Nibali solos to stage 19 Tour de France win, Froome loses time but retains yellow
LE TOUSSUIRE, France (CT) – Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has won stage 19 of the Tour de France, climbing to a solo victory at the ski resort of La Toussuire after a long-range attack.
Nibali made his move in the closing kilometres of the Col de la Croix de Fer climb, some 60km from the finish, seemingly attacking when overall leader Chris Froome (Sky) stopped to fix a small mechanical issue.
“A piece of asphalt or small stone got stuck between my brake callipers and my rear wheel,” Froome said after the stage. “Obviously the rear wheel just jammed up and I had to stop and get it out before I could continue.
“It just seemed to me that Nibali had the whole climb to attack but he chose the moment when I had my mechanical to make his move. I’ve heard from other riders that he turned, could see I had a problem, and then attacked.
“Obviously that, in my opinion, is very unsportsmanlike. It’s not the spirit of the Tour de France and it’s definitely not what this race is about.”
Nibali, however, denied that he knew Froome had a mechanical when he made his move.
“When I turned my head back it was because I was looking for teammate [Tanel] Kangert,” Nibali said in his stage-winners press conference. “As a team we had decided to accelerate on the Croix de Fer anyway.
“There has been other crashes in the past and people haven’t waited for me, like at the 2010 Giro d’Italia stage to Montalcino or everyone knows the Schleck/Contador incident in the 2010 Tour de France. There’s absolutely no rule for that.”
Nibali joined forces with solo leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar) on the descent off the day’s third and penultimate climb, the Col du Mollard, with roughly 34km to race. After descending with the Frenchman to the base of the final, 18km-long climb, Nibali attacked Rolland 16km from the finish, riding away to a solo victory.
Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was second on the stage, 44 seconds behind Nibali, after attacking the yellow jersey group in the second half of the stage-ending climb to La Toussuire. Froome himself finished third, 30 seconds behind Quintana, but retains his lead in the general classification by more than two and a half minutes.
Nibali’s win moves him into fourth overall, behind Froome, Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) retains fifth overall.
How it unfolded
Stage 19 of the 2015 Tour de France began in St-Jean-de-Maurienne with the riders facing a 138km stage with four categorised climbs along the way.
The first of those climbs, the Col du Chaussy, began just 100 metres in the stage, prompting the first breakaway attempts of the day. KOM leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was the first to attack, leading to the creation of a 10-rider leading group. Another 16 would soon bridge across on the 15.4km first-category climb while back in the main field, the GC contenders were starting to attack one another.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was the first to attack, followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). All three eventually made it up to the breakaway and while overall leader Chris Froome (Sky) would manage to get across too, he did so with only one teammate — Wout Poels — for company.
Rodriguez took maximum KOM points at the Col du Chaussy after 15.5km before yesterday’s stage winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick-Step) got clear on the following descent.
Rodriguez and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) joined the two leaders at the front of the race before Rolland attacked solo, the other three being caught. At this stage Froome had been rejoined by teammates Geraint Thomas and Leo Konig.
With 38km complete and 100km still to race Rolland was reeled in by a yellow jersey group which soon split in two. Cyril Gautier (Europcar) won the intermediate sprint from the front group with 96km to go at which time that lead group comprised 22 riders. With 90km to go the lead group had 2:50 over the peloton with the day’s biggest climb looming. At this stage Froome had his whole team around him once again.
The gap was down to 1:30 when the climb began with 77km to go as riders from both the lead group and the peloton started to get shelled. Ten kilometres into the 22.4km ascent of the Col de la Croix de Fer, Pierre Rolland again moved clear on his own, building an advantage as the climb wore on.
With 65km remaining Rolland already had an advantage of a minute over the chase group and 3:15 over the peloton. Uran attacked in the break a few kilometres later, being followed by stage 16 winner Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Uran and Kruijswijk would soon be dropped, leaving Plaza to chase Rolland alone. The yellow jersey group, meanwhile, had been thinned to roughly a dozen.
An attack from Vincenzo Nibali in the final third of the climb prompted Froome, Valverde, Contador and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to follow, the remnants of the chase group being caught in the process. While many of the breakaway riders were dropped by the yellow jersey group, some Astana and Movistar riders were able to stay and help ride tempo for their respective leaders.
With 60km to race, Pierre Rolland had two minutes over the yellow jersey group. Alejandro Valverde attacked from that group with a little more than 5km to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer but there was no immediate chase. Valverde soon caught his compatriot Plaza but the two Spaniards were soon accounted for by a Wout Poels-led yellow jersey group.
In the closing stages of the climb, Chris Froome had a stone caught in his brake calliper, forcing the race leader to pull over to the side of the road to remedy the issue. Vincenzo Nibali appeared to take advantage of Froome’s misfortune, attacking while Froome began to chase back up to the group of GC favourites.
It took more than a kilometre for Froome to get back on terms but by that stage Nibali had opened up a considerable advantage.
At the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer, Rolland had a lead of a minute over Vincenzo Nibali and nearly two minutes over the yellow jersey group. Romain Bardet would again attack from that group near the top of the climb, setting off in search of more KOM points.
The descent off the Col de la Croix de Fer proved tricky, with Rolland, Nibali and Valverde all coming close to crashing on the same left-hand corner. But all made it through safely and by the bottom of the descent, with 40km to go, Rolland still had a minute on Nibali and 2:30 on the yellow jersey group.
No sooner had the descent ended than the next climb began. On the second-category Col du Mollard Nibali would erode Rolland’s advantage and by a kilometre into the following descent, with 34km to go, Nibali and Rolland joined forces.
That descent returned the riders to the start town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne with 19km to go, one kilometre before the day’s final climb began. Nibali attacked Rolland just two kilometres into the climb, powering on alone towards the summit, while Rolland drifted back to the remnants of the peloton.
Alberto Contador needed a bike change as the group of GC leaders approached the final climb, but he was soon back on terms.
With 10km to go Nibali had 1:40 over Rolland and 2:20 over a yellow jersey group which was being lead by Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) in support of Contador. Rolland was caught by the yellow jersey group when Nibali had 7.2km to go and at that stage, with half the final climb complete, there had been no real attacks from the GC leaders.
The yellow jersey group was down to just 11 riders when Quintana attacked with 5.2km to go. Froome, Valverde and Contador tried to follow but the two Spaniards soon dropped back to the group behind as Froome chased the Colombian on his own.
Vincenzo Nibali would power on to the finish alone, winning the stage by 44 seconds ahead of Quintana and 1:14 ahead of Froome. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished fourth at the head of a group of seven riders that finished 2:26 behind Nibali.
The results of today’s stage see Vincenzo Nibali move into fourth overall while Geraint Thomas (Sky) drops from that position to 15th, having finished 22 minutes behind Nibali.
Tomorrow’s final mountain stage of the 2015 Tour de France is only 110.5km long but is sure to be aggressive. In addition to the 29km-long Col de la Croix de Fer climb, the stage ends with arguably the most famous climb in the world of cycling: Alpe d’Huez.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow — it’s going to be an amazing stage,” Chris Froome said. “It’s the most iconic climb of this year’s Tour de France; it’s the final test in terms of the general classification.
“I imagine there’s going to be an absolutely amazing atmosphere up there.”
Froome will wear the yellow jersey for a 13th-straight stage (and a 14th day in total) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) will again wear the green jersey of points classification leader.
Romain Bardet’s aggression in the mountains in the past few days has seen the Frenchman take over the lead in the KOM classification while Nairo Quintana continues to lead the young rider classification. Movistar will again wear the yellow helmets of team classification leaders.
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