MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images
Team Sky have a lead to defend in the 2018 Tour de France general classification for the first time on Thursday, when Geraint Thomas will set off for Stage 12 with the yellow jersey.
Stage 12 is the third successive high-mountain stage and will see riders start in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and finish at Alpe d’Huez, a trek totalling 175.5 kilometres across some of the fiercest inclines in France.
Thibaut Pinot was fastest to finish in 2015, when Alpe d’Huez was last used as a stage venue, but a new champion of the climb will emerge on Thursday as the Frenchman is not racing in this year’s Tour.
Chris Froome sits second in the classification and one minute, 25 seconds off Team Sky team-mate Thomas, while Tom Dumoulin made the jump to third after he finished behind the Welshman in Stage 11:
Le Tour de France @LeTour
📊 Here is the new GC after stage 11 !
@GeraintThomas86 is the new @MaillotjauneLCL ! 💛
📊 Voici le nouveau classement général après l’étape 11 ! Geraint Thomas est le nouveau @MaillotjauneLCL ! 💛
Read on for a look at the Stage 12 route and a preview of the race, as well as a television schedule and live-stream information.
Date: Wednesday, July 18
UK TV Info: Eurosport 1 (12:05 a.m.-6 p.m. BST), ITV 4 (11 a.m.-5:15 p.m. BST)
U.S. TV Info: NBCSN, 6:30 a.m. ET
Live Stream: Eurosport Player, ITV Hub, NBC Sports App
Stage 12 will bring an end to the alpine phase of this year’s Tour and could be the segment in which we begin to see some riders officially lose hope of a result in the general classification.
The profile of the stage is daunting and features three category HC climbs, as well as one category 2 ascent. Alpe d’Huez has a reputation as a demanding finish for a reason and holds an 8.1 per cent incline over 13.8 kilometres:
Riders will rack up almost 5,000 metres in altitude over the course of the stage, and this could be the point at which we see Froome’s tremendous lasting power at a heavy pace come to the fore.
That being said, the spotlight is on Thomas after his triumph in Stage 11, and Off the Ball‘s Eoin Sheahan jested we’re set to see Team Sky dazzle again, a feat which would be to the chagrin of some:
Eoin Sheahan @EoinSheahan
I’m voting for Team Sky’s performance on Alpe d’Huez tomorrow as my sporting moment of 2018. It’s going to be inspiring.
The ongoing furore that surrounds Froome after his anti-doping case was closed means many fans would likely be upset if he succeeded in clinching a fourth successive Tour title in 2018.
Thomas raced to one of the best finishes this year on Wednesday, and it will be intriguing to see how he’s able to sustain pace in a bid to keep the yellow jersey.
Even the Alpe d’Huez is excited to host one of the most anticipated portions of the alpine stage of the Tour, posting a preview of the challenge to come:
Team Emirates rider Dan Martin has already won one stage in France and been close to the finishing action on several occasions, while Bora–Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan is also sure to be a contender on Thursday.
The Tour will weave deeper into its second half in Stage 12 with a stiff 175.5-kilometre gauntlet, and Team Sky’s front-runners will be hard-pressed to emerge at the other side with the yellow jersey in either Thomas or Froome’s possession.