French rider survives Tour’s 1st tough mountain climb

LA MONGIE, France (AP) — The first super-tough 6,500-foot climb of the Tour de France proved to be no obstacle for Julian Alaphilippe, the race leader who kept his yellow jersey while defending champion Geraint Thomas struggled up the Tourmalet pass and lost time on Saturday.

Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14 up the famed ascent in the Pyrenees, making amends for a disaster on Stage 10, when he lost lots of time.

Thomas cracked on the final inclines to the top of the pass and couldn’t stay with Pinot and Alaphilippe, who increasingly appears to be justifying French hopes that he could become France’s first Tour winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tournalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who now has three career stage wins at cycling’s greatest race.

Pinot said he’s fueled by anger at all the time he squandered on Stage 10, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in cross-winds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

Thomas is still second overall behind Alaphilippe, but the Frenchman is getting further and further away from him.

Alaphilippe has put an extra 50 seconds of daylight between him and Thomas in two days after winning the Stage 13 time trial on Friday and, on Saturday, finishing just behind Pinot on the Tourmalet. Alaphilippe now leads the Welshman by 2:02 overall.

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