Thomas tightens yellow grip; Demare aces 18th stage

Team Sky leader Froome a four-time champion finished the stage in eighth place at 1min 35sec behind Colombian winner Nairo Quintana and 48secs behind teammate and overall leader Geraint Thomas

"I am feeling good but I am not going to get carried away, keep fuelling and eating and drinking as best as I can and just not let any complacency creep in".

It was a great day for the Team Sky rider, who extended his lead over his rivals as he powered away in the final few kilometers to claim third place to Saint-Lary-Soulan behind stage victor Nairo Quintana and runner-up Dan Martin.

In the end, Groupama's FDJ's Demare was able to hold off Christophe Laporte of Cofidis and Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates to claim his second career Tour win and first this year. "He's been a huge helper for the team during the race and he deserves a lot of credit for the role played in our success".

Thomas' rivals knew they had to make their move.

The Team Sky rider increased his general classification lead over Tom Dumoulin to two minutes and five seconds heading into Saturday's time trial, with Chris Froome dropping to fourth overall behind Primoz Roglic following the Slovenian's fine stage victory.

"The biggest factor was that I was the first rider down".

Froome finished No. 8 in the stage, behind fellow Team Sky cyclists Geraint Thomas and Egan Arley Bernal Gomez. Photographers, cameramen and race officials all use motorbikes during the race.

The world champion sealed a record-equalling sixth green jersey on Tuesday, but he was literally brought back down to earth during a brutal 65-kilometre ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

Froome's hopes are hanging by a thread after he crossed the line 1:35 off the pace as he does not seem to have the legs to overturn the deficit and might not be allowed to by his team after Thomas emerged as the clear leader in the British squad. But again Froome was unable to go with the accelerations. It was a move in which Dumoulin then encouraged Roglič to contribute after Roglič and Thomas followed him, but without Froome in tow.

"He also came off", Froome said. But it did boost his confidence for the finale. But he said it felt more like a "hit". "There was still third place up for grabs and I had a little gap ... so nice bonus".

Demare finished Wednesday's stage second to last but managed to avoid the time cut as thousands of French spectators cheered him on.

Perhaps a bigger worry for Thomas and third-place teammate Chris Froome concerns the unruly fans who have consistently affected this Tour by spitting at riders - or even reaching out to grab them. "I've won the last three Grand Tours I've done now, so it's certainly been tough build-up for me but I'm still going to try and fight for the podium and try to keep G up there in yellow".

PHILIPPE GILBERT (Quick-Step Floors) already knew his Tour de France was over before he was diagnosed with a fracture to his left kneecap.

The queen stage of this year's Tour it features a hellish profile for the peloton, 200.5km between Lourdes and Laruns, that takes in vertical slogs up Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque - aptly nicknamed the "Circle of Death".



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