Viviani fastest as France fetes Alaphilippe | Sports , Other Sports

Julian Alaphilippe earned his 11th victory of the year

Julian Alaphilippe earned his 11th victory of the year

Italian rider Elia Viviani claimed his first career stage win on the Tour de France after storming a bunch sprint on Tuesday. But with Thursday's final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles looming on the horizon, speculation over the Welshman's form continues following Monday's finish in Épernay when he lost five seconds to Egan Bernal in the uphill finish.

"My father and mother were on the finish line today, they were set to leave yesterday but finally made a decision to stay because the stage was for sprinters", Viviani said.

"Obviously five seconds - it is nice not to lose that".

Viviani has five Giro d'Italia and three Vuelta a Espana stage wins to his name, but he has been made to wait for one in Le Tour.

The Team Ineos rider is 45 seconds adrift.

Aussie Michael Matthews put in the next most scintillating effort, the former Canberran beating an all-star chase group across the line to claim second on the tough 215km stage.

Alaphilippe's aggressive attack on the last-but-one climb of the Cote de Mutigny proved too much for Thomas and all the other favourites, even if Bernal had looked well positioned to follow him. If anyone understands the sport, you watch the sport, there is a 30-metre gap.

But Viviani was indebted to Alaphilippe, who rode as his pilot fish while also maintaining his race lead and who, for the moment, seems unable to do any wrong, either on the road or in the French media. "It makes no difference".

"It means a lot". "I can't believe it". It was a big goal for the year.

Amazingly, it is the first time a French rider has had the overall lead since Tony Gallopin wore yellow in 2014.

"I've got the green jersey but I haven't got a stage win yet, I'll play it day by day - it's a long way to Paris", said the Slovak star after pulling on the green jersey again.

"I think in this year he's here to do exactly what he's doing and he's doing it absolutely brilliantly, and I can only stand back and applaud what he did yesterday", said Team Ineos principal Dave Brailsford, the man behind the British outfit's six Tour titles in the last seven years.

The rest of the peloton were simply happy to make it through a sketchy final five kilometres of the 213.5km run from Reims unscathed, with the route designers sending them barrelling down a wide dual carriageway before a roundabout funnelled them into a tight left-hander two kilometres from the line.

"I took his (Kristoff's) wheel and thought it was going to be close, but as you saw, it wasn't", said a relaxed looking Sagan.

"It's another day ticked off where we're all still on our bikes and we've still got our skin".

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