Thibaut Pinot must have felt sheer relief to take a win atop the Alpe D’huez. Last year’s 3rd place rider, after a horrible first week said he would be looking for a stage success. He did not disappoint and managed to finish ahead of a charging Nairo Quintana who made a last all out attempt to beat Chris Froome in the overall classification. He managed to gain only 1’20” on Froome, who won his second Tour de France.
Stage 20 was the last day in the Alps. Just 110.5 kms long, what it lacked in length it made up with sheer difficulty. Two brutal category climbs, both classified by the organizers as a Hors Category. 56 kms was the summit of the first climb on top of the Col de la Croix de Fer, and the stage finished with a 15 km climb up to the Alpe D’huez. There was an intermediate sprint just before the final climb of the day. With long climbs, the top climbers could really pull away on the final climb. This is what Quintana planned to do, in his last attempt to win the Tour.
Alexandre Geniez of FDJ was the first to attack and rode away at the start of the stage. He was soon joined by Ramunas Navardauskas, Lars Bak and Nicolas Edet. Geniez rode away from this group 6 kms before the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer. Back in the main group, Movistar launched their own attack for Valverde and Quintana as Team Sky were caught off guard. Valverde rode away 3 kms from the summit, and Quintana rode off a kilometre further to link up at the top. Froome for once, had no teammates this early in the stage. Froome managed to catch them on the downhill, showing his superior skills on the bike. To boost his morale, four of his Team Sky mates managed to catch up, as riders from other teams joined to form a fairly large group of 33. There was another small group ahead, consisting of Ryder Hesjedal and Thibaut Pinot, who were pursuing Geniez.
Before the final climb, Nibali suffered a flat tyre. That ruined his chances as he spent the rest of the day catching up to the Leaders on the final climb. At the front of the race, Hesjedal and Pinot caught up with Geniez with 9 kms to go, before passing him. Six kilometres from the finish, Pinot rode ahead. Ryder was not able to catch him. Pinot got the stage win when he crossed the line atop the prestigious Alpe D’Huez.
In the Yellow Jersey group, Froome had Wouter Poels and Richie Porte to support him. Quintana continued to attack but his teammates were able to initially drag the explosive Colombian rider back. Valverde attacked, and was soon joined by Quintana as they both worked hard to open a large lead over Sky. Quintana who charged forward and was soon supported by teammate and compatriot, Winner Anacona who was in the leading breakaway. Quintana once again surged forward as he tried to pass Thibaut Pinot, the first place could award 10 bonus seconds. However, he managed to finish 18 seconds down on Pinot in second. Froome thanks to assistance of his team, managed to claw his way back at a gradual pace to finish 1’38” down on Quintana. He would maintain a 1’12” lead overall.
By tradition, the Yellow Jersey is never attacked on the final stage in Paris. This means Chris Froome has won his second Tour de France. A Team Sky rider has won the Tour, 3 of the last 4 times (Wiggins in 2012, Froome in 2013 and 2015). Froome would wear the Maillot Jaune for the 30th day in Paris, now standing 11th Overall in number of days in the Yellow Jersey.
An exhausted but ecstatic Froome said at the finish
“It was only 110 kilometres but it felt like 300 kilometres today. I can’t quite come to terms with it just yet. There were so many emotions going through my mind on that last climb. There were moment when I thought ‘Woah I could lose this!’ but then Richie and Wout did such a great job helping me up. I was on my limit, I was hurting, I had to find something else to keep pushing.”
Unfortunately for Quintana, he was unable to gain the necessary time on Froome. Some are even saying, he lost in Holland when the crosswinds of Stage 2 blew the Peloton into 2 groups. At least, he wears the White Jersey and stands on the Podium. It also means, Contador could not fulfil his aim of the Giro and Tour double.
The Overall Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of Mountains Top 20
Tomorrow is a processional stage in Paris. As a flat stage finish, expect the likes of Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan to really fight for the stage glory. No one would want it more than Sagan who effectively won the Green Jersey a few days ago. Cavendish has four wins on the Champs Elysee, but may be at a disadvantage as his main lead out man, Mark Renshaw withdrew ill from the Tour.
Overall, the 198 rider back is now at 160.