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Pinot conquers Tourmalet as Thomas loses time to Alaphilippe

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | France's Thibaut Pinot celebrates as he wins on the finish line of the fourteenth stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Tarbes and Tourmalet Bareges, in Tourmalet Bareges on July 20, 2019.

France celebrated Saturday as Thibaut Pinot conquered the Pyrenean summit of la Col du Tourmalet with Julian Alaphilippe following him across the line to extend his overall Tour de France lead.

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Defending champion Geraint Thomas lost 35 seconds after being dropped by Pinot at the death, while his Ineos co-captain Egan Bernal finished a few seconds behind the winner at the first of seven summit finishes over 2000 metres.

Pinot had vowed to attack this stage after losing time to an Ineos-led attack in a crosswind on the narrow road to Albi on Monday had angered him and his team.

Thomas is now over two minutes behind Alaphilippe in the general classification after he started to suffer with 500 metres to go.

While this was far from disastrous, Thomas losing time to Alaphilippe on two consecutive stages where he himself had predicted the reverse is something of an upset.

French president Emmanuel Macron followed the whole stage from the lead car in the vast caravan and appeared animated as he was flanked on the podium by his two compatriots.

"This man has heart," he said looking at Alaphilippe. "France is proud of them both."

As the 117km stage 14 climbed above the tree-line and above the mist where the oxygen levels were lower and fans at fever pitch lent a hint of insanity to proceedings, contenders for the overall victory gradually fell by the wayside.

Adam Yates, Dan Martin, Nairo Quintana and Jakob Fuglsang, wilted one after the other as the Pinot and his FDJ climb partner kept up the pace.

Pinot revenge as Thomas struggles                 

Few expected the yellow jersey wearer Alaphilippe to thrive on Friday's time-trial, which he won, and fewer still expected him to survive here on the Tourmalet.

But Alaphilippe dug deep and when he climbed out of the saddle to win the sprint for second cheers for him were even louder than those for the popular Pinot. 

"Since the start of the Tour I've been targeting this stage, this is the one I wanted, the mythical Tourmalet," said Pinot.

"We are going into the third week now, people will be tired, but this is where I feel best," added the Frenchman, who is placed sixth overall, 3mins 12sec off Alaphilippe.

Pinot has long been thought a potential champion this year with the nation waiting for its first Tour de France win since 1985.

Fans had been weaving up the Tourmalet since dawn and there was a carnival atmosphere with almost as many Basque flags as French ones.

But it was to be a French day.

Pinot, helped up the hill by young French champion David Gaudu, never faltered on the long final climb and his team boss at FDJ Marc Madiot was ecstatic at the finish. 

Madiot had been upset by comments from Ineos boss dave Brailsford on Monday when Pinot dropped down the rankings after getting caught in a crosswind.

"It feels good to twist the knife," Brailsford said Monday.

Madiot was seen screaming "yes, yes, yes" at the finish line before racing off to embrace his team leader.

"Great determination, great work ethic and sheer talent, were lucky to have these guys with us," said Madiot who had vowed his team would attack today.

(AFP)

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