• Joaquim Rodriguez is the current holder of the polka dot jersey, but for how long? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The pressure is on for Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez to hold on to the king of mountains polka dot jersey after Romain Bardet thrilled French fans by winning Stage 18 of the Tour de France.
By
Cycling Central

24 Jul 2015 - 8:33 AM  UPDATED 24 Jul 2015 - 9:06 AM

Rodriguez, who has won two stages this Tour, still holds the colourful attire but saw Bardet (AG2R) draw level on 68 points over Stage 18, and Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang is only a further four points further back.

But Rodriguez is desperate to hang on, despite admitting to having a tough day on the 186.5km stage from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, which wasn’t helped when he missed a feed bag heading into the punishing climb of the Col du Glandon.

“In the flat part at the feed zone before the Glandon I had a bad moment. It went fast and I could not take my feed bag so on the Glandon I paid for that,” Rodriguez revealed.

“It was my goal to also take those 25 points or even the stage win but it was over for me at that point. However, I won’t give up. There are two mountain stages to go and I will attack again. Fuglsang and Bardet will be motivated, too, but I will fight for it”

Bardet was certainly feeling better after the stage victory, admitting he’d contemplated throwing in the towel just 24 hours earlier because his body and mind didn’t feel right.

"Yesterday, I was flat. I was close to dropping everything. I thought, ‘Three months preparing for the Tour, and you’ve hit the plateau’,” the 24-year-old said.

"But then I said to myself, ‘Come on, you don’t give up. You never know what can happen’.

“I was really good today. I was ahead, and courage paid off.”

Fuglsang was frustrated that his unplanned coming together with the moto had hampered his chances of picking up points today. Adding insult to his injuries, the team was fined by race organisers for "damaging the image of cycling" after the way it chose to assist the Dane back into the race.

"If a motorcycle hadn't hit me I wouldn't be bleeding and I wouldn't have a fine from the commissaire,” he said.

The rider of the moto was subsequently found to be at fault, and has been removed from the rest of the race as a result.

Read about the moto mishap here
More moto mayhem on Stage 18
Dangerous driving by motorbikes on the narrow mountain roads during Stage 18 of the Tour de France cost Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang more than a chance at the podium.

Race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) had held the polka dot jersey, loaning it to Australian team-mate Richie Porte while he showed off in yellow, but the Briton is unlikely to contest for any more points as he battles to keep his closest rivals at bay across the final two mountain stages.

While Rodriguez has wrested the polka dots back for now, "El Purito", as he is known, too will likely face attacks from Fuglsang and Bardet, the latter perhaps even more motivated by the fact he could ride into the French capital as a national hero.

Stage 19 will see the riders again climb the Col du Glandon on their way to the Col de la Croix de Fer, at 2067 metres. It all begins with the Category 1 ascent of Col du Chaussy, and ends with the similarly classified and punishing La Toussuire.

Stage 20 again takes in the Col de la Croix de Fer before finishing atop the iconic Alpe d’Huez, where the polka dots could be won or lost ahead of the final Stage 21 into Paris.

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