Primoz Roglic of LottoNL-Jumbo has won stage 19 of the Tour de France and moved into third place in the general classification.  The Slovenian took the win solo, breaking away to win by 19 seconds ahead of a small group led by Geraint Thomas and Romain Bardet; thus replacing Chris Froome in third place overall by 13 seconds.

The final mountain stage of the 2018 Tour de France took the riders from Lourdes to Laruns, a distance of 200.5km; and in terms of challenges it would be brutal.  Six climbs featured en route to the finish, with the legendary ascents of the Col d’Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque all to tackle before the quick 20km descent from the Col d’Aubisque to the finish line.

 

All on for attacks early on

 

Attacks were on the go from the drop of the flag, and after early aggression from Thomas De Gendt a trio of riders went clear.  Sylvain Dillier of AG2R La Mondiale, Damien Gaudin of Direct Energie and Lukas Pöstlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe made the move and gained a lead of some 20 seconds early on; although there was still plenty going on behind them.  After cresting the summit of the first category 4 climb another three riders – Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott, Bob Jungels of Quick-Step Floors and Tanel Kangert of Astana – went on the attack and were given some daylight from the peloton.

With 20km covered the gap to the peloton had stretched out to almost a minute to the peloton.  But that gap quickly shrunk as further aggression from the peloton saw a number of riders try to get across again.  The catch for Jungels, Yates and Kangert to the leaders was made with 179km remaining; leaving six riders out in front, but such was the aggression of the attackers behind them that the lead to the peloton had been cut to just over 30 seconds.

Warren Barguil of Fortuneo-Samsic, Gorka Izagirre of Bahrain Merida, Andrey Amador of Movistar and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data were next to evade the peloton, while on the back of the peloton Peter Sagan was suffering with the injuries sustained a couple of days prior.  The intensity in the peloton was so high that a big split occurred in the pack as Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors joined Sylvain Chavanel of Direct Energie in being the next to try and get across.

While the king of the mountains classification wasn’t wrapped up yet, Barguil needed to take maximum points at almost every climb aside from the category 4 ascents; and Alaphilippe had to score nothing in order to take away the jersey.  Alaphilippe and Chavanel united with the Barguil group with 172km to go, but still the attacks weren’t done yet from the peloton; although finally the bunch sat up and allowed the break to really establish themselves.

It was a long day of pain for the maillot vert of Peter Sagan, but the Slovakian survived, photo Sirotti

Katusha-Alpecin state their intent as GC attacks begin early

 

At 160km to go the gap for the leaders was up to 4 minutes and at 142km to go the catch was made by the amalgamation of the chasers that included Arthur Vichot of Groupama-FDJ, Mikel Nieve of Mitchelton-Scott, Tom Jelte-Slagter of Dimension Data, Daniele Bennati of Movistar, Alaphilippe, Barguil and co.  Their lead was reduced to the peloton though, as Katusha-Alpecin surprisingly took over the pace setting on behalf of Ilnur Zakarin.  

The Col d’Aspin began with the break enjoying a lead of 3.20mins.  While they attacked the climb it didn’t take long for Peter Sagan to drop back from the peloton and begin haemorrhaging time as he fought the pain.  Julian Alaphilippe was once again on the front of the break, attacking the climb, and he crested the summit in the lead; ensuring that it was now mathematically impossible to catch his lead; all he now had to do was made it to Paris.

Katusha-Alpecin continued to lead the way in the pack, with Team Sky sitting behind them, but the advantage for the leaders had gone back out to around the 4 minute mark before being reined back a little on the lower slopes of the Tourmalet once again.  Back in the peloton an interesting move escaped with Ilnur Zakarin, Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale and Mikel Landa attacking the bunch and gaining a quick 47 second advantage as Team Sky took over at the front.  They were still 2 minutes behind the break but their move couldn’t be ignored.

Landa was visibly the stronger of the three riders though, and with the break approaching 4km to go up the climb he attacked Bardet and Zakarin.  Up ahead the break had been reduced to Mikel Nieve, Gorka Izagirre, Tanel Kangert, Warren Barguil and Julian Alaphilippe, with Adam Yates just a little way off.  Bardet dug deep and towards the summit of the climb he bridged back to Landa, and as the break crested the summit – with Alaphilippe still in the lead – they were some 33 seconds adrift of the lead, but on the descent and flatter sections of the route on the approach to the climb of the Col des Bordères, the catch was made and Mikel Landa, Andrey Amadar, Romain Bardet and BORA-Hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka made it across to the leaders.

