The defending Champion Vincenzo Nibali has finally announced his arrival in the Tour. Making an attack with 58 kms to go, Nibali went on to make the gap between him and his other General Contender rivals to win Stage 19. The attacks came late but Quintana was able to power ahead of everyone else to finish behind Nibali and gaining 32 seconds on Chris Froome who finished 3rd. Alberto Contador’s bid to make the podium is virtually over as he once again lost time to Froome and Quintana.
A challenging day in the Alps with some gruelling climbs. At 138 kms long, it’s one of the shortest stages in this year’s Tour (barring the time trials). The stage begins at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and finishes at La Toussuire – Les Sybelles. With four climbs, this stage was no walk in the park. A single Category-2, two Category-1 and a Hors Category climb were a part of this stage, a thriving environment for the mountain riders. The intermediate sprint takes place at the 42 km mark, 12 kms after the descent of the first climb. The stage finishes atop La Toussuire.
From the onset, there was an attack. Rodriguez, who was the King of the Mountains took maximum points on the first summit as Romain Bardet was not near. This led to a large breakaway of 26 riders. With Rodriguez taking maximum points, Bardet wanted to take the Polka dot jersey for himself. He showed his descending abilities as he rode away with Uran of Etixx-Quick-Step. While a group formed at the intermediate sprint, there were numerous attacks made by Nibali, Contador and Valverde. Froome was more concerned with Quintana. When the ascent began, Pierre Rolland made his move 15 kms from the summit of the Col de la Croix. The rider was looking for stage glory.
Within the Yellow Jersey group, Valverde made a move 5 kms from the summit of Col de la Croix, but it was thwarted. Nibali seized his opportunity to ride solo. He knew, the only way to gain time is to attack far from the finish. Bardet followed. Rolland, Nibali and Bardet were the top 3 at the Col de la Croix , which meant Romain Bardet was the new leader of the King of the Mountains.
Nibali showed his skill on the descent as he caught up with Rolland. Both of them maintained an advantage of around two minutes. Rolland began to struggle on the final climb of the day at Col La Toussuire. Two kms into the 18km climb, Nibali began his solo assault. He gradually started to increase his pace over the Yellow Jersey group that was following.
Tinkoff-Saxo were doing most of the pace making. Six kms from the summit, Quintana made a dash for the finish. According to sources, he was not feeling well, however, it was not visible on his face. Froome was the only rider able to successfully give chase as the Spanish duo of Valverde and Contador looked to limit the time lost to Nibali at the helm of the race.
At the summit, Nibali made his triumphial return with 200m to go as the Shark finally showed his real ability. Quintana finally managed to beat Froome in the Tour, as the British rider was unable to keep up. Quintana finished 44 seconds behind Nibali but 30 seconds ahead of Froome. He cut into Froomes lead in the general classification, which now stands at 2’38”. Contador and Valverde finished 2’26” down on Nibali, allowing the defending champion to climb 4th overall. He is just 79 seconds behind Valverde as he looks to finish on the podium the day after.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of the Mountains Top 20.
Tomorrow will be the final day to fight for the Yellow Jersey. It’s a shorter course, with two Brutal Hors Category climbs. Expect Sky to defend Froome all out as Quintana finally delivered a psychological blow by finishing ahead. If Sky can defend Froome from Movistar, It will be Team Sky’s 3rd overall classification win in the last 4 years, and Froome’s 2nd. Nibali will also be determined to try and push Valverde off the 3rd place spot. Despite losing time, Contador might have an outside chance to really push for the Podium.
The top 2 riders are decided, there are three for the last podium spot. The race will go down to the wire tomorrow.