France starts Alps climb

• Quick-Step Floors rider wins ahead of Taaramae and Izagirre
• Greg Van Avermaet finishes fourth to extend overall lead

Greg Van Avermaet extended his lead in the yellow jersey with a superb ride as Julian Alaphilippe won stage 10 of the Tour de France.

Van Avermaet was expected to surrender the race lead he has held since the stage three team time trial as the race moved into the Alps, but the Olympic champion defied predictions as he joined a breakaway and stayed away on the road to Le Grand-Bornand.

Related: Tour de France 2018: Julian Alaphilippe soars to stage 10 win in Alps – live!

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten retains La Course title after thrilling finish

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Tour de France 2018 – stage 10 results and standings as Julian Alaphilippe triumphs and Greg Van Avermaet retains his leader’s yellow jersey

Skujins laughs off motorized cheating accusation

ANNECY, France (VN) — When Toms Skujins learned that a video clip was circulating on social media amid accusations that his bicycle contained an illegal motor, his initial reaction was to laugh. After Skujins saw how many times the video had been circulated on Twitter, his sentiment rapidly changed.

“It was hilarious at the beginning. I wasn’t worried because I have nothing to worry about,” Skujins told VeloNews. “When I started seeing how many people looked like they were believing it, then I thought it was sad.”

Notice that Skujins said “sad,” and not “angry.” The reaction, Skujins said, was confirmation that cycling fans still expect nefarious activity from professional riders in situations that are opaque or otherwise confusing.

“The only conclusion that a lot of people can make is that somebody is doping again,” Skujins said. “I understand that the sport has been messed up. I just wish people would not just jump to the worst conclusion straightaway.”

The video clip in question emerged after Saturday’s stage 8 from Dreux to Amiens. Skujins was caught in a mass pileup with 17km remaining that also took down Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Martin (Katusha) and others. TV cameras panned across the aftermath of the crash, catching Skujins and the other riders picking themselves off of the pavement.

In one shot Skujins stands holding his bicycle toward the camera, with the rear wheel obscured by the bike frame. As Skujins spins to his right, the camera shows his rear wheel spinning at a fast rate, seemingly on its own.

“Care to explain this?” reads one tweet with a clip of the video.

“Toms Skujins mechanical Doping in TDF2018????! Check it out!” reads the title of a YouTube clip of the video.

“Was he ‘Motordoping’ at the Tour de France? Here is a good link to watch it. Why is his rear wheel spinning?” reads another tweet.

Skujins said that no, he was not riding with an illegal motor. The cameras caught images his wheel spinning, however, they missed images of him turning his cranks with his hands to accelerate the wheel in the seconds before the clip. After he crashed, Skujins said the chain came off of his front chainring. He placed the chain back on the cog and then spun the cranks to get the bike into gear.

“The video where they accused me is where the wheel is already spinning,” Skujins said. “Before that I’ve already used my fingers to put the chain back on the chainring and spun the cranks.”

A subsequent video, posted by Velon, appears to validate Skujins’s description of the ordeal. That video was shot by a camera mounted to the saddle of Timo Roosen’s (LottoNL-Jumbo) bicycle. In the video, Skujins can be seen adjusting his chain before elevating his bicycle, turning the cranks, and spinning his rear wheel.

Skujins said he did not argue his case with critics on social media, other than to explain to one person the details of the video.

“Sometimes you need to use common sense in these situations,” he said. “As some people have said on Twitter, this is guys in tinfoil hats making judgments.”

Read the full article at Skujins laughs off motorized cheating accusation on VeloNews.com.

Technical FAQ: Could aero brakes win a Tour sprint?

Clean front ends and drag

Dear Lennard,
In the finish-line photos of the sprint finishes of stages 2 and 4 in the Tour de France, it was notable to me that the riders who came in second (Sonny Colbrelli in stage 2) and third (André Greipel in stage 4), were riding bikes with exposed front brakes and cables, while the riders who finished just 1-2 feet ahead of them (Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria) were both riding bikes with much cleaner-looking front ends. Could the drag associated with the exposed cables have made up that 1-2 foot difference in a 200-meter sprint, particularly considering the very high speeds the pros can sprint at?
— Quentin

Dear Quentin,
I actually believe that it could make that much difference. In this article, a Cannondale aerodynamicist calculates that “in a 200-meter, 60kph sprint with similarly-sized riders both putting out 1,000 watts, the rider on the SystemSix would finish four bike lengths ahead of the rider on the SuperSix EVO.” While I am not sure how much you can hang your hat on a calculation like that, we are also talking about a much smaller distance than four bike lengths.

