With Tour de France team leader Andrew Talansky abandoning through injury and Jack Bauer coming agonisingly close to a stage win in Nimes, Ramunas Narvardauskas gave the Garmin-Sharp team something to smile about in Bergerac.
On a stage that was ‘animated’ by a breakaway that formed after 16km comprising Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Martin Elmiger (IAM), Arnaud Gérard (Bretagne) and Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis), it was clear from the start that the sprinters’ teams – and Peter Sagan’s Cannondale troops in particular – weren’t going to let any break ride off to contest the stage win.
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Sprint stages are few and far between in Grand Tours and, as usual, the peloton rode to keep the break within snatching distance. The biggest gap the breakaway had to the bunch was 3-25 after 60km of an essentially flat stage and on wet day, there have to be easier ways to earn a living.
The last man in the break to give up was Slagter, who attacked solo with 32km to go and thus had the honour of claiming the only mountain of the stage on the fourth category Cote de Monbazillac. As Slagter crested the summit, Navardauskas crossed the gap.
The two briefly got together in torrential rain, but the young Dutchman let the fresher Lithuanian forged ahead on the slippery descent and run-in to Bergerac. It looked like a Classic ‘soak up some live TV time’ move, but the final climb had split the bunch, the roads were narrow and wet and Navardauskas pressed on, with a 22-second lead.
What finally helped his cause was a crash inside of three kilometres, which blocked the road and caused a lot of shouting in a lot of earpieces. The fact that Sagan had hit the deck in the crash meant that the impetus had gone out of the chase and by the time Omega got themselves organised, Navardauskas had enough of a lead to enjoy crossing the line.
“We talked about me going for this stage, Charly (Wegelius, DS) told me I could do well. Initially the plan was to make the tempo hard in the run-up to the final climb to shake-out the sprinters and if I got away in a small group I have a chance in the sprint,” said Navardauskas.
As it turned out, Navardauskas didn’t need to sprint, just execute a superb time trial in nasty conditions.
Tour de France 2014, stage 19: Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac, 208.5km
1. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp in 4-43-41
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 7 secs
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
5. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
6. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r
8. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin
10. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol all same time
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 7-10
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 7-23
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 7-25
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 9-27
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team at 11-34
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 13-56
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin at 14-15
9. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 14-37
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek at 16-25