The history books will read that there was no winner in the 19th stage of the Tour de France, but Egan Bernal came away with the greatest prize on offer from the day; taking the maillot jaune from Julian Alaphilippe. The shortened stage saw Alaphilippe lose yellow, Colombia gain it, and France also lose arguably their better victory candidate in Thibaut Pinot.
Stage 19 of the Tour de France was due to be the first of 2 power-packed short stages in the Alps, and it was expected to be the first big day of putting Julian Alaphilippe under immense pressure to see if he could finally bring home a first French win in the Tour de France for 35 years. The stage was 126.5km in length with five categorised climbs including the HC climb of the Col de l’Iseran.
Attacks predictably flew from almost the very start of the race. Dan Martin of UAE Team Emirates and Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain Merida were among the early attackers in a small group that initially gained 20 seconds over the peloton as attacks continued to come and go. Jesus Herrada of Cofidis and Pello Bilbao of Astana were present also and together the quartet seemed as though they might form the break of the day; although what would be a common theme over the course of the day would be the lack of time the bunch would grant the breakaway. The gap was just 31 seconds with 110km to go.
With 93km to go the first signs of trouble for Thibaut Pinot were picked up on from the TV cameras. Pinot, who had been battling with an injury to his left leg, dropped back to the team car; but he was blatantly in significant pain and it began to show as Pinot’s emotions began to tell. The Frenchman, who’d been so fantastic earlier in the Tour de France was lacking team support, but he was also lacking the ability to put significant pressure on the pedals.
His teammates in the grupetto rode up and gave him a tap on the shoulder, but they weren’t waiting for him either. It was a teary mess for the man arguably most likely to succeed Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey by the end of the day.
Meanwhile a large group of riders had bridged across to the leading quartet that featured Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, Michael Woods and Rigoberto Uran of EF Education First, Damiano Caruso of Bahrain Merida, Fabio Aru of UAE Team Emirates, Simon Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal and the French national champion Warren Barguil of Arkea-Samsic.
The new formation of the break forced the issue in the pack from a coalition of teams working as one to limit the losses for the time being. Team Ineos, Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-Quick Step and BORA-Hansgrohe were all paying close attention to what was an extremely dangerous group. The interest in the break was reflected in the lack of a time gap that the break were able to establish. At the top of the next climb Damiano Caruso took the points, with the break steadily growing their lead up over 1 minute.
Back down the road Thibaut Pinot was losing time by the bucket load, sitting 4.30mins behind the break as the bunch crested the climb. Finally, after consolation from William Bonnet, Pinot stopped; his brave, triumphant and tragic Tour now over. It transpired that he’d been suffering with a muscular tear in his lower quadricep just above the knee on the inside.
On the approach to the climb of the Col de la Madeleine the break’s lead sat at 1.04mins. With numbers in the break EF Education First and Movistar had both played significant roles in keeping the break in with a good chance of success, but it was really anybody’s race at this stage. Bahrain Merida were present too but they had eyes on potentially putting Damiano Caruso in with a chance of taking the polka dot jersey. Caruso took the points on the Madeleine as the break built their lead a little further to 1.45mins. As it stood the advantage would suit both Rigoberto Uran and Alejandro Valverde, who could potentially be moving up a place or two in the GC standings.
Through the intermediate sprint and on towards the Col de l’Iseran the break’s lead topped out at 2 minutes before being brought back a little. Team Ineos took a commanding role on the front of the maillot jaune group with Dylan van Baarle and Wout Poels leading Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. On Bernal’s wheel was Julian Alaphilippe, with Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett both still present; the affects of the crashes George had suffered yesterday clearly not holding him back today.
The climb was seeing the break’s lead drop significantly, and eventually the pace set by Ineos took its toll first on Enric Mas and then on Bennett, with both riders dropping back; leaving their leaders isolated. Nairo Quintana quickly followed them off the back of the group as Poels kept the pace very high and bridged to within 40 seconds with 44km to go.
Shortly afterwards the attacks started with Geraint Thomas going on the attack. Gregor Muhlberger and Emanuel Buchmann took responsibility for bringing him back as the GC group continued to whittle away. Steven Kruijswijk had ridden very strongly and was able to come across to Thomas and so too Bernal, Buchmann Landa, but Alaphilippe cracked. Richie Porte lost contact with Thomas and co and was left with the yellow jersey that quickly found itself 12 seconds behind his rivals.
Next to go was Bernal who found daylight between himself and the rest. He quickly mopped up the breakaway that was now strewn around the road. Thomas, Kruijswijk and Buchmann seemed content to ride united; but Richie Porte now dropped Alaphilippe in what was becoming an ever-more frustrating day in the saddle.
At just under 42km to go Bernal caught Barguil and hit the front of the race, with eyes on a stage win and maybe more. Alaphilippe was now 36 seconds behind Bernal and 22 seconds behind Thomas. The Colombian was on fire at the front, though, not bothering to ask for help from the group around him that contained Barguil, Nibali, Yates and Uran; instead making them grimace just to keep on his wheel.
With 38.5km to go Egan Bernal took over the virtual lead of the Tour de France. Geraint Thomas and co were now sitting 33 seconds behind him as the rest of the breakaway – bar Simon Yates – also dropped back. Laurens De Plus led the Thomas group that was now down to Kruisjwijk, Thomas, Buchmann and Nibali; with the latter dropping back. Approaching the top of the climb Yates also lost contact as Bernal’s advantage continued to climb to 1.40mins with 1km left to the summit.
At the top of the highest peak in the Tour de France Egan Bernal crossed solo with a 2 minute lead to Alaphilippe as Jumbo-Visma worked to limit their losses that were now at 55 seconds behind the lone leader at the top. Mikel Landa quickly took the initiative as the gap went out to 1 minute; knowing that any time spent putting on rain jackets could be costly in the GC standings. Alaphilippe went over the top at 2.06mins, knowing that his descending skills were vast, but how vast?
The yellow jersey quickly set about taking risks, but then reports began to filter through of weather drama up the road. With 33km to go it was reported that there were stormy conditions up ahead. TV cameras showed ice, snow and hail on the road, the very road Bernal and Yates – who’d caught the leader – were soon to reach. Race radio needed to make a decision about what to do quickly as Alaphilippe continued to sprint downhill in an effort to defend his yellow jersey that was still going to Bernal at this stage with a 2.03mins.
With 29km to go race commissaires made the decision to stop the stage, giving no one the stage win, but taking the GC times at the top of the Iseran.
|1||Egan Bernal||COL||Team Ineos||78.00.42|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe||FRA||Deceuninck-Quick Step||+0.48|
|3||Geraint Thomas||GBR||Team Ineos||+1.16|
|6||Mikel Landa||ESP||Movistar Team||+4.35|
|7||Rigoberto Uran||COL||EF Education First||+5.14|
|8||Nairo Quintana||COL||Movistar Team||+5.17|
|9||Alejandro Valverde||ESP||Movistar Team||+6.25|