Louis Meintjes enjoyed another superb day on the bike, but his seventh place on stage 18 of the Tour de France is unlikely to be enough to catch white jersey holder Simon Yates of Great Britain.
The South African rider, turning out for UAE Emirates, narrowed the gap held by Yates (Orica-Scott) in the young riders’ classification to two minutes, six seconds (2:06).
With a flat stage on Friday and an individual time trial on Saturday, the former Under-23 World Championships silver medallist would need his British opponent to blow to have any real chance of closing the advantage, though his efforts in the gruelling three-week race were evident as he held on to eighth place overall.
Serge Pauwels of Belgium, who finished 20th on the stage, slipped one place to 18th in the general classification, but he continued to lead the way for SA team Dimension Data.
Warren Barguil (Sunweb) secured the stage win after making a break on the 179.5km mountain leg between Briancon and Col d’Izoard.
Defending champion Chris Froome of Great Britain, riding for Sky, held on to the yellow jersey and was 23 seconds clear of his nearest opponent ahead of Friday’s 222.5km stage between Embrun and Salon-de-Provence.