Spain’s Omar Fraile takes maiden Tour de France stage win
Geraint Thomas remains in yellow jersey; Dan Martin slips back after puncture
Astana Pro Team rider Omar Fraile of Spain in action on his way to winning Stage 14 of the Tour de France from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende. Photograph: Stephane Mahe/Reuters
The Astana rider caught Belgian Jasper Stuyven near the top of the Cote de Croix Neuve, a 3km ascent at an average gradient of 10.2 per cent and did not look back as he crossed the line.
France’s Julian Alaphilippe was the fastest in the climb but he made his move slightly too late and finished six seconds behind, just ahead of Stuyven.
Welsh rider Geraint Thomas keeps the yellow jersey after finishing ahead of his principal rivals.
“Winning a Tour de France stage is the best for a professional rider,” said Fraile, who already had a Giro d’Italia stage win to his name.
“When I attacked I was not sure I would be able to keep my advantage. I knew Alaphilippe was coming strong.”
All three featured in an early breakaway that built a lead over the main pack of almost 20 minutes, although none of the 32 escapees were a threat in the general classification.
Only Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who is fourth overall now, 2:38 behind Team Sky’s Thomas, gained some time on the main contenders when he attacked in the final climb.
He crossed the line 18:01 behind Fraile, eight seconds behind Froome, Thomas and Dumoulin after the Dutchman also attacked in the climb.
The move hurt Frenchman Romain Bardet, who ended up 22 seconds off Fraile’s pace. He is fifth overall, now 3:21 off the pace and faces a massive challenge in the approaching Pyrenees if he is to finish on the Tour podium for the third time.
Ireland’s Dan Martin slipped a place from ninth to 10th overall, puncturing one kilometre before the day’s final climb and being unable to return to the bunch in time to defend his overall position. He finished 50th on the stage.
Martin had hoped to take time out of his general classification rivals, but instead lost one minute 43 seconds to race leader Thomas.
“It was a hard start [in the crosswinds] but everybody knew it was going to smaller roads. So nobody really panicked. Strange day, a really strange day. There was gravel on the side of the road where I was riding. It was a risk, but it happens.”
Martin had started the day in ninth place but because of the puncture, the Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was able to overtake him, with Martin now, six minutes 54 seconds back.
Sunday’s 15th stage is a 181.5-km hilly ride from Millau to Carcassonne ahead of the second rest day and three stages in the Pyrenees that could shake up the overall standings.