Tour de France: Quintana takes Stage 18 as Bernal gains time

Colombia's Nairo Quintana has won his first Tour de France stage this year with a win on Stage 18. MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Nairo Quintana claimed an emphatic win in the 18th stage of the Tour de France, a 208-km mountain trek from Embrun, as fellow Colombian Egan Bernal emerged as the strongest of the top contenders on Thursday.

Twice Tour runner-up Quintana, who dropped out of overall contention last week, prevailed from the day's breakaway thanks to an impressive attack in the ascent to the Col du Galibier.

Frenchman Romain Bardet took second place 1:35 behind Quintana, who snatched his third career Tour stage win, with Kazakhstan's Alexey Lutsenko in third.

France's Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader's yellow jersey but Bernal moved up to second place 1:30 off the pace as he gained 32 seconds after attacking about two kilometres from the top of the Col du Galibier.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas later jumped away from the favourites' group, only to be reined in by Frenchman Thibaut Pinot as Alaphilippe cracked in the final part of the climb before coming back in the descent to the finish.

The Welshman is 1:35 behind Alaphilippe overall.

There was a moment to remember for one fan as he ran alongside Slovakia's Peter Sagan and persuaded the cyclist to sign an autograph midway through the stage.

In contrast, Federico Bahamontes, the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France in 1959 and still considered to be its best-ever climber, lamented what he perceives to be a slow, old fashioned style of this year's race.

"You know what I call today's cyclists? The Holy Week procession," Bahamontes told Reuters, referring to the slow, solemn marches of penitents with candles before Catholic Easter.