Cannondale’s calculation is referring to the total bike, and you’re only talking about exposed cables. However, it is the front of the bike that makes the most difference aerodynamically, especially at those kinds of speeds, and a significant part of cleaning up the aerodynamics of the front end is to conceal the cables.
― Lennard

A mysterious spinning wheel at the Tour

Dear Lennard,
I respect your opinion on all matters physics and bike related. If you tell me that there is a non-assisted reason that the rear wheel on the white bike (the polka-dot jersey wearer’s bike) spins the way it does in this video, I will believe you. I don’t believe that a wheel spins like that just from the momentum of moving the bike from a stopped position. No way!!
— Todd

Dear Lennard,
While watching the Tour de France stage unfold on the cobbles, there were several crashes. With about 17km to go, there was one crash that involved Tom Skujins getting tied up off the road.

Did you notice anything strange about his bike when he went to remount? Specifically, when he lifted the bike and then put it back down again to point it in the right direction, the rear wheel was spinning fast. I never saw him turn the crank arm or anything. I’m not proposing mechanical PED, but it’s very curious and I was looking for a reasonable explanation.
— John

Dear Todd and John,
I think there is a very reasonable explanation for this not having to do with hidden motors. And yes, I agree with Todd that there is no way that the wheel would spin “like that just from the momentum of moving the bike from a stopped position.”

We are missing the correct angle on the first few seconds of the video to see the critical thing that I think Skujins did to make the wheel go like that. I think we get a hint during the first two seconds. Between seconds one and two, as Skujins’s head just becomes visible above the running cameraman’s right shoulder, Skujins seems to be coming up from a bent-over position to an erect one.

In my opinion, Skujins has done what many riders would do in that situation; he has bent over and spun the crank for one of three possible reasons. And even though it may look like he is rolling the bike, I believe he has it slightly off the ground in the tall grass as he carries it forward to the road after spinning the crank. I believe that he has either: (1) shifted the chain onto a larger cog (lower gear) so that he can start up again, since they were going fast at the time of the crash, and he would have been in too small of a cog to easily get started; (2) shifted to his smallest cog in order to prepare the wheel for a rear wheel change, or, (3) turned the crank to make sure that the chain is in gear (rather than about to start clunking around once he starts pedaling due to either the derailleur having been pushed inward to a larger cog while the shifter is still set for a smaller cog, or to the shifter having been clicked during the crash while the cranks were not turning).

This Twitter video seems to support my explanation.

For those interested in the motorized cheating issue, you might find Andrew Hood’s recent article interesting.
― Lennard

More on rider weight and coasting speed

Dear Lennard,
I read your posts about how weight affects downhill speed, and I agree that heavier riders go downhill faster. As a shorter rider around 5-foot-6, I am usually smaller than most riders. With a weight that averages 135 pounds but has been between 125 and 140 pounds over the decades, I can attest that I get passed most of the time going downhill unless I put out major power efforts to keep up. To test how weight impacts descending without affecting air drag and other variables like wheel mass, I attached a 7-pound weight case from Rock Bar Cycling to my road bike. The weight case has a low profile, so air drag changes are minimal.

Using the case on the bike in solo rides and on group rides, I can attest that adding the extra weight made descending easier and less effort was required to keep up on descents. As the weight impacted descending, in reverse, it made climbing harder. The weight has more of an impact on long climbs than on rollers, where the mass can push you up the early part of the hill.

I have been experimenting with the weight to test how location affects the ride as well. I found that moving the weight higher on the bike affects the ride and effort. When the weight is under the bottom bracket and down tube, less power is needed to move the bike than when the weight is under the top tube. When the weight is increased at the top tube, the effort is a bit harder. I attribute the difference to the slight swaying of the bike as one pedals. As the bike sways from side to side slightly, it takes slightly more strength to keep the bike stable while pedaling.

Using the weight on the bike had positive results as far as strength training goes. The first couple of weeks of riding with the weight on the bike made the ride much harder of course, and I actually felt like I went to the gym to do weight workouts at the end of the ride. After many months of using the weight on the bike, I gained strength quicker doing the same type of rides versus riding without weight.

To test for different variables, I added weight to other bikes types such as a mountain bike and to a 20-inch wheel folding bike. As those bikes are heavier, the weight was up to 35 pounds for the mountain bike and 30 pounds for the folding bike. The road bike was about 25 pounds using one weight case. I did try two weight cases on the road bike, which added 14 pounds. It was really hard on uphill roads and even quite noticeable on flat roads.

