Arnaud Demare, last place in the Pyrenees, wins Tour de France stage

Arnaud Demare, last place in the Pyrenees, wins Tour de France stage

Arnaud Demare, last place in the Pyrenees, wins Tour de France stage

"I think we are expecting the worst and hoping for the best", he added.

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. There's a danger that someone could make a big move, gain two or three minutes, and then lose it all and more in the time trial. Froome slipped from third overall to fourth at 2m 37s, with Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Lotto-Jumbo), the victor of Friday's 200km 19th stage from Lourdes to Laruns, leapfrogging Froome into third.

"Froomey said on the radio maybe with four or five kilometres to go that he wasn't feeling super and that gave me confidence", admitted Thomas. "But hopefully he won't have to do much". "There's still one more big day to go".

Yates was on his own and in the lead when he crashed on the descent of the Col du Portillon, the fifth and last climb of the day, his front wheel skidding away from under him as he negotiated a left-hand bend. "We were able to keep the level in the third week, which we've been doing all the last years, that's really becoming a strength". Following stages: Jul 26-Stage 18 Trie-sur-Baïse to Pau, 171 km, Road race.

A sprint was always on the cards but the battle for position was wide open given that the field of quick men has been decimated in this race, with Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria and Michael Matthews all having withdrawn at various points.

Dumoulin would be closer to Thomas had he not been hit with a 20-second penalty in Stage 6 for straying too close to his team auto, benefiting from the draft that pulled him along.

It was not clear that apology had been accepted as Demare said he had used Greipel's "insult" as motivation. "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". "Obviously that insulted me". "I won the national time trial title before [coming] here", the Welshman said.

"I know I'm not the best in the mountains, but I work hard to make sure I get through them".

Bora-Hansgrohe rider Sagan, who has won three stages in this year's Tour, said he had only injured his backside, despite his jersey being torn.

UAE Team Emirates found themselves on the podium for a second straight day after Norwegian sprinter Alesander Kristoff followed up Dan Martin's runner-up finish on Stage 17 to claim third on Thursday.

"At the moment I need to keep my gunpowder dry and wait for the right moment to attack", the 27-year-old said earlier in the week. "My physical condition is a bit worse than it was, but I took advantage of it to live the race from a different perspective..."

Thomas increased his lead after the final mountain stage on Friday, while Sky teammate and four-time champion Chris Froome lost his spot on the podium.

Saturday's time trial route is just 31km.

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