Stage 19: Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, 204.5km
Rui Costa claimed both his and Movistar’s second victory with a solo move on the ascent and subsequent descent of the Col de la Croix Fry – the same tactic he had employed to win in Gap on Tuesday. Meanwhile Chris Froome‘s rivals seemed more concerned with watching each other than with pursuing their vanishing hopes of snatching the maillot jaune.
The attacks started immediately. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) accelerated away from an initial break of over 40 riders to lead over the HC Col du Glandon.
By the base of the day’s second HC climb, the Col de la Madeleine, Hesjedal and Izagirre led five chasers, who in turn headed a group of 38. Hesjedal dropped Izagirre, while Europcar’s Pierre Rolland bridged across to the leader and crested the summit first, four minutes in advance of the chase group and 12 ahead of the peloton.
Rolland dropped Hesjedal on the next climb, and by the penultimate ascent his lead over a 21-strong group was barely a minute. He was caught and immediately left behind by Costa early on the Col de la Croix Fry, and the Portuguese rider safely negotiated the wet roads to take an impressive solo win. Rolland was soon caught and passed by Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Leopard), Jan Bakelants (also RadioShack) and several others before the summit. Kloden was over 30 seconds clear over the top and kept pace with Costa on the descent to finish 48 seconds behind. Bakelants rolled in third, 56 seconds later.
The yellow jersey group arrived 8:40 behind Costa. Saxo-Tinkoff had ridden purposefully for much of the day, but in the end no attack came from Alberto Contador. Instead it was Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana who tested the waters on the Croix Fry but never seriously looked like escaping. What could have been an awkward day for Chris Froome after his travails yesterday instead turned into an armchair ride as he followed his rivals’ wheels all the way into Le-Grand-Bornand.
VeloVoices rider of the day
In other circumstances, I’d be delighted to award this to Rui Costa. However, Kitty gave him this accolade after winning stage 16, so let’s look a little further afield.
Instead, I’m going to credit Europcar team leader Pierre Rolland, who fought to make his solo attack stick but eventually faded to finish 16th, 6:41 down. He’s a disappointing 25th in the GC – having finished tenth in 2011 and eighth last year – but that hasn’t stopped him going on the hunt for mountains points every time the road has turned uphill, an exercise which in its way is even tougher than riding for the GC as you can’t rely on teammates for support and the shelter of the peloton.
Today he picked up 52 from a maximum of 75 available points to win the combativity prize and move him within a point of retaking the polka dot jersey. But with the competition hanging on tomorrow’s summit finish, odds are he will be denied by either Froome or Quintana.
So Pierre, this prize is for you.
Opinion & analysis
Like stage 14 – which came between the exhausting echelons of stage 13 and the challenge of Mont Ventoux – today’s stage, which had such potential to be explosive, ended up as the lull between the storms of yesterday’s double Alpe d’Huez climb and tomorrow’s final showdown.
I think it’s now safe to declare that – barring a major crash – Chris Froome will be crowned the champion of the 100th Tour de France in Paris on Sunday night. Had Alberto Contador or Nairo Quintana truly believed they had a chance to rip the yellow jersey off Froome’s shoulders, they would surely have attacked early and hard today. Instead, it appears they decided to save their remaining reserves for the final climb of the final mountain stage, where a victory would provide considerable reward for their efforts. Perhaps more importantly, with only 47 seconds separating Contador in second from a resurgent Joaquim Rodriguez in fifth, the desire not to throw away a podium position and a lack of top form has finally tamed the two-time winner’s attacking instincts.
Quintana put an emphatic full stop on the white jersey competition, taking another 1:30 out of Michal Kwiatkowski to extend his advantage to an unassailable 10:36. His focus for tomorrow will be the 21-second deficit to second-placed Contador. If he can also win the stage, this will almost certainly give him the polka dot jersey too. Pierre Rolland (103 points) moved to within a point of Froome today. But with only 21 points available ahead of the final climb, which carries a 50-point tariff, Quintana (97 points) looks the more likely to prevent Froome from adding polka dots to yellow.
Finally, by placing Kloden and Bakelants second and third, RadioShack-Leopard sliced nearly nine minutes off their deficit to Saxo-Tinkoff in the team classification. The gap is now just 3:39, and while the Saxos are probably less concerned about this than they are about defending Contador’s second place, for RadioShack this would represent a big win to go alongside Bakelants’ earlier stage victory.
Stage 19 result
1. Rui Costa (Movistar) 5:59:01
2. Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:48
3. Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) +1:44
4. Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) +1:25
5. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) +1:55
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 77:10:00
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +5:11
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +5:32
4. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +5:44
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +5:58
6. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +8:58
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +9:33
8. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) +12:33
9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +14:56
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +16:08
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Chris Froome (Sky).
White jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Saxo-Tinkoff.
Link: Official website