Mende - Spaniard Omar Fraile ended Belgian hopes of a Tour de France
victory on their national holiday with a gutsy, maiden victory on the race on
the 14th stage on Saturday.
Britain's Geraint Thomas, of Team Sky, retained the race
leader's yellow jersey after crossing the line with teammate Chris Froome and
Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) just over 18 minutes in arrears.
With four days of climbing in the Pyrenees yet to decide the
outcome of the yellow jersey, the main peloton and all the race favourites were
happy to allow an early breakaway escape in the opening kilometres.
Intentions seemed clear on Belgium's national holiday after
seven Belgians got in among a group of 32 frontrunners including Philippe
Gilbert and yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet.
And when Jasper Stuyven (Trek) capitalised on a mid-race
spat between Gilbert and Fraile to break away on his own with over 30km to
race, it looked like Belgium would have an extra reason to celebrate.
But Stuyven, a one-day classics specialist who finished in
the top ten of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders earlier this season, fell
victim to his lack of climbing prowess.
He held a 1min 40sec lead on a group of chasers with 10km to
race, with the main peloton and Thomas at over 20 minutes in arrears.
But on the final, 3km climb leading to the flat finish at Mende
Fraile launched an audacious counter-attack.
The Spaniard dug deep on the climb, whose average gradient
is a punishing 10.1 %, and soon had Stuyven in his sights.
When he overtook Stuyven with two kilometres to race, Fraile
did not look back.
He came over the finish line with room to spare, finishing
six seconds ahead of Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step), with Stuyven in