Tour de France: Geraint Thomas rides nearer to the title

Geraint Thomas extended his overall lead to 2:05 by finishing second on Stage 19

Geraint Thomas extended his overall lead to 2:05 by finishing second on Stage 19

They include the iconic Col d'Aspin (12km at 7.3 per cent gradient), Col du Tourmalet (17.1km at 7.3 per cent) and Col d'Aubisque (16.6km at 4.9 per cent), the last of which is followed by a 20km descent to the finish. "We think there will be attacks straight from the start, it's the last mountain stage and the guys will be wanting to take any opportunity they can".

With 6.5 kilometres to go Nairo Quintana went solo and dropped Majka, flying towards a stage victory, and just a kilometre later Romain Bardet went backwards and quickly too, a letdown for AGSR who had called all in on their leader and were seeing the mountain take the chips.

Wednesday's stage victor Nairo Quintana of Movistar was caught in a crash along with Mitchelton-Scott's Adam Yates with 105km to go, but they were soon back on their bikes. "They can do a big move and maybe gain two or three minutes and quite easily lose a chunk of time in the time trial".

"But hopefully, he won't have to do much anyway".

Primoz Roglic celebrates after winning stage 19
Primoz Roglic celebrates after winning stage 19

Demare, who failed to make the cut on a climb in the Alps past year, had time to celebrate as he crossed the line with his arms wide open ahead of fellow Frenchman Christophe Laporte.

"But we have to keep on fighting". "It didn't feel like a grab, but like a hit", Thomas said prior to the start of the mainly flat stage 18 from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau.

The first sprint stage since last Friday was contested by a vastly depleted field of quick men following the exits of Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Fernando Gaviria, Dylan Groenewegen and Michael Matthew at various points in the Tour so far.

He also mentioned the volatile atmosphere at the race when discussing Team Sky's Gianni Moscon, who was disqualified from the Tour on Sunday after lashing out at another rider, Fortuneo-Samsic's Elie Gesbert.

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It was not clear that apology had been accepted as Demare said he had used Greipel's "insult" as motivation.

Quintana, a three-time podium finisher in the Tour, finished 28 seconds ahead of Irish rider Dan Martin, while Thomas crossed third, 47 seconds back. "Obviously that insulted me".

"The best answer I could give to Greipel was to win today".

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider hobbled on to his bike in the morning but had put his team on the front in the final few kilometres before eventually finishing eighth.

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"I was in a lot of pain".

The Tour de France is the world's biggest and most iconic cycling race. But it's the end of long hard weeks and there's a time trial tomorrow.

After many of his competitors were unable to get through the mountains, Demare took advantage by dominating a mass sprint in Stage 18. I'm not afraid of anything.

"I think if somebody pulls you off the bike unexpectedly, the shock of that, if you think you're being attacked, every fair-minded person would agree your first reaction to that is going to be emotional", he said.

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