Tour de France 2019: Stage 20 – Nibali takes the stage; Bernal takes the Tour

In a shortened Stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France, it was as if the whole preceding three weeks had been a dream, a beautiful dream. For today, it was business as usual with the longed-for attackity finale reverting to the hard tempo riding on the yellow jersey group that fans have had to suffer through for the previous six Tours. Once Julian Alaphilippe well and truly cracked on the climb, it felt like the riders were just going through the motions. Vincenzo Nibali‘s solo win atop the HC Val Thorens saved the Italian’s July and there was a frisson of excitement when he nearly ran out of steam in the final kilometre with a metronomic peloton on the chase, but was the only memorable thing about this stage was that … nothing really happened?

Rider of the Race

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Vincenzo Nibali showed us why he’s been champion of so many races, including all three grand tours, but also that those days, sadly, are almost surely over. He got himself into a four-man break early on in the short short stage and stayed there, picking up riders hither and yon, but never letting them stay.

“The climb never seemed to end, even if the stage was short, it was like mountain time trial. I was alone up front and the stage never seemed to end. It wasn’t easy after last year and my crash on L’Alpe d’Huez, I hadn’t won a race since, so this is huge. This is for my grandfather who passed away recently. It’s also for all my team and staff who helped me to get back to my best.”

What did we learn today?

That even without a strong team, Ineos can win the Tour de France. Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas weren’t put under any pressure today, didn’t have to do anything other that sit in the wheels of the other teams who were trying to consolidate their own places on GC.

Once again, the joker in the pack was Julian Alaphilippe – could he keep second place? After all his exploits over the past two weeks specifically, there was the hope that he would but … he didn’t. Once Jumbo-Visma cracked him on the climb and Steven Kruijswijk stepped into third place, it was just a matter of the riders getting to the finish line.

There were some half-hearted attempts to go on the chase for Nibali but they were over as soon as you could type the tweet. So all in all, it could have been a stage from last year’s race.

Such a shame when the whole of the rest of the Tour had been fizzing with new talent, aggressive tactics, gutsy comebacks and a whole lot of panache.

The jerseys

Egan Bernal takes both the yellow jersey and the white jersey into Paris and barring not finishing the race at all (highly unlikely), he will be presented with them to take home forever tomorrow night on the Champs-Elysees. At 22, he will be the youngest Tour de France winner for 110 years. He is also the first Colombian to win the Tour.

“Colombia is on the verge of winning its first Tour, I feel this is not only my triumph but the triumph of a whole country. We already had the Giro, La Vuelta, but the Tour was missing and it’s a great honour to think that I’m the one achieving this.”

Peter Sagan has taken his seventh green jersey title with no trouble at all. It was a given at the start and it stayed a given the whole time. He has now surpassed Erik Zabel to stand alone as the rider with the most points jersey titles to his name.

“It’s very special. There is still tomorrow and so barring injury, everything should be fine. I’m very happy.”

Romain Bardet got lucky today with the lack of attacking spirit in the GC ranks and kept the polka dot jersey, which will give French fans something to cheer about at tomorrow night’s presentation. I think we all decided that the new pox design is pretty awful – too uniform and more orange than red – and this must be rectified next year or else we’ll stage a pox protest.

“The polka dot jersey made me dream when I was a kid. In 2015, I missed out on the last mountain stage. It’s a nice satisfaction for me this time. Things haven’t gone according to my expectations at this Tour but I’ll enjoy this trophy before thinking about what has not worked. We’re allowed to fail but we’re not allowed to not try and give it all.”

Julian Alaphilippe may be off the podium but he will be on the presentation deck tomorrow night as the race jury have given him the Super Combativity Award for this year’s Tour.

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“I gave it all I had. I think it was hard to do better. If I had been told [at the start] everything I did in this Tour, I would never have believed it. We didn’t arrive with the team best equipped to win the Tour but we had some exceptional moments. These are moments of life to enjoy.”

Movistar have won the team classification, which is really rather funny considering the internal politics, particularly around Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana. So many times this Tour they didn’t look like they even knew each other, let alone were riding together. But points is points and you gotta take what you can get sometimes.

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Stage Results – Top 5

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 1:51:53

2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:10

3 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +0:14

4 Egan Bernal (Ineos) +0:17

5 Geraint Thomas (Ineos) same time

General Classification – Top 10

1 Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) 79:52:52

2 Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) +1:11

3 Steven Kruijswijk (Team Jumbo-Visma) +1:31

4 Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) +1:56

5 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep) +3:45

6 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +4:23

7 Rigoberto Uran (Education First) +5:15

8 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +5:30

9 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +6:12

10 Warren Barguil (Arkea Samsic) +7:32

All the Jerseys

Maillot Jaune:  Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)

Maillot Vert: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)

Maillot Blanc: Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)

King of the Mountains: Romain Bardet (AG2R)

Header image: GETTY/Velo/Justin Setterfield 


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