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With a strong attack on the final descent, Bardet gapped the peloton and then soloed to victory on stage 19 of the Tour de France; Froome, Mollema and Porte all crashed on the slick roads but even though he lost time, Froome retained the lead

Photo: A.S.O.

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22.07.2016 @ 18:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Romain Bardet (Ag2r) took his second Tour de France stage win in the most dramatic fashion when he soloed to victory in rainy and crash-marred stage 19 of the Tour de France. Having attacked on the final descent, the Frenchman held off the peloton on the final climb, crossing the line with an advantage of 23 seconds to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida). Chris Froome (Sky), Richie Porte (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Trek) all crashed and while the Brit limited his losses to Bardet to 36 seconds, Mollema slipped from second to 10th as Bardet took over his runner-up spot, 4.11 behind Froome.

 

In 2013, Romain Bardet made his Tour de France debut and after a slow start he rode very aggressively in the final week. At that point, it became clear that the Frenchman has a formidable ability to recover and he confirmed it one year later when he finished sixth overall.

 

Last year Bardet again showed that he is excellent in the third week of a grand tour as he bounced back from a bad start to finish ninth overall and win a stage. That boosted his confidence for this year’s Tour which is loaded with tough mountain stages at the end of the race.

 

Bardet has always planned to be at his best in the Alps and has deliberately held something back in the first two weeks. He has openly expressed his frustration to have been forced to dampen his attacking sprit but he stayed calm and stuck to the plan.

 

Today he finally went all in and as hard rain started to fall and caused a complete chaos, the Frenchman benefited from excellent climbing legs and formidable descending skills to add another stage win to the one he took last. Having attacked on the final descent, he stayed cleat of the chaos that unfolded behind and crossed the line with an advantage of 23 seconds over his nearest chasers.

 

While Bardet rode towards the finish, a drama took place further back. Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Bauke Mollema all crashed on the final descent and they all ended up with a time loss. Froome was clearly not at 100% but he managed to limit his losses with help from Wout Poels, crossing the line just 13 seconds behind Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde and Louis Meintjes who turned out to be the best of the GC riders.

 

Things were worse for Porte who kept attacking on the final climb but ultimately lost 17 seconds to Froome. However, that was nothing compared to Mollema who never made it back after his crash and slipped from second to tenth in the overall standings.

 

The drama started at the top of the penultimate climb with 50km to go. At that point, and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Amael Moinard (BMC), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale), Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) had an advantage of 1.40 over the peloton which was firmly controlled by Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) after the Kazakh team had been on the front all day. The front group had barely crested the summit before Rolland made an attack that only Costa followed. While the pair built an advantage, Tanel Kangert took over the pace-setting for Astana.

 

Light rain started to fall and that turned out to be costly for Rolland who slid out in a turn. He managed to get back on his bike but only when the peloton had already passed. Hence, Costa was left as the lone leader.

 

The rain started to fall harder and that had dramatic consequence in the peloton where Sebastien Reichenbach, Steve Morabito (FDJ) and Richie Porte (BMC) all went down. The Australian had to ride hard to rejoin the peloton as Astana maintained the pace.

 

Lutsenko waited for the peloton and took over the pace-setting with 30km to go where Costa was one minute ahead of the chasers and 1.50 ahead of the peloton. However, he was soon joined by Sanchez and Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange) who upped the pace as Adam Yates saw an opportunity to get rid of Porte.

 

With 25km to go, the chasers were brought back except for Navarro who took off in a solo move. Moments later, Porte finally made the junction with teammates Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Schär.

 

Lutsenko, Impey and Sanchez didn’t stop their pace-setting, bringing Navarro back and keeping the gap at a minute as they entered the final 20 kilometres. Moments later, Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) hit the front, indicating that Romain Bardet had stage win ambitions.

 

Mollema was riding in second position from where he slid out and soon found himself chasing alongside Peter Stetina and Haimar Zubeldia. The crash allowed Cherel to escape in a solo move.

 

Further back, the drama continued when Bennett and Navarro hit the deck, with the former being forced to abandon. However, the action didn’t reach its maximum before Froome slid out, bringing Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) down in the process. He quickly got Geraint Thomas’ bike but was forced to chase hard as Astana maintained a strong pace in pursuit of Cherel who had been joined by Bardet and Diego Rosa.

 

Rosa sat up to wait for the peloton while Cherel dug deep for Bardet. Meanwhile, Froome regained contact but Mollema still found himself further back.

 

Costa hit the final climb with an advantage of 45 seconds over Bardet and Cherel and 1.35 over the peloton which was still led by Astana. Mollema was chasing desperately 20 seconds further back.

