Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) fought off numerous attacks the get through the final mountain stage of the 2018 Tour de France with his race lead intact, while the stage win went to Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Thomas had looked at ease as he covered multiple attacks from Roglic, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), never looking under pressure and taking a superb second place to put him in an excellent position heading into Saturday’s crucial time trial.
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The main GC contenders had also been put under pressure by a long range attack by Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), but that was neutralised by the top of the final climb by the relentless attacks by Roglic, Kruijswijk and Dumoulin.
As the race came together with 20km to go at the the top of the Col d’Aubisque, Roglic attacked through the mist down the descent and opened a gap of 18 seconds that he held to the finish.
The sprint for second place was comfortably won by Thomas, the Welshman picking up six bonus seconds to extend his lead out to 2-05 over Dumoulin going into the 31km time trial on stage 20.
Meanwhile Chris Froome was able to recover as he was repeatedly distanced by the many attacks over the final two climbs of the stage, but Roglic’s attack down the final descent saw the Slovenian open a gap that not only saw him win the stage but also helped him climb above Froome in the overall standings.
How it happened
The final mountain day of the 2018 Tour de France, stage 19 saw attacks from the very start of the race as Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) escaped prior to the first fourth category climb of the day to open a lead of a minute over the peloton in the opening 20km.
Various counter-attacks tried to get across to the leading trio, with Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Tanel Kangert (Astana) making the junction with 179km remaining on the day.
More riders came across in the following group, with Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Juliana Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), Warren Barguil and Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), ARthur Vichot (Groupama-FDJ), Andrey Amador and Daniele Bennati (Movistar), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-hansgrohe), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), and Tom Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) to form an 18-strong breakaway.
Back in the peloton and unusually it was not Team Sky on the front, with Katusha-Alpecin instead doing the chasing to limit the gap to 3-10 at the bottom of the first-category Col d’Aspin, the Swiss team working to protect Ilnur Zakarin’s 11th place overall from Bob Jungels who was in the group up the road.
However the gap to the leaders’ extended out towards four minutes on the climb, with the polka dot jersey of Julian Alaphilippe springing out to gain maximum points and take an unassailable lead in the mountains classification. Meanwhile there was bad news for the green jersey at the back of the race as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was dropped early on the climb and looked in serious discomfort as he poured entire bottles of water over his head.
The next climb on the agenda was the fearsome Col du Tourmalet, and within the first five kilometres of the climb an attack from Mikel Landa (Movistar) saw the first action from the yellow jersey group.
The Spaniard’s attack was followed by Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin) who put in a big effort to help Zakarin up to Landa before blowing up, before Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) also bridged across to form a strong three-man group that soon had a lead of a minute. However with Landa and Bardet seventh and eight in GC and both more than 4-30 back, there was no immediate reaction from Team Sky as Jonathan Castroviejo plugged away on the front.
Those three riders rose together for a few kilometres, but the pace still wasn’t high enough or Landa who attacked Bardet and Zakarin with 4.5km to go to the summit. Meanwhile the hors-categorie Tourmalet was also taking its toll at the front as Izagirre, Kangert, Barguil, Nieve, Jungels and Alaphilippe moved away.
Landa enjoyed about three kilometres of freedom before Bardet and Zakarin worked their way back up to Landa and also picked up Yates, Amador, and Majka as they dropped back from the break. That also meant that Landa had a team-mate alongside him, and Amador was able to work hard to open the gap back to the yellow jersey to 2-20 and close the gap to the front of the race to just 30 seconds.
Despite having already won the mountains classification, Alaphilippe still moved away to take maximum points at the top of the Tourmalet as well as the Souvenir Jacques Goddet, while Majka led the chase group over the top just a handful of seconds later and the yellow jersey group another 2-30 further back.
The fast descent but untechnical descent from the Tourmalet made little difference to the time gaps, but as the road flattened out a little the hard work of Amador saw the Landa group join up with the remains of the break to form a 10-man group at the front of the race.
