Brilliant Bardet earns France second Tour stage win
By Julien Pretot
ST JEAN DE MAURIENNE, France (Reuters) - Romain Bardet gave France a second win in this year's Tour de France as he showed his composed descending skills to clinch the 18th stage on Thursday.
The AG2r-La Mondiale rider, sixth overall in the Tour last year, timed his attack perfectly near the end of the long ascent to the col du Glandon before powering away from a breakaway group on the descent.
The 24-year-old never looked back and crossed the line 33 seconds ahead of his compatriot Pierre Rolland of the Europcar team, almost two weeks after Bardet's team mate Alexis Vuillermoz won the eighth stage.
Colombian Winner Anacona of Movistar took third place, 59 seconds behind, as Chris Froome comfortably retained the overall leader's yellow jersey when he finished safely with the other top riders, 3:02 off the pace.
"It was difficult to get in the breakaway. I knew that with a late attack in the Glandon I could then take time on the others thanks to my descending skills," said Bardet, who dropped out of contention for a podium finish in Paris after a bad day in the Pyrenees.
A 29-man breakaway took shape early on and the group, featuring Bardet and fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot as well as polka-dot jersey wearer Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain, built a five-minute lead over the pack.
That group had been whittled down to less than a dozen midway through the ascent of the col du Glandon, a 21.7-km climb at an average gradient of 5.1 percent, after Pinot and others had dropped back.
Further behind in the yellow jersey group, Frenchman Warren Barguil attacked and was joined by Swiss Matthias Frank and Dutchman Robert Gesink. Continued...