Tour de France 2016: Stage 19 – Romain Bardet stays upright to fly the French flag

The tricolore is finally flying at the Tour de France. Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet managed to stay upright when other general classification favourites were slipping on the wet tarmac to Friday’s finish at the summit of Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, and was rewarded with an outstanding solo victory. The winning margin was sufficient for the Frenchman to move up into second place overall, with Adam Yates and Bauke Mollema both tumbling down the GC into 4th and 10th respectively. Chris Froome, one of the day’s unfortunate fallers, finished the stage on Geraint Thomas‘ bike, but maintains a healthy margin in yellow.

Rider of the Race

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The day’s Rider of the Race could only go to the stage winner, Romain Bardet. He once again demonstrated why he’s regarded as the crème of France’s new generation of young climbers, with his excellent bike handling coming to the fore in such testing technical conditions. However, it was a victory built on strength as well as precision: Bardet managed to maintain a solid advantage of around 30 seconds to the favourites the final climb, despite Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step), Richie Porte (BMC) and Fabio Aru (Astana) all attempting to bridge across. It has been a long time coming, but France’s maiden victory at this edition of the Tour could hardly have been more impressively delivered.

Riding on ice

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As the stage wore on, heavy rain made the roads increasingly treacherous. Into the final few kilometres, a newly-laid road surface was particularly oily, and claimed several high-profile victims. Indeed, the top two riders in the general classification at the start of the day both hit the deck in quick succession; first Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), then maillot jaune Chris Froome (Sky). It completely splintered the favourites’ group, with Astana and Ag2r La Mondiale both looking to take advantage.

Froome was lucky to be surrounded by plenty of teammates, and swiftly leaped onto the bike of teammate Geraint Thomas. The Sky machine whirred into action, and they successfully neutralised the general classification danger posed by Fabio Aru and his turquoise-clad comrades. Ag2r’s Romain Bardet, on the other hand, maximised his profits: he promptly bridged to race leader and all-day escapee Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) on his way to an excellent victory.

Unfortunately, Mollema wasn’t quite as fortunate as Froome. Without any support from his Trek-Segafredo teammates, the Dutchman was left desperately trying to limit his losses alone on the summit finish. It proved an extremely difficult task, and in the end he slipped down from second to 10th overall. His misfortune only goes to demonstrate the importance of a strong team; the tumbleweed may be blowing across the dinner table at Trek’s hotel tonight. 

The mountains king is (provisionally) crowned

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With a hatful of mountains points on offer today, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) made it into the day’s big break in a last-ditch bid to claw his way back into contention for the polka dot jersey. Unfortunately for him, classification leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) was aware of the threat. Though De Gendt took maximum points at the summits of the first two categorised climbs, the polka-dotted Pole mockingly marked him before swooping to win the day’s only hors categorie climb. With a mathematically unassailable margin, Majka now only needs to make it to Paris to win the prestigious prize.

Olympic devastation

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The day’s big loser was undoubtedly the terribly unfortunate Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). Expected to abandon the race and turn his attention to Olympic preparations on the back of his second place in yesterday’s time trial, the Dutchman opted to start and make it to Paris instead. In retrospect, it’s a decision he’ll be ruing. Dumoulin crashed midway through the day’s action, and, unable to remount, promptly broke down in tears on the side of the road. A race doctor gave Francetélévisions the provisional diagnosis of a broken wrist: that would mean not only the end of his Tour, but also his Olympic time trial dream. A tough day for one of the sport’s most talented young riders.

Stage results

1 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) 4:14:08

2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:23

3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) same time

4 Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) s/t

5 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:26

GC top 5

1 Chris Froome (Sky) 82:10:37

2 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +4:11

3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +4:27

4 Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +4:36

5 Richie Porte (BMC) +5:17

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)

Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

KOM jersey: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

Best Young Rider: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)

For full stage review: Cycling News

Header image: Bardet crosses the line. Getty Images/Tim De Waele

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