Julian Alaphilippe has become the first rider to claim a second stage win at the 2019 Tour de France. The Frenchman won the individual time trial, extending his overall lead ahead of Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos and Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal.
The day began with a continuation of the mystery surrounding the abandonment of one of the pre-stage favourites; Rohan Dennis. The Bahrain Merida rider climbed off his bike at the feed zone with 80km to go in the previous day’s stage and neither he nor the team had given any concrete reason as to why. He would have been among the major favourites for victory against the clock, but instead the stage would unfold without the rainbow jersey of the world time trial champion.
Also not featuring in the stage would be CCC Team’s New Zealand national time trial champion Patrick Bevin. Bevin’s Tour de France ended nowhere near as mysteriously. After a crash in stage 4, Bevin sustained broken ribs which he pushed through in stage 5; but found that he couldn’t continue on beyond there.
Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Gobert got the individual time trial underway in stage 13 of the Tour de France as last man in the general classification. The stage ahead of the 166 remaining riders in the Tour was a semi-technical course, particularly in the opening kilometre or two, and had a couple of lightly rolling climbs; starting with an uphill drag before the road levelled out. Adding to the technical element of the race was a final 17% climb to the finish line to make things even less predictable.
There were a number of prominent time trial names taking to the course early on, with Tony Martin of Jumbo-Visma the fourth to go, Giro d’Italia final stage winner Chad Haga of Team Sunweb fifth to go. Tom Scully of EF Education First was ninth down the ramp with Alex Dowsett of Katusha-Alpecin 10th. On paper it was a stacked opening roster to the TT, but it was interesting to see which riders really pushed the tempo and which opted to take things easier. Tony Martin, the four-time world time trial champion, was quickly caught by Chad Haga; finishing the stage 163rd out of 165 finishers. Scully finished the stage midway down the field in 75th place, but Haga set the early pace, stopping the clock in 36.22mins, with Dowsett 10 seconds slower.
Haga’s stay at the front wouldn’t last long as Danish national time trial champion Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step overtook him; and he would spend a good chunk of the stage in the leader’s hot seat.
It was interesting to see a number of riders who, left to their own devices, could challenge for stage honours; choosing to take it a lot easier. The likes of Australian national champion Luke Durbridge of Mitchelton-SCOTT was one example. But Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal had obviously been released to throw caution to the wind, and he more than happily obliged, blasting out of the start ramp to challenge the early lead of Asgreen.
Wout Van Aert of Jumbo-Visma was similarly free to fly and he went through the initial time checks second fastest, an on course for a very strong finish when disaster struck. Going around a sharp right-hand bend, the Belgian national champion caught the barrier and sustained a very nasty gash to his leg; stopping the Belgian in his tracks. Van Aert was unable to get up and continue and sadly the cyclocross star and road phenomenon’s Tour de France ended there.
De Gendt, meanwhile, was on flying form. The Belgian went through the early time checks fastest and hit the final ramp to the line in a good position to push Asgreen’s time all the way to the end. After taking the final turn, De Gendt sprinted to the finish and topped Asgreen’s time by 16.5 seconds; an average speed of 46.5kph.
Eventually the GC contenders began to filter through onto the road; with the likes of Julian Alaphilippe being seen warming up ready for his effort. George Bennett’s time out on the road was never going to be about targeting a stage win. The Jumbo-Visma climbing specialist went around the course safely, finishing 159th, knowing that the big challenges for him would come later in the mountains as he would go into domestique mode for Steven Kruijswijk.
Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo and Jakob Fuglsang of Astana were among the early contenders to take on the course. It was the former who made good the opportunity, with Porte setting a solid time that would put him just 9 seconds behind De Gendt with a few key riders still to come. Rigoberto Uran of EF Education First similarly had a fantastic ride, finishing just fractions of a second slower than De Gendt. Uran had gone through the first time check 3 seconds slower than De Gendt and just 1 second slower at the next, closing the gap all the way to the line; but just being denied the stage.
The likes of Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma and Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ did a great job of limiting their losses, but others like Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana, Dan Martin, Adam Yates and Romain Bardet had to come to terms with losing significant time.
The battle for the stage honours was left to just two riders then, with Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos and Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step. Thomas was riding very well, going through the second time check 13 seconds faster than Steven Kruijswijk who’d set the new best time through checkpoint 2. That time didn’t last long though because Alaphilippe was next to come through 6 seconds faster than the Brit; clearly the motivation of the maillot jaune was taking effect.
Geraint Thomas crossed the finish line spent, but 22 seconds clear of De Gendt who could do nothing but watch as his long wait in the hot seat came to an end. Thomas was certainly going to be making significant inroads on his fellow GC challengers, but Alaphilippe would be the exception. The yellow jersey crossed the line 14 seconds faster than Thomas to extend his overall lead over the defending champion to 1.26mins. Steven Kruijswijk moved up to third at 2.12mins, with Enric Mas up to 4th at 2.44mins, Egan Bernal now 5th at 2.52mins.