Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) took his second stage win of the 2020 Tour de France after making another sensational solo effort to the finish for victory.
While on stage 14 he attacked with just over 3km to go, today the Dane attacked a breakaway group of 12 with 16km to go and quickly built a lead as no-one immediately responded.
Kragh’s phenomenal effort saw the advantage build to almost a minute by the final 3km, thanks in part to the disorganisation in the chasing group which saw no-one willing to risk their effort to lose on the line.
That allowed the Sunweb man to coast in towards the finish in the final 250m with a no-one in view behind, celebrating his second stage win of the race and his team’s third.
Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) took the sprint for second ahead of Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) in the next group, while Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who had made it into the breakaway group, extended his lead in the green over Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) by beating the Slovakian to the line for eighth and ninth respectively.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) safely retained his lead at the top of the GC heading into the time trial on the penultimate stage.
How it happened
After three gruelling mountain stages back to back, everyone in the Tour de France peloton would have been happy to open the road book and see a flatter stage on offer for the 19th day of racing.
Just one category four climb sat between the start in Bourg-en-Bresse and the finish in Champagnole 166.5km later, but the route took in lots of uncategorised ups-and-downs, particularly after the intermediate sprint with 49km to go.
With a big break expected to try and get away on the last true day of road racing, only one man escaped in the first 7km and was allowed to build a significant gap to the peloton. That man Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) motored away at over 49kmh average speed in the first hour with another breakaway group initially trying to join him.
When they were unable to make it and returned to the bunch, Cavagna pushed on and built a maximum gap of over 2-30, despite Bora-Hansgrohe riding to try and peg him back.
The Frenchman held an advantage all the way to the intermediate sprint, when the peloton began to spring into life.
Cavagna took maximum points through the sprint, with Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept), and Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers) taking the next points after they attacked on the rise towards the intermediate sprint. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was able to extend his green jersey lead by another point over Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) as they took fifth and sixth respectively.
Cavagna, Rolland, Cosnefroy, and Rowe pushed on and dangled out front at 27 seconds, with riders beginning to attack from the peloton behind on the undulating terrain of the course.
All that attacking eventually meant it was everyone back together with just over 35km to go, with Jumbo-Visma and Bora-Hansgrohe working to bring riders back.
With 30km to go an elite group of riders was finally able to get clear and break the stranglehold of the peloton. A group of 12, made up of Luke Rowe, Peter Sagan, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sam Bennett, Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), Jack Bauer and Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott), Nikias Arndt and Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), were able to establish a gap of 2-40 over the peloton by 20km to go.
They were pursued by a trio of Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT), Bryan Coquard (B&B) and Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-Up Nation at around 1-40, with Lotto-Soudal initially taking up the chase in the peloton before eventually relenting and sitting up.
It looked like the win would almost certainly come from the leading 12 as the kilometres ticked by, with Trentin the first to test the group on a rise with just over 16km to go. That didn’t split the group, but did spark more attacking, with Søren Kragh Andersen next to jump away immediately as Trentin was brought back.
Having won stage 14 with a late attack at just over 3km to go, Kragh would need to put in a much longer effort over the remaining 16km if he was to stay away.
But disorganisation amongst the chasers meant he was quickly able to build a 25-second lead, with riders behind trying to attack from the group behind.
Kragh’s consistent effort was trumping the chasers’ surges in pace, and with 9km to he’d built himself a 40-second lead that was beginning to look insurmountable to the chase group.
The peloton, now at more than five minutes were simply coasting in, while the impetus in the pursuit of Kragh by the chase group has fallen away significantly.
By the flamme rouge Kragh had a minute in hand, and was able to comfortably ride to the line to seal a second stage victory in what has been a dream Tour de France for Team Sunweb.
The top-10 on GC remained in their positions with just one decisive stage to go; a 36.2km mountain time trial on stage 20 to the top of La Planche des Belles Filles.
Tour de France 2020, stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole (166.5km)
1. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, in 3-36-33
2. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott, at 53 seconds
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
5. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
6. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
7. Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 59s
8. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-02
9. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC Team, all at same time
General classification after stage 19
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 83-29-41
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 57s
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 1-27
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-06
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 3-28
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 4-19
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 5-55
8. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 6-05
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 7-24
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 12-12