One of the interesting outcomes of the testing was that the weight of the bike after adding the weight case under the bottom bracket and down tube did not affect the ride quality of the bike as much as wheels do. The folding bike, for example, still felt nimble and good for climbing. Reducing wheel size or wheel weight really does have more of an impact on ride quality and effort than reducing frame weight as far as bike performance and feel are concerned. I don’t think I would want to add seven pounds of weight to the wheel of a bike.
— Mark

Read the full article at Technical FAQ: Could aero brakes win a Tour sprint? on VeloNews.com.

Commentary: Pavé is the solution to a boring Tour

Every few years I add another video to my Bike Racing Video Hall of Fame, the collection of YouTube clips that I watch on repeat while procrastinating at work. These aren’t just any old bike race videos, but rather the Grade-A select stock of YouTube videos. Fabian vs. Tommeke on the Muur in 2010. Contador vs. Lance to Verbier in 2009. Chris Horner on l’Angliru in 2013.

My friends, I believe Sunday’s ninth stage of the Tour de France will be a first-ballot inductee to my YouTube hall of fame. Years from now, I will still watch the video with intrigue as the heroes of the 2018 Tour bounced their way across the cobblestone roads to Roubaix.

The 15 sectors of pavé created chaos within the peloton — every sector saw crashes, punctures, and a reshuffling of the group. Nearly every major GC contender was forced to battle back from a crash, mechanical calamity, or biological explosion. And somehow, those efforts paid off — the overall remained relatively unchanged, due to the Titanic struggle of a few teams to fight back.

Romain Bardet suffered a litany of mechanicals, chased all afternoon, and lost just seven seconds, calling his comeback a “miracle.” Chris Froome tangled with teammate Gianni Moscon and tumbled into a ditch, just inches away from yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet. EF Education First-Drapac mount a heroic, all-hands-on-deck chase back to the group after its GC man, Rigoberto Uran, tumbled at perhaps the worst possible moment.

We were gifted amazing photos and video clips of the carnage. Olivier Naesen bunny-hopping his bicycle over Rafal Majka. Chris Froome doing the “Superman” leap off of his bike. Let’s all rejoice that both men were able to continue with the race without suffering major injuries.

Long story short: Sunday’s stage jolted us awake after several days of snore-worthy sprint stages.

We’ve seen the Tour rumble over cobblestones plenty of times, however Sunday’s stage established a new level of mayhem. At no point during the stage did the outcome feel predetermined or inevitable. It was wild.

The inclusion of such a stage raises several important question: Should legit Roubaix-grade cobblestones become standard issue in the Tour de France? Should the race make it a point to include a punishing, chaotic stage like this every year to upend the general classification? Are the crashes and mechanicals simply too extreme for a race that should be decided in the mountains?

Look, I am completely sympathetic to the plight of the pro riders, and the last thing I want is for injuries to determine the outcome. The race will undoubtedly miss Richie Porte, who crashed out on a seemingly innocuous stretch of asphalt and broke his collarbone. And I wonder if the Tour dodged a bullet on Sunday — there were broken bones, bruises, and bumps, but no life-threatening injuries.

Still, I must admit that Sunday’s stage created compelling drama — the type that glues viewers to their seats for an entire five-hour stage, and yes, gets them to re-watch the stage for the 1,000th time during a boring conference call. Could Bardet battle back? Would Nibali attack? What was Jakob Fuglsang doing?

That level of drama and unpredictability is what Tour organizer ASO is looking for, right? In recent years, the race has given us shortened 100km stages, and bizarre, perhaps gimmicky courses that are designed to inject action into the race. It’s no secret that ASO has embarked on a quest to upend the boring, controlled racing style that fans often blame on Team Sky and its army of talented domestiques. The Tour has become a battle for seconds; gaps are earned in time trials, and only on the hardest summit finishes. Swashbuckling attacks are no match for a $30 million team of all-star support riders, who can simply snuff out the aggression.

As we saw on Sunday, Sky’s army of domestiques could not tame the stones. Sky tried, and kudos to the team for riding at the front for much of the race. Even the richest team in the bunch was no match for the stones. Egan Bernal, Michal Kwiatkowski, Moscon, and even Froome all kissed the ground at some point in the race, and Sky spent much of the final 30km fighting to keep its riders in position.

