Denmark's Kasper Asgreen earned his first Grand Tour win on stage 18 of the Tour de France ©Getty Images

Danish rider Kasper Asgreen earned a surprise victory from the breakaway on stage 18 of the Tour de France, and his compatriot Jonas Vingegaard remains firmly on course to defend his title.

Lotto-Dstny rider Pascal Eenkhoorn of The Netherlands was the fourth rider to join the breakaway with around 60 kilometres remaining of the 184.9km flat stage from Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse.

He was accompanied by team-mate Victor Campenaerts of Belgium, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team's Norwegian rider Jonas Abrahamsen and Asgreen racing for Soudal-Quick-Step.

The peloton reduced the quartet's lead to 40 seconds with 20km remaining and less than 10 seconds going into the final 3km, but a huge effort from Campenaerts on the front helped his fellow escapees to take the podium places.

Asgreen outsprinted his rivals to earn a maiden Grand Tour victory and his team's first win on this year's Tour de France in 4 hours 6min 48sec.

He said afterwards the four riders in the breakaway "all deserved to win because of how much work we put into the break".

Eenkhoorn placed second and Abrahamsen third, while Campenaerts was caught by the peloton and crossed the finish line in 16th on the same time as the leaders.

Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark remains firmly on course to defend the Tour de France ©Getty Images
Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark remains firmly on course to defend the Tour de France ©Getty Images

Campenaerts revealed he had "tried to lead out, but I had cramps with 500 metres to go and then I slowed down in the sprint".

Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck prevailed in a sprint from the peloton, but it was only enough for fourth place and not a fifth stage win of this year's Tour.

Vingegaard has established what looks an unassailable 7min 35sec lead over his closest challenger Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates in the general classification after a stunning time trial win on Tuesday (July 18) and dropping the 2020 and 2021 Tour winner in the mountains yesterday.

His Jumbo-Visma team-mate Wout van Aert of Belgium withdrew from the race to return home with his wife due to give birth.

Pogačar's team-mate Adam Yates of Britain is third in the general classification at 10:45 off the pace, leading Ineos Grenadiers' Carlos Rodríguez of Spain in fourth by 1:16.

There are three stages remaining on the Tour de France, the first of which is tomorrow's 172.8km hilly route from Moirans-en-Montagne to Poligny.