The 27-year-old moves down to second overall after the race’s first summit finish.
For the fourth time in the last eight Tour de France editions, La Planche des Belles Billes made an appearance on the race, but at this most recent visit, there was a catch: the climb was one kilometer longer than in the past and featured a gruelling dirt road sector boasting 20% gradients beyond the red kite.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step were prominent again, posting Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Maximiliano Richeze at the front of the peloton once 14 men got away in the opening kilometers of the relatively short stage that was crammed with seven classified climbs: Le Markstein, Grand Ballon, Col du Hundsruck, Ballon d’Alsace (the stage’s high point), Col des Croix, Col des Chevrères and La Planche des Belles Filles.
The gap between the bunch and the escapees was shrunk on the penultimate ascent, as the yellow jersey group began spatting riders out the back, but the remnants of the break continue to hold a solid buffer and ended up playing out the victory between them, with Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) outpowering Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).
On the ridiculously steep ramp to the finish line, Alaphilippe launched a valiant last-ditch explosive attack, getting out of the saddle and immediately dropping all the other riders as he tried to keep the yellow jersey on his shoulders. Julian’s never-say-die-attitude was on display until the final meters of this punishing climb, but not even the double-digit gradients could prevent him from honouring the maillot jaune and showing his amazing class.
Despite throwing in everything he had and racing with inimitable panache in that never-ending last kilometer, the GC leader was forced to concede the prestigious garment to Ciccone, who picked up bonifications during and at the finish of the stage, and now finds himself six seconds down after three glittering days in the maillot jaune.
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