Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) has won the nineteenth stage of the 2014 Tour de France.
The Lithuanian rode clear of the peloton in the closing kilometres, and steered a comparatively safe course through a technical and rain-soaked finish, which caused chaos among the pursuing bunch.
His attack came on the fourth category Côte de Monbazillac and retained Garmin-Sharp’s initiative after earlier attacks from Tom Jelte-Slagter and Alex Howes.
A group of about a dozen riders went down in the closing three kilometres, including German road race champion, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and Ag2r-La Mondiale leader, Romain Bardet, who is fifth overall in the general classification. Had the accident happened a kilometre earlier, the Frenchman would have slipped down the GC, but with the clock effectively stopped with 3km to go, he escaped penalty.
Defending green jersey champion, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), leader of the competition in this year’s race, was caught up in the same collision. The Slovak had been strongly tipped for victory on today’s stage, but now, realistically, has just one chance to claim a single victory in the 101st Tour, having posted a series of top five finishes. He will seek to best the pure sprinters in the run for the line on the Champs Elysees at the climax of Sunday’s closing stage.
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step hit the front in numbers with just 1.4km remaining of today’s 208.5km run from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac, and Navaradauskas maintaining a lead of 14 seconds. The Belgian squad drove hard, seeking a second victory for Matteo Trentin, who deprived Sagan of victory on stage seven.
The Lithuanian passed alone beneath the flamme rouge and sped through the first of two left hand bends. If he was taking it easy, it wasn’t obvious: he passed the crowd barriers with alarming proximity on the exit of the corner.
The chasing group appeared just moments later, but the Garmin-Sharp man was home, if not dry. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won the sprint for second place, while race leader, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), also crossed the line safely, and with a look of relief on his face. Greipel and the other fallers crossed the line some 2.18 after Navardauskas.
The winner said: “It was planned from the very beginning to put someone in the break, and even if we didn’t we had to do a big work out on the climb. Thankfully, Tom [Jelte-Slagter] was in the break and did a great job. For a guy like him to have the strength to help me on the top was amazing. It gave me extra motivation. You don’t want to let your team-mates down.”
Tomorrow’s twentieth stage, a rolling 54km time trial from Bergerac to Perigueux, is likely to be the last on which changes will be made to the general classification. While the favourite for victory will be TT specialist and world champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), all eyes will be focused on Nibali, who, barring disaster, should seal his first Tour triumph.
Tour de France 2014: stage nineteen – result
1) Ramunus Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp – 4.43.41
2) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Shimano +7″
3) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha – ST
4) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Omega Pharma-Quick-Step
5) Daniele Benanati (ITA) – Tinkoff-Saxo
6) Alessandro Pettachi (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quick-Step
7) Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
8) Jerome Simon (FRA) – Cofidis
9) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Belkin Pro Cycling
10) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 85.29.26
2) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ.fr +7.10
3) Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +7.23
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +9.27
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +9.27
6) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +11.34
7) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +13.56
8) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – elkin Pro Cycling +14.15
9) Leopold Konig (CZE) – NetApp-Endura +14.37
10) Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) – Trek Factory Racing +16.25