BOOM, went Romain Bardet, BOOM, Adam Yates and BOOM, Nairo Quintana.
There was destruction all over the slopes of the fearsome Tourmalet as the Tour de France had its first big summit finish in the Pyrenees.
Poor Romain Bardet (AG2R) had another jours sans and really, it’s been a Tour sans for the diminutive French climber who has been on the final podium twice.
If there’s a mystery over why Rohan Dennis suddenly left the Tour two days ago, then the bigger mystery is what happened to Bardet and his form? He was dropped on the Col du Soulour and would eventually lose 20 minutes, a disaster of epic proportions.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) followed up on yesterdays disappointing time trial with an even more disappointing performance on Tourmalet. He cracked and his brother Simon spent the afternoon towing him up the final climb. He is now over ten minutes behind the man in yellow, Julian Alaphilippe.
Then another detonation: Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. He’d finish 3:27 behind the winner Pinot and finds himself in a deep dark hole over seven minutes down on GC. Tour over, shocking decline. This really feels like the end of Quintana as a grand tour contender.
Did we mention Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates)? He could be seen grinding away at the back and then falling further behind. You can count him out thanks to a ten minute deficit.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Jakob Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) were all left behind on Tourmalet.
Then the really unexpected explosion: Ineos captain, reigning Tour champion, the man with number one pinned on his back, Geraint Thomas.
After Jumbo Visma’s Laurens De Plus and George Bennet had ramped up the pace for their leader Steven Kruijswijk, it was Thomas who popped with just over a kilometer to the finish.
There was nobody left but six riders: The astonishing Julian Alaphilippe, Pinot, Kruijswijk, Mikel Landa (Movistar), Egan Bernal (Ineos) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
At 350 meters to go, Pinot powered to the front and not even a burst from Alaphilippe could stop him from winning on Tourmalet and putting himself back in the conversation for the podium.
Pinot now ranks 6th on GC, just over 3 minutes back with Bernal for close company. While Thomas and Kruijswijk trail Alaphilippe by 2:02 and 2:14 respectively. Pinot admitted he was in a rage over his lost time in the crosswinds and if he is still angry on Sunday, watch out.
Is it a wide open Tour de France? After today, you’d have to say Hell yeah. It was Jumbo-Visma driving the front of the race, not the British super-team with six Tour de France victories. Groupama FDJ’s 22 year old climber David Gaudu did what the Skybots like to do: set a pace so torrid that nobody could attack.
And then there’s the wildcard that is shocking everyone. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has cracked open the race and made it clear on Tourmalet that while he’s more puncheur than climber, he’s on the form of his life and riding a wave of energy from the French public.
Alaphilippe’s dream of the final maillot jaune could end on tomorrow’s Pyrenean climbs, but then again, who’s to say he won’t take the jersey all the way to Paris.