Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) surged clear of the breakaway on stage 19 of the Tour de France 2021, spectacularly sealing his second victory of the race.
The Slovenian champion, who won the race's longest day on stage seven solo from the breakaway, did the same again on the flatter parcours of Friday's 207km route in southwest France.
Mohorič had managed to make it into the early breakaway of six riders, but they were joined by 14 more with 100km to go, creating a fighting force that distanced the peloton by over 15 minutes.
Inside the final 50km the breakaway began to start attacking each other to reduce the size of the group, and with less than 30km to go there were just 11 of the original 20 remaining.
It was with 25km to go when Mohorič extracted himself from the break and forged on alone. His power saw him immediately get a gap, with Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) trying to pursue before relenting and being caught by the chasing group.
Mohorič then just focused his effort and built a healthy lead of almost a minute inside 20km to go, though that began to trim down as the likes of Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) attempted to pull him back.
No-one was willing to do the hard yards to drag the whole group back however, and Mohorič simply held his effort while the others surged and slowed behind him.
Inside 3km he hard over a minute and the momentum in the chase had almost completely disappeared.
Mohorič then had time to sit up and celebrate his win, the second of the Tour and his team's third.
Laporte was able to beat Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) into second place, finishing 58 seconds behind the day's victor.
The UAE Team Emirates led peloton finished over 20 minutes back with all the general classification riders among it, meaning Tadej Pogačar retains his substantial overall lead.
How it happened
The penultimate road race stage of the Tour de France would be another long one for the riders, who faced 207km from Mourenx to Libourne on the 19th day of racing. The saving grace would be a mainly flat profile in southwest France, save for an early category four climb and some modest rises and falls along the way.
While the profile may have screamed sprint finish, this stage presented the final chance for a lot of riders and teams to take an invaluable stage victory. That meant some early skirmishes for the breakaway, with six riders eventually getting away with the UAE Team Emirates squad of race leader Tadej Pogačar and the strongest sprint team Deceuninck-Quick-Step happy to let them abscond and take four minutes’ advantage.
Those six - Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo) Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash) Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) Franck Bonnamour (B&B p/b KTM), and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) - would make it to the intermediate sprint 54km in with their advantage intact, but it began to fall away after the peloton came through the sprint point.
Once the green jersey contenders had hoovered up the minor points - leaving Mark Cavendish still with a healthy advantage in green - the attacks to join the six out front resumed and thus a huge increase in pace.
While the sprint and GC teams tried to prevent a group from getting away, eventually the elastic snapped and a group of 14 were able to stay away and bridge up to the leading six with just over 100km to go.
Israel Start-Up Nation, missing from the break, had tried to close things down, but the power of the 14 riders who chased was too much and eventually the peloton sat up and allowed the gap to rocket up from the single minute it had been for a while.
The riders joining the six up front included: Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Jasper Stuvyen, Edward Theuns (both Trek-Segafredo), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo), Élie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic), Casper Pedersen (DSM), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Ion Izagirre (Astana), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka-NextHash), and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies).
Those riders continued to pull as hard as they could through the next 50km, and once sure the stage win would come from one of them (the gap to the peloton now north of 10 minutes), the attacks started to come to try and reduce the group.
The likes of Ballerini and Rutsch were the most active in trying to pull things apart, eventually shedding some riders like Clarke whose energy was spent.
But neither of them were on the right side of the split when 11 riders managed to get clear in the final 30km, with the likes of Politt and Stuyven pushing things on.
With 25km remaining however, after an attack by Politt, no-one was able to immediately follow the counter move of Matej Mohorič, the Slovenian simply drifting away and settling into a low cadence in a big gear.
Christophe Laporte did set off to try and catch him a few kilometres later, but the Frenchman didn’t have the power to make the bridge and was reeled in by the chasing group with 20km to go.
Mohorič was now building his lead, holding a gap of over 40 seconds with 15km to go. The attacking behind had cut it from the almost one minute he had achieved, but those accelerations from the chasing group also created disorganisation, with no one willing to do the work and pull everyone else to the line.
This pattern simply continued on, and within 5km to the line the lone leader had over a minute to the pursuers and was now guaranteed to take the stage win if he continued.
He reached the final 100m with plenty of time to celebrate, making a mouth-zipping gesture in reference to the police raid on the Bahrain Victorious hotel on Wednesday night. It's Mohorič's second stage win of the race after he soloed away in a similar fashion on the much hillier 249km stage seven.
The peloton and the yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar were now cruising to the finish after letting the break go. They finished over 20 minutes back with no significant changes in the general classification.
The Tour de France continues on Saturday with an individual time trial of 30.8km from Libourne to Saint-Émilion.
Tour de France 2021, stage 19: Mourenx to Libourne (207km)
1. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain Victorious, in 4-19-17
2, Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at 58 seconds
3. Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM
4. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
5. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-08
6. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo
8. Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Team TotalEnrgies
10. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
26. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 20-50
General classification after stage 19
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 79-40-09
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-45
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-51
4. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, at 8-18
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-50
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 10-11
7. Alexey Lusenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 11-22
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 12-46
9. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 13-48
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 18-42
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