Tour de France: Geraint Thomas soars to 11th stage win

The Welshman now leads team-mate Chris Froome by 1min 25sec in the overall standings.

Jubilant: Great Britain's Geraint Thomas celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage.   -  AFP

Welshman Geraint Thomas soared to victory in the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday to take the overall leader’s yellow jersey.

Thomas, of Team Sky, completed an impressive ride on the 108.5km stage from Albertville to the summit of La Rosiere by overtaking Spaniard Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton) in the closing metres. Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) finished second at 20sec, just ahead of Sky leader and four-time champion Chris Froome.

“It's unreal I didn't expect it at all,” Thomas said. “I knew there was a good chance (of going into yellow) but I didn't know how everyone else was going to ride. Wearing the yellow jersey is a massive honour. I managed to do it last year and to do it two years in a row is really nice.”

Bouncing back

Thomas, who wore the yellow jersey for four days in 2017 after winning the opening time trial, now leads team-mate Froome by 1min 25sec in the overall standings. Dumoulin is third at 1:44, while the Spanish Movistar team's best-placed rider is Mikel Landa at 2:56, in seventh.

Thomas had struggled to hide his disappointment after missing the chance to race into the lead on Tuesday when Sky's tactics fell short of his personal expectations. But a day before a third and final salvo in the Alps, which ends with the race to the summit of the legendary Alpe d'Huez, the formidable British outfit gave the Welshman a chance to make amends.

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A 20-strong breakaway group that escaped early on the first of the day’s four climbs contained no threats to Sky’s race-winning ambitions. And when Sky finally did come under threat, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde attacking them 5km from the summit of the Cormet de Roselend 33km from the finish, it proved too little too late.

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Valverde raced over the summit to find Movistar team-mate Marc Soler up ahead and, further up the road, found another ally in Dumoulin. But the Spaniard's limits soon became clear when he refused, or was unable, to help the Dutchman when it came to taking his turn at the front. With 15km and the final climb remaining, Sky's impressive pace-setting was holding firm. Only 40sec behind Valverde and Dumoulin, they had the pair well within their sights.

Climax

The final remnants of the earlier breakaway were left to their own devices when Nieve attacked 9km from the finish. One kilometre further on, Valverde was reeled in by Sky and soon dropped.

The real drama came after the 5.5km to go mark, however. An attack by Thomas prompted climbing specialist Romain Bardet to counter, which in turn prompted Froome to counter the Frenchman. An attempt by Dan Martin to leave Froome in his wake was answered in defiant fashion by the Kenyan-born Briton, who spun the pedals in furious fashion to catch and then overtake the Irishman.

With less than 3km to the summit, Thomas and Dumoulin had Nieve only 30sec up ahead. And when the Spaniard came within sight, the Welshman accelerated inside the final 500 metres to overtake him and solo over the line with his arms in triumph.

Cavendish eliminated

Britain's Mark Cavendish was eliminated from the Tour de France for the first time in his career on Wednesday after failing to make the time cut for stage 11.

Cavendish, of the Dimension Data team, only just managed to stay in the race after struggling to make the time cut on Tuesday's 10th stage from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. But the second of three days in the French Alps proved a step too far for the Isle of Man sprinter, who has amassed an impressive 30 stage wins in 10 previous editions.

He finished outside the time cut, alongside Australian team-mate Mark Renshaw and German sprinters Marcel Kittel and Rick Zabel, both of Team Katusha.