Demare silences Tour de France critics as Thomas stays in yellow

But after Cavendish missed the time cut on stage 11 of this year's race - one of several sprinters to depart in the mountains - he will now line up with Dimension Data in London.

Team Sky rider Thomas was racing to third place on the mountaintop finish of the race when a man reached out from behind the security barriers to try and grab him.

Thomas' third place on the stage - that also secured a four second time bonus - left his overall lead at 1m 59s on Dumoulin, who rose from third to second, and 2m 31s on Froome.

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.

Brailsford said Thomas's clash was more concerning than Froome's.

With some riders still clambering towards the finish line, a gendarme mistook the four-time victor for a fan and asked him to stop, causing Froome and his bodyguard to crash. "We've just got to look after him now", he added, seemingly conceding defeat.

"I think we're expecting the worst, hoping for the best", said Thomas.

Froome was dropped on the ascent of the Col du Soulor yesterday, unable to follow the attacks of Primoz Roglic [LottoNL-Jumbo] or Tom Dumoulin [Sunweb].

A sample from Froome, a six-time Grand Tour victor, taken at last year's Vuelta a Espana revealed twice the permitted amount of salbutamol, normally used to treat asthma, in his body.

But when it came to rival teams trying to loosen Sky's grip, it was the same old story. He was cleared of doping five days before the Tour.

BELGIAN Philippe Gilbert rode 60kms with a broken knee before being forced to withdraw from the Tour de France.

He said: "I crashed in a turn - in the corner I made a mistake". 'But I still felt strong and had the energy to finish the race on a high'. "I really tried a lot of times and finally I went away on the descent".

The collision occurred on Wednesday during the 65-kilometer stretch from Bagneres-de-Luchon and Saint-Lary-Soulan.

Measuring 16 km at an average gradient of almost nine percent, organizers rated the Col du Portet as the second-hardest climb in Tour history after Mont Ventoux.

The defending champion had put on his rain jacket and was cycling to the Team Sky bus with his bodyguard on another bike.

The top riders had their numbers pasted on the road to indicate their grid positions.

Froome's chances of a fifth Tour de France all but disappeared on stage 17 on Wednesday.

Kangert went over the top of the Montee de Peyragudes with the trio of Alaphilippe, Herrada, and Durasek followed by a group that consisted of Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler (Movistar), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) Dani Navarro, Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Dani Martinez (EF-Drapac), and Omar Fraile (Astana), with the peloton behind as Nairo Quintana, who suffered two punctures on the first climb but was back on easily. "But if I see an opportunity I will take it for sure", Dumoulin said after Thursday's uneventful Stage 18 ended in Pau.

After the hilly time trial, the race concludes with the mostly ceremonial finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

  • Stacy Allen