Sean Bennett in the break on stage 18 of Le Tour

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) made it back-to-back stage wins at Le Tour de France, taking out the final mountain stage 18 to Luz Ardiden today.

Stage 18 of the Tour de France was the final mountain stage of the race, just a short 129km route from Pau to the summit of Luz Ardiden but the route also included the ascent of the famous Col du Tourmalet.

From the gun Team Qhubeka NextHash was the first to attack as Sean Bennett set off immediately. He was followed by two other riders and they quickly built a lead of 1-minute before counter attacks followed from within the peloton.

After being in the lead for roughly 40km, two others were able to bridge across the minute gap to Bennett and co. but the peloton never took its foot of the gas, as their was interest from a couple of teams to contest for the intermediate sprints points and the King of the Mountains points that were upcoming.

Just before reaching the lower slopes of the Tourmalet, unfortunately Sergio Henao hit the deck in the peloton. The Team Qhubeka NextHash climber was able to rejoin the race, but the hard knock he took certainly ruled him out of contention for the remainder of the stage.

With Bennett’s break not going anywhere, the American and two others returned to the peloton as the Tourmalet began. The other two breakaway riders were also caught later on, up the climb.

It was only a select group of GC favourites that made it over the summit at the head of the race, and then onto the final major climb of the 2021 Tour de France, Luz Ardiden. As was the case yesterday, Pogacar reigned supreme over Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos), to win the stage and all but secure the overall victory of this years race.

Our five Team Qhubeka NextHash riders all made it safely to the finish.

Simon Clarke

It was a bit of a relief actually (to get through the day) as I wasn’t sure exactly how my back would hold up. But today it held up well in the mountains from a pain point of view and it’s all downhill to Paris now.

There was quite a big fight for the breakaway and I didn’t see exactly what happened to Sergio but that fight is so big that there was obviously a touch of wheels which is unfortunate for us. There was excellent commitment from the team with Sean straight onto the first attack and into the breakaway, making a huge effort; all the boys were spot on today.