The thirteenth stage of this Tour de France was never going to be a tame affair, so as attacks started rolling off the front directly after the flag dropped, there was nothing to be surprised about. Barguil and Voeckler, Chavanel, Di Marchi and Gilbert, plenty of groups strove to get ahead of the peloton, but only Di Marchi could stay ahead on the first climb of the day, where the GC group itself began to splinter, yellow jersey Fabio Aru’s Astana team mates all unable to resist the pull of gravity, slipping out the back of the group and leaving the race leader isolated.
At the same time, attacks kept coming, Warren Barguil making a move to take the greatest number of mountain points, but drawing out Alberto Contador and most notably Mikel Landa, seventh on GC and climbing amongst the best in the race. The three soon caught Di Marchi, dropping him, and soon Barguil, on the Col d’Agnes as Nairo Quintana caught the Frenchman. This locked the stage into a formula, as Sky could now stop riding on the front and wait for others to do so. Those who would included the team mates of lower-placed GC contenders, with Primoz Roglic putting in a turn for George Benett as Diego Ulissi helped Louis Meintjes — this in the interest of defending ninth and tenth on GC, a uniquely Tour de France phenomenon.
Up front, Contador was doing the lion’s share of the work, as one might expect when one is with the team mate of the man in second on GC, but Landa certainly was taking pulls, allowing Contador to do the early work but helping him out to no inconsequential extent on the Agnes, wanting not only to prevent the duo’s capture by Barguil and Quintana, who had been joined by Michal Kwiatkowski and Alexis Vuillermoz, but to gain some more time on GC. They hit the bottom of the Mûr de Peguère likely under the assumption that they’d be fighting out the stage, but as they hit the three and a half decisive, steep kilometres of the climb, they were in sight of their chasers, now just Barguil and Quintana again, who would pull them back on the wall’s late slopes.
Back in the GC group, the gradients were enough to expel all but the best climbers, as the top six on GC, plus Louis Meintjes, struggled up the mountain, nobody quite willing or able to attack as Dan Martin went to the front quickly, in order to protect his fifth place on GC, which was under such grave threat as to be practically out of sight, from Landa. Predictably, however, this amount of work was enough to put him in the red the second anybody went over the top as Chris Froome did, recapturing his own team mate Kwiatkowski, but not putting any of his GC rivals, save the fifth and sixth placed Martin and Yates, both of whom were dropped, in danger. There was then a slowing, as nobody was willing to take on the pace-setting, as the five remaining, including the top four on GC, crested the climb heading for the finish in Foix.
Then followed a descent full of predictable gamesmanship, where Kwiatkowski set a false pace as Froome let Landa increase his gap, punctuated by attempts at opportunism, from Martin about half a dozen times, Yates almost as many, Froome twice, Úran once — nobody got away on the descent, as Froome and Kwiatkowski seemed unwilling to let their own team mate increase his gap, chasing down most attacks. Martin made a final move on the flatter section into Foix, and this time looked to succeed as the Sky duo slowed, but as he was joined by Yates the pair chased once again, keeping the gap to the front group as low as possible.
Up in that front group, it was clear whose responsibility it was to work, with Landa taking the majority of turns as Barguil began to skip a few. Contador predictably made a late attack in Foix, but he didn’t have the legs to open a gap as Barguil, comfortably the best sprinter in the group, took victory. Contador was overtaken by Quintana to take third as the group gapped Landa slightly. He would finish two seconds behind the trio in fourth place. Martin lost the sprint for fifth to Yates, taking nine seconds on the GC group who came in a minute and forty-six seconds down.
All in all the day can be called a success for Aru, who keeps hold of the jersey. His team were of no use to him but no one could have expected them to be, and this was not a stage for a solo attack to succeed. Froome is still in pole position for the yellow jersey, seeming to have mostly recovered from his final kilometre mishap yesterday — the Sardinian must drop him again to have a hope of keeping yellow to Paris. Bardet and Úran are continuing to threaten. Neither of them looked in any trouble at all, so with three climbers all well capable of challenging for yellow, along with Landa who is a complete wildcard for Sky at this point, the race is more wide-open than it has been for years.
- Warren Barguil (FRA), Team Sunweb - 2:36:29
- Nairo Quintana (COL), Movistar - st
- Alberto Contador (ESP), Trek-Segafredo - st
- Mikel Landa (ESP), Team Sky - 0:02
- Simon Yates (UK), Orica-Scott - 1:39
- Daniel Martin (IRE), Quick-Step Floors - st
- Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), Team Sky - 1:46
- Chris Froome (UK), Team Sky - st
- Fabio Aru (ITA), Astana - st
- Rigoberto Úran (COL), Cannondale-Drapac - st
- Fabio Aru (ITA), Astana - 52:51:49
- Chris Froome (UK), Team Sky - 0:06
- Romain Bardet (FRA), AG2R La Mondiale - 0:25
- Rigoberto Úran (COL), Cannondale-Drapac - 0:35
- Mikel Landa (ESP), Team Sky - 1:09
- Daniel Martin (IRE), Quick-Step Floors - 1:32
- Simon Yates (UK), Orica-Scott - 2:04
- Nairo Quintana (COL), Movistar - 2:07
- Louis Meintjes (RSA), UAE Team Emirates - 4:51
- Alberto Contador (ESP), Trek-Segafredo - 5:22