Roman Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) won the 19th stage of the Tour de France, crossing the line in Saint Gervais-Mont Blanc solo. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) led home the GC contenders group in 2nd and 3rd place went to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Chris Froome (Team Sky) held onto the overall race lead once again.
The 19th stage of the Tour de France was only a 146km journey from Albertville to Mont Blanc but 4 categorised climbs would have to be dealt with on-route. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were hoping it would be another stage for the breakaway and so Natnael Berhane made sure he started on the front row. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) attacked from kilometer zero and Berhane was the first to respond.
The peloton let the break go almost immediately, meaning Berhane was clear along with 19 other riders. As soon as the gap hit 4 minutes though, Astana came to the head of the peloton and ramped up the pace with still 120km to go. It was clear they were not going to let the breakaway riders have their day. The gap came down to around 2 minutes and stayed there for the majority of the day.
When the big GC teams decide it is their stage for the taking, there is very little the breakaway group can do. Berhane, along with most of the rest of the breakaway riders were caught either on the penultimate climb of the stage or during the wet descent to the final climb. This last descent though put an end to more hopes than just the breakaway riders as numerous riders crashed on the tricky wet road down to the foot of Mont Blanc.
Froome, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) were just some of the big names to come unstuck on the treacherous descent. Bardet’s superior bike handling skills though saw the Frenchman take advantage of the dangerous descent to start the final 9km climb with a 45″ lead on the yellow jersey group. Bardet was able to hold onto most of his lead to arrive at the finish first, after dispatching the final breakaway rider, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) with a little more than 2km to go.
The main GC contenders followed a little more than 20 seconds later with the young South African, Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) probably having the ride of the day to finish 4th. Our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders all finished safely inside of the time limit, and ready to give tomorrow’s final tough Alpine stage another go.
Rolf Aldag – Head of Performance
The plan was to have someone in the breakaway and then hope that the main guys would not try to gain places in the general classification. Obviously with only two stages left, teams like Astana and others were keen on making it a very hard race. That is why the break never made it today. Natnael was in the break which was very good, and a good experience for him. We had some bad luck with Daniel Teklehaimanot crashing just before he made it back to the group. There was a lot of chaos in the final, with a lot of crashed on the last descent. It was the first time it had rained in a while so it was very slippery. We all got home safe which we are happy about and we look forward to doing something tomorrow again.