Touted as one of the toughest stages of the race; four famous ascents and roughly 4000 metres of elevation gain awaited the peloton this afternoon as they rolled out of Albertville this afternoon. With a flatter start, the speeds were high as lots of teams and riders looked to make the day’s breakaway. Eventually after a plethora of attacks, a large group of 20 riders formed out front and quickly built up their lead.
With all Team DSM riders in the peloton focus remained on looking after finisher Romain Bardet, keeping him safe and conserving as much energy as possible for what was to come. With the picturesque Lacets de Montvernier covered, next up was the Col de Télégraphe where a strong pace was set in the GC group and it became a race of attrition. Approaching the top of the climb, the yellow jersey group was down to around 30 riders with Bardet, Chris Hamilton and Andreas Leknessund still well up there for the team.
Over the top of the climb a dangerous move went clear including GC contenders Pogacar, Roglic, Vingegaard and Thomas. Getting a gap of almost one minute, Hamilton set a strong pace in the chasing group on the next ascent of the Col du Galibier and all-but closed the gap before other teams pitched in to help and contact was made. With the steep ramps continuing and the ascent unrelenting, a hard tempo split the group with Bardet riding brilliantly to make the initial move of eight, which further thinned down as the kilometres ticked by. Digging deep, Bardet fought back after the yellow jersey made a move and even went on the attack himself; before ultimately cresting the climb just behind the “leading” duo of Pogacar and Vingegaard.
On the high speed descent it was tough to create a gap and several riders returned as the race charged towards the foot of the Col du Granon, with lone leader Barguil maintaining a three minute and 45 second advantage at ten kilometres to go. With the kilometres counting down, the yellow jersey group thinned in size as Quintana launched a counter attack; with Bardet still in the now group of six. Approaching five kilometres to go Bardet launched a stinging attack, going clear of the yellow jersey and in pursuit of Quintana who had now caught Barguil. Riding strongly, Bardet quickly built up a gap before Vingegaard launched his move behind and bridged across. Bardet rode at his own speed as Vingegaard increased the tempo once more; with riders in ones in twos all over the road.
Giving his all to the finish, Bardet crested the Col du Granon to take a brilliant and hard-fought third place for Team DSM – on what was a stage for the ages.