That’s why, as a viewer, I welcome more cobblestones stages — why not have two during the race? Does each journey over the pavé need to contain the bite of Sunday’s course? For the sake of the riders, no. Perhaps ASO’s course designers can strike the right balance between carnage and drama.

The Tour will continue to seek out new formats and courses to inject drama into the race. We’re all waiting to see how next week’s 65km stage 17 to Bagnères-de-Luchon plays out. But perhaps the Tour organizers needn’t rack their brains to determine the proper parcours for drama. The simply need to look north, to the cobblestone roads to Roubaix.

Read the full article at Commentary: Pavé is the solution to a boring Tour on VeloNews.com.

Polarized opinions remain on La Course

LE GRAND BORNAND, France (VN) — In its fifth edition, La Course by Le Tour de France continued to evoke polarizing opinions from the professional peloton.

On one hand, the 2018 edition featured a challenging route that included the Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière — tough climbs that challenged riders’ legs and showcased their abilities on Alpine ascents. On the other hand, the 2018 edition was shortened to just a single day of racing, while in 2017 the event included two days.

Yet the execution of the 2017 event was poor, and some riders felt that the single day of racing in 2018 actually marked an upgrade.

“Ideally I’d love more than one stage, but I didn’t feel that last year with the two stages really worked out — the reverse pursuit format didn’t create the time gaps,” said Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb). “In the future, it would be great to expand this to a full stage race for us to really show what we’ve got.”

Of the dozen or so riders and team staffers VeloNews spoke to at the event, the overall opinion was positive of the 2018 edition. Riders expressed a desire for organizer ASO to someday expand the race to a multi-day stage race, complete with challenging climbs in the Alps and longer stages. Riders felt that the 2018 format — a single challenging day in the mountains — was a step up from the 2017 edition. And riders continued to see La Course as an opportunity to showcase their racing on the larger media platform created by the Tour de France.

“It’s better to have a full-length race. To go over two full climbs with a descent to the finish is a challenge,” said Australian rider Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott). “We still want a longer race, but I’m happy with the stage today.”

La Course debuted in 2014 with a sprinters circuit around the Champs-Élysées that was held several hours prior to the men’s race. For 2017, organizer ASO debuted a radical, two-stage format that catered to the climbers. The opening stage sent riders up the Col d’Izoard; the results of that stage qualified riders for the second stage, a pursuit-style time trial through the streets of Marseille. Both stages were held alongside the men’s Tour de France stages.

The execution of the event, however, left riders somewhat miffed. The stage to the Col d’Izoard was unquestionably short at just 67.5km (42 miles).

The top 20 riders who finished within five minutes of the leader qualified for the individual pursuit. Since the results were not known, however, teams had to scramble to send riders, mechanics, and equipment to Marseille. The last-minute decision created a logistical and expensive headache.

And those riders who raced in Marseille complained that the production of the event was lacking. Riders lacked access to basic infrastructure — including working toilets — at the event.

“Last year was a test, and the test failed,” said Danny Stam, team director for Boels-Dolmans. “So it’s good to go back to one day.”

For 2018, ASO abandoned the time trial and instead organized a single-day race from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. The 116km stage was shorter than the men’s race, as organizers skipped the opening climbs up the Col de la Croix Fry and the new Plateau des Gliéres climbs.

Instead, riders tackled the two finishing climbs from the men’s stage, the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombiere. Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten caught compatriot Anna van der Breggen in the final meters to repeat her victory from 2017.

Prior to the race, van Vleuten said the event’s close proximity to last week’s Giro Rosa stage race also created an extra challenge for the riders. The 10-day Italian tour finished Sunday with van Vleuten winning the overall. On the penultimate stage, riders climbed the famed Monte Zoncolan.

Other riders seconded van Vleuten’s assessment of the challenging schedule.

“It’s like the Tour de France for women this year because of the timing,” said Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitane). “We get one rest day and then we race again.”

What changes ASO does to the event for 2019 are not yet known. Since the event’s inception, ASO has received regular criticism for not growing it into a stage race. Prior to the 2017 race, ASO technical director Thierry Gouvenou said that holding the event alongside the men’s race was a positive, due to the increase in crowds and media.

“It is the best way to shine a light on female cycling,” Gouvenou said.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla), who finished third on Tuesday’s stage, disagrees. Perhaps the best way forward is for women’s cycling is to create an event that stands on its own away from a men’s race, she said.