 

Bardet immediately left Cherel behind and then pressed on alone. Meanwhile, Jakob Fuglsang took over the pace-setting for Astana and he made the peloton explode to pieces while Froome was riding in the rear end of the group.

 

After 1.5km of climbing, Bardet was only 25 seconds behind the lone Costa and the peloton was still 1.20 behind and Mollema at 1.35. Moments later, Diego Rosa took over from Fuglsang, whittling the peloton further down.

 

With 8km to go, Bardet joined Costa but the Portuguese refused to cooperate with the Frenchman. Hence, they lost ground to the peloton which now consisted of Rosa, Caruso, Porte, Martin, Rodriguez, Froome, Henao, Landa, Poels, Izagirre, Quintana, Valverde, Moreno, Aru, Kreuziger, Barguil, Rodriguez, Meintjes and Yates.

 

While Mollema continued to lose ground, Poels and Froome moved to the front end of the group just behind Rosa who kept riding hard until Caruso took over for BMC with 5km to go. At this point, the gap was down to just 30 seconds while Mollema had lost a minute.

 

Caruso dropped Moreno and Barguil before he swung off and as Porte hit the front, the pace went down. That opened the door for Martin to attack and no one reacted to the Irishman who got a small gap.

 

With 3km to, Bardet dropped Costa and Poels took over the pace-setting for Sky but that was not enough for Porte who tried to increase the speed. Yates was clearly suffering but he was saved by Poels who again slowed the group down.

 

Rodriguez went to the front and with a big acceleration, he made Yates, Landa and Izagirre crack. He brought Martin back and Froome was now suffering at the rear end of the group.

 

Poels again hit the front followed by Froome, Martin, Rodriguez, Meintjes, Aru, Quintana, Izagirre, Valverde and Porte and that allowed Yates to regain contact. He was distanced when Porte went again and this time only Quintana followed.

 

Aru finally made his big attack sprinting past Porte and Quintana who were brought back but he was no longer in stage winning contention, sitting 40 seconds behind Bardet. He passed Costa but was soon brought back when Valverde started to ride hard on the front for Quintana.

 

Valverde’s pace was too much for Froome, Poels, Porte and Rodriguez who were dropped, leaving just Valverde, Quintana, Martin and Meintjes in the main group. However, Rodriguez made it back with a swift acceleration but Porte fell further back.

 

Further up the road, there was no one stopping Bardet who even took a bit too much time to celebrate the win as he lost several seconds in the finale. Further back, Rodriguez launched one of his trademark sprint, holding of Valverde and Quintana to take second with a loss of 23 seconds. Quintana was three seconds further adrift in fourth, with Aru and Martin losing another teo seconds. Poels and Froome lost 36 seconds to Bardet and Porte was 10th at 53 seconds. Mollema lost more than four minutes.

 

Despite his time loss, Froome retained the lead and now sits 4.11 ahead of Bardet and 4.27 ahead of Quintana. He faces the final big test tomorrow in the last mountain stage of the race which is another short, intense stage. After an early category 2 climb, the riders will tackle the famous Col de la Colombiere and Col de la Ramaz but the key challenge is the brutal Col de Joux Plane. The top comes just 12km from the finish and is followed by a famous, very difficult descent o the line in Morzine.

 

A short, intense stage

After yesterday’s mountain time trial, there was more climbing on the menu in stage 19 which brought the riders over just 146km from Albertville to a summit finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. It was a tough start as the first 8km were up the uncategorized Col de Tamié and then there was a category 1 and a category 2 and on the menu before the riders hit the HC climb of Montee de Bisanne. The top came with 49.5km to go and then a long easier section led to the final climb which averaged 8% over 9.8km for the final summit finish of this year’s race.

 

There were no sign  sof the predicted thunderstorms when the riders rolled through the neutral zone and there were some nervous faces as the brutal Col de Tamie was set to make for a tough start. As soon as the flag was dropped, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) attacked and they were joined by Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Amael Moinard (BMC) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Laurens Ten Dam (Giant-Alpecin), Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange), Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale), Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) , Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) hesitated a bit longer but they soon bridged the gap to form a 20-rider group.

 

Astana come to the fore

Surprisingly, the peloton was pleased to let them ride away and while De Gendt and Gallopin rode on the front, the bunch took it easy an allowed the gap to go out to more than 3 minutes after just six kilometres of racing. Breen was already suffering and about to be dropped as they went up the climb.

