French cycling fans were sent into wild celebrations on Thursday after Romain Bardet claimed his first Tour de France victory of his career whilst becoming only the second home rider to win a stage this edition.
Rising star Bardet enjoyed success in Stage 18 which was a 186.5 kilometre mountainous ride from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Overall leader Chris Froome once again kept his rivals in check despite Alberto Contador lighting things up with a late attack that saw him go clear and link up with the breakaway group of the day.
Contador was later caught up by the yellow jersey group and further out in front Bardet of the Ag2r-La Mondiale team attacked from the break, carved out a solid advantage and held on to cross the line for his maiden Tour victory.
Team Sky’s Froome – the 2013 champion and odds on favourite for this year’s title – would not be shaken throughout the day and moved one step closer to glory in Paris.
So the top of the General classification is unchanged – Froome holds a three minute and ten second lead over Movistar’s Colombian rider Nairo Quintana – Welshman Geraint Thomas is 4th at just over six and a half minutes.
Stage 19 is a short but brutal 138 kilometre ride to La Toussuire – Les Sybelles – a mountainous stage that could seriously shake up the general standings.