Tour de France Report: Stage 19
The end is in sight
By Larysa Pachulski, 1:02PM, Fri. Jul. 25, 2014
The 101st Tour de France continues through July 27. Click through to read our report of Stage 19.
Location: Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac
Terrain: Flatter Stage (One category 4 climb)
Weather: 26C/78.8F 25km/hr winds
Why you should care: Today is the final sprint stage before the ride into Paris, on the Champs Élysées cobbles. It is a longer ride than the stages in the mountains, with one small climb near the end of the stage, which will do its part to weed out some of the competition. On top of that, the rain is pouring down on the road to Bergerac, temperatures are higher, and the wind is stronger. If those challenges weren’t enough for the sprinters, there is always a risk that the breakaway could make it to the finish line first.
The biggest rival for all riders today has been the weather. A flat stage at the end of the Tour like the one today typically would be a non-stressful one for GCs. Not so today: Though virtual Tour de France 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has a secure lead in the overall standings with several minutes between himself and his runner up Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), one bad crash could decimate that lead in the blink of an eye. That is why cycling is such a dynamic sport, because part of a rider’s competition is beating the natural elements.
There were several breakaway attempts, from the beginning of the stage, to the end. Quite possibly the treacherous conditions of stage 19 and the anxiety of it being the third last stage of this Tour de France had everyone a little panicked. It was every man for himself, but no man was stronger or better prepared for today’s stage than time trial specialist Ramunas “The Honey Badger” Navardauskas.
As it turned out, this stage 19 would not be a stage for the sprinters. Around 86km to the finish, sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) was stopped with a flat tire. He would also be dropped on the Côte de Monbazillac, the climb around 20km to the finish line.
Then in the home stretch, when it looked like everything might work out for a sprint finish, it didn’t. A nasty crash at only 3km to the finish line took out Peter Sagan (Cannondale) – a favorite for the win today – as well as Frank Schleck (Trek), an overall contender, and Markel Irizar, also on the Trek team.
Jesus, Sagan’s luck at this Tour. As in, there is very little of it. #TDF— Neal Rogers (@nealrogers) July 25, 2014
The stage win went to the final breakaway rider, the Badger, who is now the first Lithuanian to win a stage of the Tour de France.
The nature of today’s stage, which rendered it a terrible day for the sprinters will only mean that there is more pressure on Sunday’s sprint into Paris. In the meantime, tomorrow’s race will be fought against the clock (and hopefully not the weather!) as we come up to the first and only time trial stage of this year’s Tour de France – a great chance to gain time in the overall.
Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.