“I’m somewhat of a believer that women’s cycling needs to create something of its own and we can’t keep depending on men’s events to give us handouts or to suddenly make our sport like the men,” Moolman-Pasio said. “We need to create something for ourselves. We need to take [La Course] with both arms. But we also need people who really believe in women’s cycling. For ASO, this is not their first priority.”

Read the full article at Polarized opinions remain on La Course on VeloNews.com.

Leading figure in women’s cycling says it’s ‘impossible for women’ to race full three-week grand tour

Van Vleuten snags second straight La Course win

Annemiek van Vleuten rode to her second consecutive La Course by Le Tour de France victory Tuesday in the French Alps.

Two days after the Dutch rider won the Giro Rosa, she got back on her bike and climbed to the win in the 112.5-kilometer race that included four categorized ascents.

Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) was among a small group of riders navigating the descent off the Col de la Colombiere into the finish area in Le Grand-Bornand. Ashleigh Moolman (Cervelo-Bigla) got dropped on the downhill and it was down to two riders — van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans). With just meters left in the race, van Vleuten surged ahead to snag the victory.

“It was unbelievable. With 300 meters to go I still thought I would get second and then I saw [van der Breggen] dying,” van Vleuten said. “To win like this … it was a tough ride, but beautiful.

“The gap going into the descent was really small and Anna is also a really good descender, but I always keep believing and keep on thinking that anything is possible and never give up. That was really important today.”

Van Vleuten finished one second ahead of van der Breggen, while Moolman was third at 1:22 back.

Van Vleuten said her victory was a special one.

“This win is really beautiful, the second time at La Course and especially coming only two days after winning the Giro Rosa, but to win this race in this way is really special and high up on my list of memorable wins,” she said.

Read the full article at Van Vleuten snags second straight La Course win on VeloNews.com.

Tour de France 2018: Julian Alaphilippe soars to stage 10 win in Alps – as it happened

Julian Alaphilippe surged away to take a superb solo victory as the race reached the Alps

Right, that’s it from me! Thanks for your company and be sure to head back here for stage 11 tomorrow where this faces the peloton:

And, in case you missed it, here’s our report on La Course earlier:

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten retains La Course title after thrilling finish

Here’s our snap race report:

Related: Julian Alaphilippe takes stage 10 as Tour de France starts Alps climb

Here’s the final kilometre of a fine ride:

Impressive Julian!
Impressionnant Julian !
@alafpolak#TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/VcAHTLIzJi

Here’s Egan Bernal: “I felt good. I can work for the team. Froome and Thomas felt good in the mountains.”

Next over the line is the GC group, of around 15 riders, containing all of the biggest names. Of the GC outsiders, Mollema, Zakarin, Van Garderen, Majka and Jungels are the ones to lose time.

Calmejane is next over the line, 2min 23sec down on Alaphilippe.

Tears for Alaphilippe as he’s surrounded by his team. Meanwhile, 1min 30sec down, Taaramae and Izagirre cross the line. And right on their heels are Van Avermaet and Pauwels. Van Avermaet extends his lead in yellow. Wow.

The Frenchman crosses the line. What a superb ride that was – he looked a winner from the first few kilometres.

Alaphilippe goes under the Flamme Rouge. One kilometre to go.

Yep, as I rather suspected, Van Avermaet still has plenty of time on the GC group – over two minutes. He’s going to extend his lead.

Alaphilippe enters beautiful Le Grand-Bornand with just 3km to go to glory.

The time data is slightly all over the place again, but it appears the peloton are closing in on Van Avermaet. He should still have enough to hold on to yellow.

As we saw in La Course earlier, the final 500m or so of this stage bring a sting in the tail. Alaphilippe, though, isn’t leading by 20 seconds – he has close to two minutes now. With 7km to go, barring something incredibly unfortunate, this is going to be a wonderful maiden victory in the Tour for the French rider.

Dan Martin attacks from the GC group, scuppering what was going to be quite a good “Pressure on Julian (Alaphillipe)” Blur reference (as my musical references are very much on point. The Irishman leads them over the top but only a few metres from the bunch.

Jungels begins to fall of the back of the peloton as Sky look to turn the screw on the front.

Kwiatkowski rolls off the front of the Sky train, leaving Poels to set the pace.

The crowds are out in force at the top of the Colombiere as Alaphilippe crests the col. He has 14.7km to the finish line, almost all downhill.

