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Frenchman Barguil wins 18th stage of Tour de France in Col d'Izoard

Philippe Lopez, AFP | France's Warren Barguil, wearing the best climber's polka dot jersey, celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 18th stage of the Tour de France on July 20.

Frenchman Warren Barguil won his second stage of the Tour de France on the imposing Col d'Izoard on Thursday as compatriot Romain Bardet snatched back four seconds from overall leader Chris Froome.

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Bardet finished third on the day to take some bonus seconds that lifted him above Rigoberto Uran into second overall and closed the gap to Froome to 23sec.

Colombian Darwin Atapuma finished second, 20sec behind Barguil with Bardet winning the sprint for third against Froome and Uran.

But with only Saturday's time-trial left in which to make a significant difference to the standings, reigning champion Froome looks set to claim a fourth Tour de France title.

It was a thrilling battle on the final hors category climb at the end of the 179.5km Alpine 18th stage from Briancon to the Col d'Izoard.

Atapuma was part of an original 54-man breakaway that splintered over the two huge climbs of the day.

He reeled in Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko halfway up the Izoard climb while the peloton led by Bardet's AG2R team, at one point eight minutes back, started to close in.

Barguil made his move with 6km to go but still had two minutes to make up on Atapuma, catching him with 1.4km left and leaving him behind inside the final kilometre.

Behind that Bardet launched an attack 3km from the finish but Froome and Colombian Uran stuck to him like glue.

Briton Froome attacked next but couldn't stay clear and once they hit the final kilometre it was a battle of wills to the line.

Uran gave up two seconds and dropped to 29sec off Froome, but is widely regarded a better time-trialist than Bardet.

Italian Fabio Aru was struggling over the final 6km and having started the day in fourth at 53sec, dropped below Froome's Spanish team-mate Mikel Landa (1min 36sec) to fifth at 1:55.

(AFP)
 

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