Tom Dumoulin, is marked by Geraint Thomas, the one constant throughout a stage that had everything, photo Sirotti

Roglic begins to force rivals onto defense

 

The riders were climbing from 56km to go and would be climbing in a rugged, uneven way all the way to 20km to go where the summit of the Col d’Aubisque awaited.  In that time a couple of brief, short descents awaited, but it would be a rugged challenge for everyone.  Team Sky continued to lead the peloton although Robert Gesink moved to the front to assist the chase.  It was an effective ploy from LottoNL-Jumbo, who gradually pulled back the break’s lead on the Col des Bordères; before Gesink cracked, completely exhausted from his effort for Kruijswijk and Roglic.

Ilnur Zakarin’s climbing skills may have been effective, but his descending skills were letting him down as he lost contact in a brief lull before the Col du Soulor.  Movistar continued to set the pace but Zakarin did manage to get back on board eventually; although with a fair amount of unnecessary energy expended.  Back down the road Michal Kwiatkowski led the Team Sky chase at 1.50mins but then Steven Kruijswijk made an attack on the lower slopes of the climb; a prelude of what was to come.

Maybe in response to the news of Kruijswijk’s attack, Mikel Landa and Romain Bardet attacked the break and gapped all of them.  Rafal Majka bridged across, but the damage was done to the rest, with Kangert, Izagirre, Jungels and Zakarin left behind.  Back down the road Tom Dumoulin launched an attack that was matched by Geraint Thomas, Primoz Roglic and eventually Egan Bernal and Chris Froome.  Dan Martin was shaken off the group although gradually pulling himself back across along with Domenico Pozzovivo.

All the while Kruijswijk was around 30 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group, with Zakarin further up the road but still 15 seconds or so behind Landa, Bardet and Majka.  Next to go was Daniel Martin, but then Primoz Roglic made his move with a little over 12km to go before the summit of the climb.  Chris Froome, finally made it clear his position within Team Sky in the Tour as he took it on himself to chase and let Thomas sit in.  Froome didn’t have the legs to go with Roglic though, neither did Martin who was quickly caught and dropped.  Dumoulin needed to keep Roglic in tact though, so he also contributed to the chase; but Froome was losing ground.

Although he had his rivals on the ropes up the climb, it was Roglic’s descending skills that won him the stage and sent him up the GC standings, photo Sirotti

Roglic superb on descent, claims stage and 3rd on GC

 

Up ahead Landa, Bardet and Majka, now with Ilnur Zakarin just about back on board, were still leading the way but with 40 seconds in hand with 11km to go the catch was looking imminent.  For Froome, his podium place was looking fragile as he conceded 30 seconds to Roglic and co.  Eventually though, Froome pegged his way back to the group and he was back on board with 5km of climbing to go.

The catch was finally made to the front of the race with a little over a kilometre of the Col d’Aubisque remaining.  Dan Martin had also managed to get back on board, but ahead Rafal Majka had managed to slip off the front and maintain a 12 second lead towards the summit of the climb.  But then another attack went from Romain Bardet and Primoz Roglic, and this time the Slovenian found a little daylight as Tom Dumoulin now took charge of the chase.

Majka led over the final major climb of the Tour de France with just 8 seconds in hand over the group of Roglic.  Froome was still there or thereabouts to the rest of tehg roup and as the descent began in earnest the GC contenders were all back together again.

With 17km to go Majka had been caught and now Roglic was beginning to put the pressure on the rest of the group.  Tom Dumoulin held the wheel of Roglic although there was just a bit of space that was beginning to open up to the Slovenian with 10km to go.  Steadily the Slovenian simply began to ride away from the rest and with 4km to go he was clear.  Behind the yellow jersey group Steven Kruijswijk and Ilnur Zakarin were losing ground on the rest, while Chris Froome continued on in his domestique duties for Thomas; with the gap now at 15 seconds with 2.5km to go.

Dumoulin continued to pile on the pace, trying to limit the losses to the Slovenian who was now time trialling to a famous win and a spot on the GC podium with two days remaining.  Roglic piled on the pace and finally celebrated a brilliantly taken stage win that saw him finish 19 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas who was tactically superb, marking Dumoulin the whole way before out sprinting him at the line.  Bardet took third place with Dan Martin fourth ahead of Majka, Dumoulin, Landa and Froome.

Overall that meant that Geraint Thomas kept a 2.05min lead over Dumoulin, with the Dutchman now 19 seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic, who in turn was 13 seconds ahead of Chris Froome.

Dion Smith, Tom Scully and Jack Bauer safely navigated all challenges in today’s stage and now face just the final time trial and then the procession into Paris to cap off what has been a highly memorable grand tour.

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