There’s around 22 riders in the Froome group heading up the mountain. All the chief contenders are there – Valverde, Majka, Fuglsang, Yates, Landa, Nibali, Roglic etc and so forth – with Uran and Zakarin clinging on at the back.

Van Avermaet still has a 3min 40sec lead over the peloton, with 2km to the summit. He looks set to hold onto yellow, for one more day at least. What a ride. Chapeau.

Alaphilippe’s lead is up over a minute now, with Taaramae falling back. He has 3km to the summit. And still a near-six-minute gap on the peloton.

We’ve just had one of my perennial favourite sights on a Tour de France – a French directeur sportif leaning out of the window of a car to scream at a French rider who is away at the front of the race. Alaphillipe was on the receiving end from the Quickstep team car. Always makes me think of this:

The peloton hit the bottom of the climb. Will anyone put in a meaningful attack?

Alaphilippe hits the bottom of the final Col. He has over five minutes on Froome and the GC contenders, over a minute on Van Avermaet and co, and 26 seconds on Rein Taaramae.

Julian Alaphilippe is riding a wonderful race today. He’d be a deserved winner if – and it’s quite a big if (in fact it’s about 8.5km of if, at an average gradient of 7.5%) – he can get over the Colombiere without cracking.

Van Avermaet, along with Gesink, Calmejane and Izagirre reach the summit around 45 seconds behind Alaphillipe.

Team Sky still have six riders on the front of the peloton as they sweep up the stragglers from the earlier break. Alaphilippe, meanwhile, has dropped Taaramae and is riding himself into polka dots.

Indeed Alaphilippe has dropped his young countryman and reached Taaramae.

Gaudu and Alaphilippe are the pair hunting down Taaramae.

Taaramae has 40 seconds on the chasers, where Alaphilippe and a couple of cohorts are beginning to drop the estimable Greg van Avermaet.

Taaramae has just 23 seconds on the yellow jersey group. Meanwhile, Barguil has been swept up by the peloton and might end up being spat out the back.

Barguil has spoke about deliberately losing time in order to go for stage wins … but at 2min 37sec down he could ride himself into yellow in he makes this attack work. He’s a long, long way from the finish line though and has more than five minutes to make up on Taaramae and co at the front of the race.

The pace is shredding the back of the pack – by the time we get to the summit of the Col de Romme we’ll have a very select group at the front of the race.

Warren Barguil attacks from the peloton. No reaction from the bunch as yet.

Astana, Movistar and Team Sky are prominent on the front of the group. Meanwhile, Taaramae has made his move stick and has a few seconds on the rest of the leaders.

Taaramae jumps off the front, completing the old one-two from Direct Energie. Meanwhile, five and a half minutes down the road, the peloton have reached the foot of the climb.

Attacks from the front. Calmejane – again – steps up the pace. He has a Direct Energie teammate in the break, in the shape of Rein Taaramae. Impey is the next to drop off the back.

The early slopes of this climb are the steepest and the break is quickly labouring. Gilbert immediately falls off the back.

The break hit the foot of the climb with an advantage of just over six minutes – very much a will-they-won’t-they lead.

Here are the two final climbs of the day, followed by 13km downhill and a little ramp to the finish (as Anna van der Breggen discovered to her cost earlier):

The Romme-Colombiere combo, not used since 2009. Absolutely perfect for a long range attack. I understand that being the first mountain stage, some won’t go in the attack and prefer to wait. But Movistar MUST test Team Sky every day and at least force a selection. #TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/3SeCpr2RzK

Before we hit the penultimate climb of the day, take a minute to read up on the extraordinary finale to La Course earlier. Here’s Jeremy Whittle’s report:

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten retains La Course title after thrilling finish

Sagan at last gets swept up into the peloton, along with his teammate Lukas Postlburger, the Austrian national road race champion. The pair wave at the Sky train as it trundles past.

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There’s just over 55km to go – given the terrain ahead that means about 90 minutes of racing is still ahead. The breakaway group still have over seven minutes. The first haymaker of the finishing double-punch, the Col de Romme, starts with around 37km to go.

This is shaping up as a cracking stage @John_Ashdown. Everyone talking up G’s chances (except him) but really Sky will be happy not defending so early. Van Avermaet’s been superb, but I’d still expect him to go the way of Voeckler this week. Oh, Tommy.https://t.co/Rgma0b7xhr

Froome’s issues have slowed an already not-exactly-flying peloton further so that gap to the break has grown once more. There’s enough buffer now for someone to stay away. If his legs are there, it strikes me as a stage for Tony Gallopin, though he has 17 rivals in that lead group.

