Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) won the 19th stage of the Tour de France on Friday.
Navardauskas attacked the peloton on the final climb, a Cat. 4, and then time trialed his way to the finish by himself for the final 13 kilometers of the stage.
A crash in the peloton with around 3km remaining took out several riders, including Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who was expected to contend for the stage win.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), who became his team’s sprinter to contend at the finish when Marcel Kittel fell off the back of the peloton on the final climb, took second at 7 seconds behind Navardauskas. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) placed third with the same time.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains in the overall lead entering the race’s final two days, holding a 7:10 lead over Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and a 7:23 advantage over Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
The 26-year-old Navardauskas won a stage at the Giro d’Italia last year but became the first Lithuanian to win a stage at the Tour on Friday.
“In all the last kilometers when I had a gap of 25 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, I didn’t know what was happening back there,” he said. “I was thinking that maybe the sprinters’ teams would chase me down. When five guys are working shoulder to shoulder [at the front of the peloton] it’s almost amazing to keep 20 seconds in front. I’ve no idea what happened, I just went as fast as I can, I kept my speed up and hoped that what happened to Jack wouldn’t happen to me. It was really sad to see that after he had been going for 200km to be caught in the last 10 meters. Until the last 10 meters I was afraid to turn back. I went as fast as I can so at the end I couldn’t say that I could have done better. I went with all my power and at the end I had nothing left in my legs.”
The 208.5-kilometer route from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac was plagued by rainy weather for most of the day, leaving rain-slicked roads that may have played a role in the crash late in the stage.
Garmin at the front
Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin) got himself in a five-man breakaway not long after the stage began. With 32km left and the peloton riding about 1:30 behind the escapees, Slagter decided to make a run for it.
He broke away from the front group and began his solo effort at the front of the race. Ten kilometers later, the four other breakaway riders — Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Arnaud Gérard (Bretagne), and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) — were swallowed up by the main pack.
With the lumpy stage profile that featured small hills throughout much of the route, Slagter continued to ride off the front. Slagter’s teammate Alex Howes attacked the peloton on a short downhill section ahead of the final climb, the 1.3km ascent of Côte de Monbazillac that averaged 7.6 percent.
Howes’ effort was short-lived, but another Garmin rider — Navardauskas — attacked the peloton on the Monbazillac. He caught Slagter just as the pair crested the climb and then broke free, starting what amounted to a 13km individual time trial.
Navardauskas kept the peloton at bay thanks to the quick downhill along with some turns and traffic circles at the base of the descent that slowed down the main field.
With 5km to go, Navardauskas — who won his Lithuania’s time trial championship in 2012 and 2014 — held a 22-second lead.
Back in the peloton, meanwhile, Cannondale pulled off the front after working to position Sagan for the stage win and made way for Tinkoff-Saxo. But with the pack steamrolling down the road to the finish line, a few riders slid out on a right-hand bend with 3km to go.
Several others, including Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r), hit the deck. Television cameras caught Sagan standing up on the road after the crash, seemingly waiting for a new bike.
“I don’t know why I’ve crashed,” said Sagan, admitting he was at fault. “I was in a good position … for crashing. I believe it’s because of the wet road. I couldn’t stop anymore. I was the first to crash. I’m not hurt. I just felt I fell on old injuries. But there’s nothing bad. I hope to make it to Paris, with the green jersey, which was my goal at this Tour de France.”
The Lithuanian winner said that a late attack had always been his team’s plan. “It was a plan from the beginning, and the whole team worked for this, and you could see before the climb the whole team was organized at the front of the peloton. Jack Bauer covered some moves and Sebastian Langeveld, all the team was around me and supported me as much as they could. I attacked up the climb, I caught Tom who gave me this pull and then I gave all my power and time trialled to the end.”
The Tour continues Saturday with stage 20, a 54km time trial from Bergerac to Périgueux.