 

As they approached the top, Astana came to the fore with Paolo Tiralongo, Diego Rosa and Vincenzo Nibali. Surprisingly, the peloton let them ride away but Joaquim Rodriguez was quick to latch onto the back of the group.

 

De Gendt wins the KOM sprint

The quartet got a solid gap before Jakob Fuglsang, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis), Roman Kreuziger, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Winner Anacona, Daniel Moreno (Movistar) bridged the gap. That prompted Sky to react and as they crested the summit, they shut the move down. Instead, Grivko started to ride on the front 4.10 behind the leaders.

 

Grivko, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha) kept the gap stable at around four minutes before Matthews and De Gendt sprinted for the points in the intermediate sprint. The Australian turned out to be the fastest, with Buchmann, Vuillermoz and Martin completing the top 5

 

The peloton explodes

The front group hit the first categorized climb with an advantage of 3.40 but they had a hard time keeping the peloton at bay. Five kilometres from the top, Vicioso, Sanchez and Grivko had reduced the gap to 2.50 and started the elimination from behind where Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was the first to get dropped. Later Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Iljo Keisse, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep), Lars Bak, André Greipel, Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin), Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) and Leigh Howard (IAM) also lost contact. Fabio Sabatini and Maximilano Richeze waited for Kittel.

 

As the front group approached the top, the gap was down to 2.55 but when Kiserlovski set Majka up for the KOM sprint, it started to grow. Majka decided to stay in De Gendt’s wheel as they crossed the line, with Vuillermoz crossing the line in third. That trio crested the summit with a small advantage while Vicioso, Grivko and Sanchez led the peloton to the top 3.30 later.

 

The front group comes back together

Majka, De Gendt og Vuillermoz continued their attack on the descent and when they hit the valley, they were 30 seconds ahead. They continued to ride hard but the group came back together with 90km to go.

 

Astana rode fast down the descent and even split the peloton into several pieces before a regrouping took place. As they hit flat roads, the gap was down to 3.00.

 

Astana in control

Vicioso stopped his work and instead Paolo Tiralongo and Tanel Kangert (Astana) started to work with Sanchez and Grivko. They kept the gap stable at 3.00 as they hit the second climb. Here Vicioso again started to cooperate with the Astana riders.

 

Astana and Vicioso clearly held something back as they went up the climb, preferring to stay together, and so the likes of Kittel, Greipel, Sinkeldam, Guarnieri, Howard, Gatto, Keisse, Groenewegen, Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) only lost contact in the very end. De Gendt was again allowed to win the KOM sprint ahead of Majka, Burghardt and Rolland while Grivko led the peloton over the top 4.05 later.

 

Dumoulin abandons

Grivko emptied himself on the descent and in the valley and that prevented the sprinters from rejoining the group. That also meant disaster for Adam Yates (Orica-BikeEchange) who was forced to change his bike. He found himself in a group far back and Michael Albasini, Ruben Plaza and Christopher Juul had to empty themselves to bring the Brit back on the lower slopes of the Montee de Bissanne, the only HC climb on the course. Meanwhile, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) hit the deck as everybody was fighting for position at the fast pace. Unfortunately, the Dutchman was forced to abandon.

 

Sanchez led the peloton onto the climb 2.20 behind the leaders and this forced the escapees to ride hard. Breen was the first to get dropped and when Majka accelerated, Martin, Matthews, Ten Dam, Burghardt and later also Buchmann fell off the pace. As Majka, Pantano and Vuillermoz continued to ride hard, Sepulveda, De Gendt and Berhane also had to surrender.

 

Sanchez sets a fast pace

Sanchez set a fast pace in the peloton, keeping the gap at 2.20 and dropping riders like Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard (Sky). 8km from the top, he already brought Breen and Martin back. Meanwhile, Yates was sitting at the back of the group, clearly suffering after his hard chase.

 

Buchmann, Sepulveda and Berhane rejoined the front group which was only 2 minutes ahead six kilometres from the top. Kiserlovski was doing all the work and as he rode hard, Berhane finally had to surrender for good. Buchmann yoyoed off the back several times but failed to make it to the top with the best.

 

Majka secures the mountains jersey

Tiralongo took over from Sanchez and brought Ten Dam, Matthews, De Gendt and Berhane back. He rode for a few kilometres and then Sanchez again hit the front.

 

Kiserlovski emptied himself and then Majka accelerated over the top to win the KOM sprint with a small advantage ver the rest of the group. Gallopin was second and Pantano third. Sanchez led the bunch to the top 1.40 later, bringing Burghardt back in the process. Moments later it started to rain and the real drama started.

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