By the base of the Col des Bordères the gap to yellow jersey group was out to 3-30, and with Mikel Landa and Romain Bardet now threatening the GC positions of Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic, Team Sky were lent a hand in the chase by LottoNL-Jumbo who sent Robert Gesink to the front.
The high pace on the front was causing casualties with Alaphilippe among those dropped, but the speed was higher in the bunch behind as Gesink quickly chopped two minutes off the break’s lead as he bobbed from side to side constantly climbing out of the saddle.
Cresting the Bordères, the break’s lead was down to just 1-35 which they also took onto the base of the Col d’Aubisque after a short descent.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) took over at the front at the bottom of the Aubisque, but Sky soon found themselves on the back foot as Steven Kruijswijk churned a high gear to open a gap. Almost simultaneously there was also an attack from the break as Landa went on the offensive with Bardet locked in his wheel and Majka doggedly making his away across.
The next threatening attack came from Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) with 33km to go, but the Dutchman was not allowed any daylight by Thomas who was soon on his wheel, and when Dumoulin tried to go again 500m later he found the yellow jersey again more than capable of matching him.
Primoz Roglic was also able to cover the move, but Chris Froome was under pressure as he struggled to close the gap to the wheel of team-mate Egan Bernal. Thankfully for Froome the pace soon eased off, and the exceptional Bernal moved straight to the front to set a pace that he hoped would deter any further attacks.
Having struggled to follow Dumoulin’s moves, Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) was the next to launch an acceleration which prompted no reaction from Bernal, but did spark a counter-attack by Roglic who quickly caught and passed Martin.
That attack distanced Bernal and left Chris Froome to try and close the gap to try to Roglic. However Froome was not able to close the gap and dropped back to leave Dumoulin to make the junction with Thomas in close attendance while Froome paced himself to try and limit his losses.
Despite being caught by Dumoulin and Thomas, Roglic continued to push on to find Kruijswijk up the road, with the two LottoNL-Jumbo men working hard to try to distance Froome and put Roglic onto the podium.
The riders crested the Col du Soulor midway up the classified climb of the Col d’Aubisque and faced a short descent through the fog before starting to climb again with Landa, Bardet, Zakarin, and Majka holding a lead of just 15 seconds over the Thomas group while Bernal put in a huge effort to help Froome regain contact.
As soon as the road started to ride Kruijswijk attacked for a second time, but once again he found Bernal on the back of the chase group with the Colombian pegging him back and also closing the gap to the break to just a handful of seconds.
With two kilometres to go to the summit Roglic launched another attack, catching Bardet and Landa, but once again being closed down by Dumoulin and Thomas, before attacking for a second time and once again finding Dumoulin closing the gap.
Rafal Majka led over the summit but had the yellow jersey group breathing down his neck as he led the race down the final descent in thick mist.
With visibility down to just a couple of hundred metres, Roglic closed down on Majka and continued to push on down the technical descent with a few bike lengths opening up back to Dumoulin and Thomas while Zakarin struggled to hold the pace at the back of the group.
With seven kilometres to go Roglic was able to open a gap of a few seconds, before Chris Froome moved to the front in order to protect his own spot on the podium and worked alongside Dumoulin to try and close the gap.
However the chase never really got going and Roglic was comfortably able to hold on to take his second Tour de France stage victory.
19 seconds later and it was the yellow jersey of Thomas who comfortably out-sprinted his GC rivals to take second place on the stage, six bonus seconds, and an extended lead at the top of the general classification heading into Saturday’s time trial.
Tour de France 2018, stage 19: Lourdes to Laruns, 200.5km
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 5-28-17 05:28:17
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 19 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, all at 19 secs
9. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 31 secs
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at same time
General classification after stage 19
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 79-49-31
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 2-05
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 2-24
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 2-37
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 4-37
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4-40
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 5-515
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-39
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 10-26
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 11-49