Even as the Tour de France leaves the Alps, the battle for the classification of the King of the Mountains has accelerated considerably with the new leader, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), defending a weak two-point lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE -Team Emirates).Carapaz won the King of the Mountains jersey on stage 18 at Pogačar – the mountain leader for just 24 hours in this classification after his third place in stage 17 – thanks to a one-day breakaway, culminating in a second place behind his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski.
One of his most dangerous opponents in the standings, Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) won the maximum points on the first three climbs of the stage, but then crashed, leaving the road free for Carapaz to pass into the polka dot jersey with a maximum of points on the last two climbs of the day.However, Pogačar’s sixth place on the Montée Plateau des Glières behind the stage leaders kept him in the polka dot jersey match. Although Friday and Sunday only have one point each on a single fourth category climb, there are points on the first category climb during the La Planche des Belles Filles time trial on Saturday. This means that the Tour’s only time trial race could, exceptionally, see another change of leader in the mountain standings – back to Pogačar.
“I have the jersey at the moment, and we will have to find the best strategy to keep it in Paris,” Carapaz told French television after the stage.
Carapaz’s decision to cede the stage to Michal Kwiatkowski was largely based on his bet on the KoM jersey, knowing that he had already missed breakaways on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He finished second behind Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) at Villards-de-Lans and was then the last to be caught at the one-day break, just three kilometers from the line, during Wednesday’s stage in Col de la Loze.
“Today was a spectacular victory, we wanted the stage and the jersey and we got both,” said Carapaz. “And we decided Michal should have the win. But it remains to be seen whether Carapaz will be able to keep a grip on the top of the mountain standings until Sunday.