Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took his first Tour de France victory from a reduced sprint after the peloton was decimated by cross-winds that cost a number of GC contenders valuable time.
The Belgian took over sprint responsibilities after team-mate Dylan Groenewegen was caught in a group behind, beating Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) on the line with Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) third.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the most high-profile casualty of the crosswinds, losing over a minute and a half alongside Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) in a substantial shake-up to the overall classification.
How it happened
Stage 10 provided a last opportunity for the sprinters to take a victory and avoid awkward questions on the first rest day about a week at the Tour without anything to show for it.
After the breakaway of five started heading up the road, a group that included Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Michael Schär (CCC), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) decided to try and bridge across, seemingly bored of bunch sprints and preferring to duke it out head-to-head.
However, they soon went back to the bunch and the break was allowed to go, gradually building up a lead of around three and a half minutes as the peloton kept a tight leash on the escapees knowing crosswinds could come into play later in the day.
The spectacularly named Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty-Gobert) won the intermediate sprint from the breakaway, with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) leading the peloton over a minute and a half later ahead of Sagan.
The peloton began to split with 60km remaining, as Ineos upped the pace as crosswinds began to buffet the bunch but ultimate everyone managed to hang on, with the breakaway holding a gap of only 1-34.
However, with 35km to go EF Education First started putting the pressure on once again as more crosswinds hit. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Ineos then took charge, with EF Education First now falling away and finding themselves out the back of the peloton as a large split managed to stick.
Of the numerous casualties caught out, fourth place on GC George Bennett had been back at the team car picking up bottles, as well as race favourites Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
The peloton kept the pace up, sweeping up the breakaway with 25km remaining. Pinot’s chase group were 30 seconds adrift, which also contained Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First), while a third bunch holding Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and white jersey holder Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) sat a minute back.
With 19km to go, the GC contenders’ team-mates started blowing up as they maintained an infernal pace. Mikel Landa then crashed after coming into contact with another rider, a number of Movistar riders dropping back to the Ciccone group to try and get him at least onto the Pinot group before the finish line.
The three gaps on the road were holding with less than 10km to go, as Sagan, Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) found themselves in the front group ready to contest the reduced bunch sprint.
With 4km to go, Pinot’s group found themselves slipping, now over a minute behind the leading peloton, with the third bunch a further 30 seconds back. George Bennett’s time at the top of the overall classification was well and truly over as he found himself more than five minutes adrift.
The red of Ineos dropped off to be replaced by the red of Sunweb with 2km to go, as they lined up to lead out Michael Matthews.
With the lead-out trains decimated by the hectic run-in, it was a scramble for wheel as Wout van Aert launched his sprint early and held strong to deny Viviani and Ewan, the 24-year-old speechless after the finish line having just taken his first Tour de France victory.
Tour de France 2019, stage 10: Saint-Flour to Albi (217.5km)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-49-39
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
7. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
9. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC, all at same time
General classification after stage ten
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 43-27-15
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos, at 1-12
3. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos, at 1-16
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-27
5. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-45
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-46
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-47
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2-04
9. Dan Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-09
10. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-32
11. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-33
13. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First, at 3-18
16. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 3-22
20. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-59
21. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4-15