Julian Alaphilippe dug deep to keep the overall Tour de France lead on Sunday as Simon Yates captured his second stage of this year’s race and defending champion Geraint Thomas kept his title hopes alive after a late surge.
Few believed Frenchman Alaphilippe would emerge from two daunting summit finishes in the Pyrenees with the lead, but at the Foix Prat d’Albi finish he donned the yellow jersey for an astonishing 11th time as reward for his swashbuckling performances that have lit up this tour.
“I expected to lose a bit of time today. I’m delighted that I’m still in the yellow jersey. I gave my best to fight and retain the lead,” said the 27-year-old world No.1 Alaphilippe.
“We knew it would be a hard day, I paid for my efforts in the finale,” admitted Alaphilippe of the Deceunick Quick-Step team who turned up at the Tour after multiple wins including the Fleche Wallonne and Milan-San Remo.
Thomas struggled on the final climb into the clouds, but then closed the gap on the leader to 1min 35sec by dropping him with a late burst afer initially looking like he was going to lose precious time on the overall leader.