Bardet is being paced back to the peloton after a mechanical/comfort break. This wide, flat valley road is a good time to sort out any minor “inconveniences”.

Another mechanical for Chris Froome on the valley road this time. It’s not a major problem for him, though, and he’ll quickly be back in the line.

And as I type that, it drops below seven minutes – clearly some issue with the time gap data.

There’s a stiff ramp here – the Col des Fleuries. It’s not categorised but it’s still tough. The lead for the break is close to eight minutes now.

Van Avermaet’s grip on the yellow jersey is tightening too – he’s still in the lead group. Of the other riders up front, Calmejane is just over 5min behind on GC, as is Serge Pauwels.

There’s a chance for the 14-man breakaway here – the lead is over seven minutes now.

Froome is safely back in the peloton, having bagged a wheel from Jonathan Castroviejo.

Why always him? If one rider was to puncture on this gravel section – and it does seem to be only one – Chris Froome would be your first guess.

– 84 km
Puncture for @chrisfroome, who is now catching up with the bunch all alone in the dust
Crevaison pour @chrisfroome qui remonte seul dans la poussière #TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/KSMWM7DQIM

Team Sky and the peloton hit the gravel path now.

On the way up, by the by, the leaders were jumped by a mountain biker:

Nothing to see here … just a BMX jumping over the peloton #TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/sNqaomztly

Also well worth mentioning is the fact that the top of this mountain is home to the national museum to the French Resistance. More than 100 resistance fighters were killed by the Wehrmacht on these hills during a battle in the second world war.

The uphill section of the gravel is a little more lumpy but I’ve seen cycle paths in the UK that are much, much worse. (Though that may say more about the UK’s cycle paths than it does about the road at the top of the Glières.)

They hit the gravel section, with Alaphilippe briefly powering off on his own. No one seems to discomfited by the surface, which isn’t the potholed farm track that you might imagine.

Gaudu attacks the summit, with Alaphilippe following. The older man nips past and takes full points.

One kilometre to the finish for the break, which is a big bunch once more. Gaudu leads the way.

Pauwels, Gaudu, Molard, Taaramae and Van Avermaet are the five remaining members up front. They have over five minutes on the peloton but only a few seconds on Gesink and co.

The lead group is down to five men and Greg van Avermaet is still there. Gilbert has gone, as has Moinard.

Robert Gesink of Lotto-Jumbo is bringing the second group on the road back to the leaders. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali drops back to his team car for something or other then blasts past the backmarkers with enviable ease.

Five kilometres to the summit for the peloton. No fireworks yet.

Glières approaching. This makes me feel a little faint:

The steepest climb of this Tour is about to begin. Deadly black from the bottom to the top. Unfortunately, so far from the finish… #TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/bwVhDABnR6

That octet have just over four minutes on the Team Sky-led peloton – which isn’t really much of a margin given the terrain to come.

The 21-man break is no more – there’s now eight riders off in a group of their own: Gilbert, Pauwels, Moinard, Molard, Taaramae, Gaudu, Postlberger … and Greg van Avermaet, who may lose the yellow jersey today but a) is doing his damnedest to hang onto it and b) may get himself the combativity numbers for tomorrow instead.

So, one down, three to go. It’s a long steady decent to the foot of the Montée du plateau des Glières, around 20km away.

@John_Ashdown re: the loose section – having (just about) cycled it last week, and walked over a cobbled section of stage 9 I can confirm if they can get over the cobbles, the gravel will be a walk in the park!

Molard and Taaramae duke it out with 400m to go as their former (and future) breakaway colleagues close in. Molard thrashes his way to the top to take maximum points.

I assumed there were too many riders in the break to play “What is the breakaway?” today, but apparently Paul Griffin is up for the challenge: “You’ll be well aware of course that van Avermaet, Gilbert, Sagan, Calmejane, Pauwels, Impey, Moinard, Martin, Alaphilippe, Gallopin, Slagter, Vichot, Gesink, Molard, Taaramae, Degand, Gaudu, Bauer, Postlberger and Gesbert were the names of the Fimbles in the disastrous Hungarian original children’s series, which was too confusing, and also drew too much on nihilism, free love and existential terror for its pre-school audience. Episode 7: Gaudu gives in to Hate, was particularly hard to stomach.”

It’s all got a little bit broken up at the front as the summit approaches. Molard and Taaramae jump away and open up a 45sec gap.

