Michal Kwiatkowski led Ineos Grenadiers to a superb double on stage 18th to help save their Tour de France as Primoz Roglic approached the title.
Pole Kwiatkowski and his teammate Richard Carapaz crossed the line arm in arm after pulling away from the rest of the field on a difficult mountain stage.
Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma team resisted any attack by maintaining their 57-second lead with three stages to go.
Briton Adam Yates moved from fifth to seventh in the general classification.
Former world champion Kwiatkowki’s very first individual stage victory on the Grand Tour capped Ineos’ strong performance since defending champion Egan Bernal retired from competition, before retiring after stage 16 .
The British team were active in the breakaways, with Carapaz closing in on Stages 16 and 17, before Kwiatkowski claimed their first Tour 2020 victory.
“It was a day – I can’t describe how grateful I am to the whole team and Richard. I will never forget that, ”Kwiatkowski said.
“I had some great times in cycling but it was something new. I got goosebumps for the last few kilometers because I knew we were going to be successful. It was amazing. “
Ineos recovers their tour
Despite a highly successful career that included wins at Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold Race and Strade Bianche on two occasions, a Grand Tour stage victory had eluded Kwiatkowski as the 30-year-old was crucial support for Chris Froome, Geraint. Thomas and Bernal since joining Team Sky in 2016.
He and Carapaz had a four-minute lead before the last 10 kilometers, giving them plenty of time to celebrate and decide who would take the win at La Roche-sur-Foron, with Carapaz simply hitting his brake at the last moment to secure Kwiatkowski. I got it.
Carapaz had been clear with Marc Hirschi on the first climb of the day as they fought for classification points in the mountains before Kwiatkowski, Pello Bilbao and Nicolas Edet joined them on the second climb.
Edet retreats and Hirschi crashes, before climbing back up, descending the Col des Saisies, before the Ineos duo let go of Bilbao on the final climb.
Last year’s Giro d’Italia champion Carapaz also took the polka dot jersey as the leader of the mountain standings at Tadej Pogacar, who remains second overall.
The Ecuadorian leads Pogacar by eight points in this competition, with a maximum of 12 points available.
Roglic almost there
As the last mountain stage it was the last realistic opportunity for one of Roglic’s rivals to regain considerable time off the Slovenian, but he came out unscathed.
Friday’s stage 19 is expected to see the GC contenders finish together and Sunday’s final stage is a procession to Paris where tradition dictates that the race leader is not attacked.
Saturday’s individual mountain time trial ends with a climb to La Planche des Belles Filles but, as an impressive time trial and climber, Roglic will be convinced that he already has enough lead.
Once again, Roglic was well supported, with Pogacar unable to launch an attack on the final climb to the Glieres plateau, painful before the compatriots sprinted fourth and fifth respectively after his Roglic teammate Wout van Aert neutralized the four bonus seconds for the third.
Mikel Landa was briefly made clear as his Bahrain McLaren side set a high pace again, but with more success than on Stage 17, with Rigoberto Uran and Yates finishing more than two minutes behind, allowing it was up to Landa to move up to fifth place in the general classification.
Richie Porte suffered a puncture on a section of gravel after the summit of Glieres but managed to get back on track to keep fourth place overall.
Result of step 18
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol / Ineos Grenadiers) 4h 47mins 33secs
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu / Ineos Grenadiers) Same time
3. Wout van Aert (Bel / Jumbo-Visma) + 1min 51secs
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo / Jumbo-Visma) + 1min 53secs
5. Tadej Pogacar (Slo / UAE Team Emirates) Same time
6. Richie Porte (Aus / Trek-Segafredo) + 1min 54secs
7. Enric Mas (Spa / Movistar) same time
Mikel Landa (Spa / Bahreïn McLaren)
9. Damiano Caruso (Ita / Bahreïn McLaren)
Tom Dumoulin (Ned / Jumbo-Visma)
General classification after stage 18
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo / Jumbo-Visma) 79 hours 45 minutes 30 seconds
2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo / UAE Team Emirates) + 57secs
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col / Astana) + 1mins 27secs
4. Richie Porte (Aus / Trek-Segafredo) + 3 min 06 s
5. Mikel Landa (Spa / Bahreïn McLaren) + 3 minutes 28 seconds
6. Enric Mas (Spa / Movistar) + 4 minutes 19 seconds
7. Adam Yates (GB / Mitchelton-Scott) + 5 minutes 55 secondes
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col / EF Pro Cycling) + 6mins 05secs
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned / Jumbo-Visma) + 7mins 24secs
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa / Movistar) + 12mins 12secs