Tour de France Stage 19 results: Primoz Roglic wins

Alaphilippe at the double as Thomas eyes Tour's crucial 17th stage

Froome finished eighth, 1 minute 35 seconds behind stage victor Nairo Quintana, and dropped from second to third overall, a distant 2:31 seconds adrift of Thomas.

Froome's failure to stay with Thomas in the final few kilometres of the 16 km climb to the finish of the Col du Portet amid a series of attacks by rivals means the Kenyan-born Briton is in danger of finishing off the podium.

"Today, with a col as a hard as the Tourmalet, it was a stage where you could go on the attack and try to make a big operation".

"The way he did get the gap was a little surprising", said Thomas, whose sprint for second place, and the six bonus seconds on offer, helped him increase his advantage over Dumoulin marginally ahead of the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday.

"They can do a big move and then still lose a chunk of time in the TT".

Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin, the 2017 Giro d'Italia champion, has now moved up to second place with Roglic up to fourth overall just 16secs behind Froome. "But hopefully he won't have to do much".

"That last climb will just be down to the legs but we will just keep doing what we've been doing".

On Thursday the riders head out of the mountains with a 171km flat stage from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau.

A sprint was always on the cards but the battle for position was wide open given that the field of quick men has been decimated in this race, with Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria and Michael Matthews all having withdrawn at various points.

Sky's domination of the race in recent years, including this 105th edition in which Thomas impressed by winning back-to-back stages in the Alps, has given fuel to the British outfit's detractors.

Demare finished Wednesday's stage second to last but managed to avoid the time cut as thousands of French spectators cheered him on.

It was not clear that apology had been accepted as Demare said he had used Greipel's "insult" as motivation.

"I don't think so", he said. "Obviously that insulted me".

"First of all, I want to say that I'm happy to be here after that tough moment", Gilbert said in a team press release.

"It comes down to tomorrow but I can take confidence with how I'm riding, and what will be will be", he said.

He also mentioned the volatile atmosphere at the race when discussing Team Sky's Gianni Moscon, who was disqualified from the Tour on Sunday after lashing out at another rider, Fortuneo-Samsic's Elie Gesbert. "I think that's the main reason for our success so far at this Tour".

In 2015, former Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali was thrown off the Tour of Spain after holding onto a team auto while chasing back on following a crash in the final 30 kilometres of stage two.

Dumoulin, a time trial specialist and strong climber racing for Sunweb, was always likely to emerge as Sky's closest challenger. The six-pack of mountains on the course make this truly the queen stage of the 2018 edition.

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