Here’s Jeremy Whittle’s report on La Course:

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten retains La Course title after late fightback

“Can someone explain why Van Avermaet has made an effort to get in the break?” wonders Luke Harrison. “He is not interested in Sprint points and can’t think he is going to extend his lead today. Surely his only chance of holding on to Yellow would be to just have a storming day trying to hang on to the leaders and limit his loses. I seem to remember Cancellara surprising everyone a few years back by holding on to Yellow in to the mountains for a bit longer than expected. Or is it just that he knows he is doomed and wants to show off the yellow jersey as long as he can?”

I imagine there’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B. Presumably he thinks his chances of hanging onto yellow are slim either way, and at least by getting in the break there’s one last chance of a bit of panache. More power to him, I say.

Team Sky – quelle surprise – are on the front of the peloton, controlling the pace and allowing the break close to three minutes. Up at the front, Calmejane leaps away in an attempt to take the mountain points, but Slagter reels him in.

As someone who cracks on the gentle hills of north London (yes, like anyone else who enjoys the Tour and commutes on two wheels, the slopes over the past few days or so have become “the Col de Co-op” and “the Mur de Caledonian Road”) these gradients are wince-inducing. The pace and the percentage are not enough to shed Peter Sagan from the lead group though, but Marcel Kittel is already having a tough time at the back of the peloton.

“Any word on whether the riders have gravel bikes to swap onto or have made any other accommodations for the loose sections?” wonders Craig Fawcett. No, I think it’s just “cling on and hope for the best”. The gravel section is fairly flat – there’s some interesting info on it all here and here.

The breakaway hit the foot of the Col de la Croix Fry, 11km at an average of 7% though there are some flat sections.

Sagan, predictably enough, takes the sprint points as the gap extends over two minutes.

After that slightly chaotic start we finally have 21 riders in the fully established break, including the yellow jersey Greg van Avermaet. Deep breath:

Greg van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert, Peter Sagan, Lilian Calmejane, Serge Pauwels, Daryl Impey, Amael Moinard, Guillaume Martin, Julian Alaphilippe, Tony Gallopin, Tom Slagter, Arthur Vichot, Robert Gesink, Rudy Molard, Rein Taaramae, Thomas Degand, David Gaudu, Jack Bauer, Lukas Postlberger and Elie Gesbert.

Fair point of order:

True that the women didn’t ride all of it it as part of La Course but the 13 women of @desELLESauVELO rode the whole stage yesterday (and are riding the entire Tour a day before the men)!

Julian Alaphilippe, who seems in the mood to make mischief today, crests the Bluffy first to take the solitary mountain point.

The green jersey, Peter Sagan, is determined to get himself into the first break of the day – sprint points are available 10km after the summit of Bluffy, which he’s likely eyeing.

@John_Ashdown Lots of people looking forward to this stage as it was used for the Etape last week. Glieres really was a tough climb so it’ll be interesting to see how the pro’s do. Disappointing that the women didn’t ride the whole thing earlier though.

With the first climb of the day, the pleasantly-named Col de Bluffy, just 19km into the stage there’s a panic at the front of the peloton as about half the pack try and get into the breakaway. Nothing has fully formed yet, though.

The 2018 edition of La Course has already been over the final hills of this stage. It was a superb race, won in the final metres by Annemiek van Vleuten.

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten pips Van der Breggen to win La Course 2018 – as it happened

Hello all and welcome to live coverage of stage 10 of the 2018 edition of the Tour de France. And what a stage it should be – we’re into the mountains!

The Col de Romme and Col de la Colombiere (both category one climbs) await in the final 40km but before then we’ve got the Col de la Croix Fry and the hideously steep HC climb of Montée du plateau des Glières, which includes gravel roads near the summit.

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Annemiek van Vleuten retains La Course title after late fightback

• Dutch rider pips compatriot Anna van der Breggen by 1sec
• Van Vleuten: ‘With 200m to go I thought I’d got second’

The Giro Rosa champion Annemiek van Vlieuten overcame her fatigue from winning the Italian stage race last weekend to win the fifth edition of La Course, the women’s race organised by the Tour de France, in Le Grand Bornand.

In what was the most exciting edition of La Course to date, the Dutch rider chased down Olympic champion and compatriot Anna van der Breggen, on the 14km descent of the Col de la Colombière and stole past her in the final 100m to take her second win in La Course.

Related: Annemiek van Vleuten pips Van der Breggen to win La Course 2018 – live!

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