Stage 14 of Tour de France 2019 was the shortest stage (117.5km) this year but also the first of three mountain stages to finish above 2000m and a big, big test of the GC favourites. This has been one of the most surprising Tours in recent memory and more came today as the peloton drove upwards upwards upwards to the finish at the top of the iconic Col du Tourmalet. To oversimplify it, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) took the stage win from a tiny group of survivors, but a lot more happened on the way to the summit. So who cracked? Who survived? Who thrived?
Three climbs: Cat4 Côte de Labatmale, 18km in; Cat1 Col du Soulor crested at 60.5km. and the HC Col du Tourmalet, just shy of 19km from the finish.
Côte de LabatmaleEmbed from Getty Images
Vincenzo Nibali decided to give his legs a stretch with his former Liquigas teammate Peter Sagan for company and the two took the mountain before being joined by 15 other breakaway riders, including Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) to add to his cache of KOM points, and a few plants from GC teams, including Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Carlos Verona (Movistar), and Matthieu Ladagnous (Groupama-FDJ) but no QuickSteppers or Ineos riders. FDJ were on the front of the peloton, keeping the break at a reasonable few minutes ahead and all was fairly calm …
Col du SoulorEmbed from Getty Images
The usual MO for stages like this is for everyone to wait for the final climb. But this Tour hasn’t followed the usual MO and it didn’t today. On the climb up to the summit of Soulor, Movistar and Ineos took over on the front to test and try the favourites and to spit out as many domestiques as possible. Ineos’ Luke Rowe was the first to start the whittling down of the break advantage before Movistarlets Andrey Amador and Marc Soler put the hammer down and started thinning out the herd. And thin they did …
Col du TourmaletEmbed from Getty Images
With the Movistarlets still on the front, the air was getting thinner, as was the yellow jersey group. A few brave attempts by the remnants of the break, including Romain Sicard (Total Direct Energie) and Arkea’s Elie Gesbert, and a little stinger of an attack by French national champion Warren Barguil, had some camera time but they must have all heard the Jaws theme because coming up behind was a Movistar-driven group who weren’t taking any prisoners (not even their own team leader … but more about that in a minute). Then David Gaudu and his FDJ captain Thibaut Pinot went to the front and busted that final group up before Jumbo-Visma (the strongest team by this time) took over to try to shake Steven Kruijswijk‘s rivals out the back (and they did a phenomenal job …). Flamme rouge saw Bora’s Emanuel Buchmann (a GC contender by stealth) break yet more riders before Pinot made his move and stomped his way to victory, followed closely by Julian Alaphilippe, who once again did not lose the maillot jaune on a stage everyone said he would.
One of the first of the big names to crack was Romain Bardet, who got dropped halfway up the second climb of the day. He came in 66th on the stage, a whopping 20mins down. A sad day for the Frenchman – a disappointing Tour all round for him. He is now 26th in the GC, 26.05 adrift from the top step of the podium.
Joining Bardet on the way backwards on that Soulor climb was Adam Yates, who came into this Tour as one of the favourites but has never found any kind of footing really. His brother Simon came to the Tour to be his twin’s support but has ended up to be the one that has something to show for his time here, with the win on stage 12. Adam did make it back into the peloton on the descent but was promptly dropped again as soon as they hit the foot of the Tourmalet. He rolled in 25th on the stage, losing 6.42 – he is now 18th on GC, 10.37 down.
You would think that with Movistar on the front going full gas, that they had a plan to launch their best-placed rider on GC – Nairo Quintana. Yet they actually rode him out of the main group. There was talk of some sort of contretemps between Amador and Soler on that climb, Soler a few times lost Amador’s wheel the Costa Rican was putting down such power. But with Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa still with them, they charged on, perhaps trying to set up Landa for the stage win. Although that didn’t happen, Landa lost only 14sec on Pinot and Valverde came in 12th on the stage, 58sec down. Quintana came in 17th on the stage, losing 3.24. He is now 14th in the GC, 7.19 down.
Perhaps the most surprising rider to get left behind on the Tourmalet was returning champion Geraint Thomas. The Ineos team has been very different this Tour than others, not riding threshold on the front to shut it down. They’ve been enjoying other teams doing the work for them, I’m sure, but the fact that Michal Kwiatkowski got dropped on the Soulor and it was only Egan Bernal with Thomas as they hit the steepest part of the climb was surprising. But not as surprising as seeing the No 1 getting distanced as they neared the flamme rouge (after the stage, he said that he hadn’t been feeling well on the climb). That said, he was able to limit his losses, coming in 8th on the stage, losing only 36sec. He is still second overall, 2.02 back from Alaphilippe.Embed from Getty Images
Riders we thought might turn it on today didn’t, but they also didn’t crack – they would be Egan Bernal (Ineos) and Mikel Landa (Movistar … see above). Rigoberto Uran limited his losses well, although we didn’t really think he was going to do much of anything. And Warren Barguil put in a good showing today.
Steven Kruijswijk is clearly getting better and better in this Tour and his Jumbo-Visma team have impressed from Stage 1. He finished third on the stage and he and his team were instrumental in sloughing off a few of his rivals in the last few kilometres. He sits third overall, 2.14 down from Alaphilippe, but only 12 seconds away from Geraint Thomas. This tweet aged very well.
Emanuel Buchmann is continuing Bora-hansgrohe’s impressive season with a phenomenal ride today. He was stealth all day, hanging with the favourites, until the flamme rouge when he really put the power down, cracking Thomas, and coming in fourth on the stage, losing only 8sec. He is fifth on GC, 3.12 down.
It was another stage where the prediction was that Julian Alaphilippe would lose the yellow jersey. Although he had some moments where it looked like he was going to go out the back of the group, he kept fighting, stuck to Thomas’s wheel until he realised Thomas might take him backwards, hung with the Jumbo Bees on their assault of the climb and as the road hit the sharp steepness that he loves, he followed his countryman Thibaut Pinot to the finish line, coming in second, gaining time on Thomas and picking up another Tour lion for the growing pride.
And finally … the Rider(s) of the Race
It can only be David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot – in the final 8km, Gaudu rode himself to the point of barfing up his own lungs in order to drop rivals and to make sure that his teammate could complete the day with a win on one of the most iconic climbs in pro cycling. And with 500m to go, Pinot did just that – he stomped with magnificence to take the glory at the finish line. Oh, if only he hadn’t got caught out by the crosswinds.
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It’s magnificent, exceptional, magical. I’ve been thinking about this stage since the start of the Tour. This was one that I really wanted. The Tourmalet is mythical. I’m happy, it’s the kind of racing I love.
Stage Results – Top 5
1 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) 3:10:20
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:06
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) same time
4 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +0:08
5 Egan Bernal (Ineos) same time
General Classification – Top 10
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 56:11:29
2 Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) +2:02
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Team Jumbo-Visma) +2:14
4 Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) +3:00
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +3:12
6 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +3:12
7 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +4:24
9 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +5:27
10 Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +5:38
All the Jerseys
Maillot Jaune: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
Maillot Vert: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)
Maillot Blanc: Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)
King of the Mountains: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Chris Graythen