Take It From Carol: Tour de France Stage 18

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And the hits keep coming as the roads go up.

Welcome to the Alps. The next three Stages will give us the man to wear yellow into Paris. All three days in the Alps are grueling and the first is perhaps the worst (the longest at 200km, 124 miles). Sprinters will do their best to not get eliminated. KOM hopefuls will fight to get into the breakaway with so many points up for grab. More than likely, the Polka Dot Jersey will find new shoulders. Pure climbers with dashed Tour hopes will try to salvage some glory with a Stage win (Bardet, Nibali). And the GC battle will ignite.....

Alaphilippe has two challenges: the Alps and isolation. Every Stage the same refrain “today is the day Alaphilippe cracks.” If he thrives and defies on the toughest and longest of the three days in the Alps, he may very well take yellow to Paris. BUT (and this is a big but), his greatest challenge: he does not have a strong team of climbers to support him over the relentlessly, grueling climbs. He might find himself having to go back for his own water and fuel, without a wheel or two to sit behind, without teammates to offer emotional support through the suffering and, of course, without a team’s strategic pace setting and attack response.

Thomas and Bernal of Ineos may find themselves battling each other rather than working for one or the other. Bernal is a born and bred high altitude guy. He sits just 27 seconds off his teammate and isn’t missing skin. Thomas hit the pavement two days ago. Hard. Road rash interferes with sleep and contusions tend to feel worse 48 hours out. The Alps provide sufficient pain...you don’t want to bring your own especially when Bernal is in striking distance.

And then Pinot. What a Tour! What a formidable performance in the Pyrenees. Will he remain impressive when faced with the Col du Galibier? If so....