Ineos Grenadiers teammates Michał Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz embraced as they finished the Tour de France’s 18th stage together, one day after their leader and defending champion Egan Bernal withdrew from the race.
Kwiatkowski of Poland was given the win for barely crossing ahead of Carapaz, though neither made a serious play to beat the other on the last full mountain stage of the three-week event.
Slovenian Primoz Roglic kept his 57-second lead over countryman Tadej Pogacar and appears destined to become the first man from his nation to win the Tour on Sunday.
Ineos, which won the previous five Tours among Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Bernal, was left to chase stage wins after Bernal plummeted in the overall standings in the last week before his abandon before Wednesday’s queen stage.
Kwiatkowski earned his first Tour stage win after spending the previous three Tours as a super domestique for winners Froome, Thomas and Bernal. Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion, took over the polka-dot jersey leading the King of the Mountains standings.
“I can’t describe how grateful I am to the whole team as well as Richard,” said Kwiatkowski, the 2014 World road race champion. “I get some nice moments in cycling but that was a new experience. I’ve got goosebumps for the last, I don’t know [how many] kilometers.”
There are two stages left before the largely ceremonial ride into Paris on Sunday. Friday’s stage is flat and an opportunity for the sprinters who made it through the mountains to battle it out. 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 finishing with a category-one climb.
“We are one day closer to Paris, but we are still not there yet,” Roglic said. “We keep focusing on ourselves and we have to be ready if something unexpected happens in tomorrow’s stage. I feel good, and I am very confident for tomorrow and Saturday’s time trial.”
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk