Ineos teammates cross a stage of the Tour de France together to win

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Teammates of Ineos Grenadiers Michał Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz hugged as they completed the 18th stage of the Tour de France together, a day after their leader and defending champion Egan Bernal withdrew from the race.

Kwiatkowski of Poland took the win for barely passing Carapaz, but neither made a serious play to beat the other on the final mountain stage of the three-week event.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic kept his lead of 57 seconds over his compatriot Tadej Pogacar and looks destined to become the first man in his nation to win the Tour on Sunday.

Ineos, who won the previous five rounds among Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Bernal, was left in pursuit of stage victories after Bernal fell in the overall standings last week before his retirement ahead of Wednesday’s premier stage.

Kwiatkowski claimed his first Tour stage victory after spending the previous three laps as a super maid for winners Froome, Thomas and Bernal. Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion, took over the polka dot jersey at the top of the King of the Mountains classification.

“I can’t describe how grateful I am to the whole team as well as to Richard,” said Kwiatkowski, the 2014 road racing world champion. “I have good times in cycling but it is was a new experience. I got goosebumps for the end, I don’t know [how many] kilometers. ”

There are two stages left before the largely ceremonial race in Paris on Sunday. Friday’s stage is flat and it’s an opportunity for the sprinters who have crossed the mountains to fight. NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold coverage airs at 7 a.m. ET.

Then, on Saturday, the podium will be confirmed after a 22 mile time trial ending with a Category 1 climb.

“We’re one day closer to Paris, but we’re still not there,” Roglic said. “We continue to focus on ourselves and we have to be prepared if something unexpected happens in tomorrow’s stage. I’m feeling good and I’m very confident for the time trial tomorrow and Saturday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Ranking | TV, broadcast program | Step by step

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