Stage 18: Warren Barguil really is King of the Mountains
The top three riders in this year’s Tour de France refused to be separated by mountains. Technically, Rigoberto Uran finished two seconds behind Romain Bardet and Chris Froome atop the Izoard, but that was just a momentary parting rather than separation in a meaningful sense.
Not that they rode the stage arm-in-arm or anything. Bardet attacked, as he had to, and so did Froome.
The latter’s move briefly looked decisive, but Uran was having none of it. The Colombian flicked the switch on his tractor beam and before you knew it, the three were again one.
There was a bit of jostling within the top ten, but the final summit finish of this race left the podium situation pretty much the same ahead of the time trial. Froome is historically the strongest against the clock, followed by Uran, followed by Bardet and that would appear the most likely overall result. I wouldn’t be laying down any fivers on it though. Uran in particular seems like a man with just a little bit left in the tank.
The funny thing about the King of the Mountains competition is that it almost never rewards the best climber. This is because the best climbers are vying for the overall and aren’t allowed up the road to snaffle all the mid-stage points that are available.
King of the Mountains is therefore more accurately labelled King of the Nutcases as it usually picks out the rider with the least regard for logic; the guy who strikes out alone, or in a small group, day after day.
That’s not entirely the case this year. Warren Barguil has ridden the archetypal King of the Mountains race, eschewing efficiency and conservation of energy in favour of mad sallies up the road. However, he’s done it so bloody well that he’s also lifted himself up to ninth overall.
Here, on the final summit finish, he rode with the favourites group and then ditched them all.
If the top fellas opted against chasing him because he wasn’t a threat, it’s worth pondering just how much work the Frenchman’s done above and beyond the average general classification contender over the course of the last three weeks. If anyone’s got cause to feel a little tired, it’s Barguil.
With victories on the Izoard, on the zippy-yet-mountainous stage 13 and in the King of the Mountains competition, he’s got a case for having ridden the most impressive race of anyone. Just like Primoz Roglic, he may well return with bigger ambitions next year.
On stage 17, Michal Kwiatkowski pretty much rode himself to a standstill in support of Chris Froome.
On stage 18, he gave slightly more.
Michal Kwiatkowski has done all kinds of donkey work in this race. At various times he has sacrificed both his bike and himself. If I could choose any rider from any team to be my team-mate, I would choose Michal Kwiatkowski.
It’s not mountainous, but someone might try something. They almost certainly won’t, but just imagine! Pray for crosswinds, people.