Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was the last man standing from a large breakaway to win solo atop Val Thorens on Saturday. Movistar pair Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa followed behind him to take second and third respectively.
Egan Bernal (Ineos) crossed the line in fourth, securing the yellow jersey, and becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour de France in the process. His win is the seventh win for the Ineos / Sky team in the last eight Tours. He finished on the same time as his teammate and defending champion Geraint Thomas.
“I cannot believe I am about to win my first Tour,” said the 22-year-old. “I just want to get across the line tomorrow in Paris, it’s going to be a big honor to win the first Tour for Colombia.”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who held the yellow jersey for so long through the race, finally cracked, falling out of the GC group with 13km to go and lost a spot on the podium.
After his team dictated the pace all the way up the 33km climb, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the line in eighth, eight seconds behind Thomas.
Alaphilippe lost over three minutes in the closing stretch of the climb and slipped from second to fifth on GC. Thomas took the Frenchman’s place in second on GC, with Kruijswijk taking third overall. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished on the same time as Kruijswijk to take fourth overall.
“It’s been an eventful year, a lot of ups and downs, mainly downs,” said defending champion Thomas after the stage. “I gave everything I could to try to win and for one reason or another, it didn’t work. But when a teammate wins, it makes it all the better. There’s part of me that would want to be on the top step, but at the same time, Egan [Bernal] is an amazing guy, he’s 22, who knows how many he’ll win”
Only a few hours after the dramatic curtailing of stage 19, Friday due to a mudslide on the stage’s final climb, a decision was made late that night to shorten Saturday’s stage to just 59km. With landslides blocking the early part of the planned 130km stage, the race was re-routed, and reduced to less than half the planned length.
Saturday morning saw torrential rain battering the day’s summit finish atop Val Thorens, with rain flowing heavily down the mountain road. However, as the weather brightened toward lunchtime, the race was given the all-clear by the race organizers.
— RIDE Cycling Media (@ridemediaHQ) July 27, 2019
With little over 25km of racing before the base of the 33.4km climb to the finish line in Val Thorens, the action sparked off immediately. After several breakaway groups merged, 29 riders including Nibali hit the base of the climb together, with Ineos controlling the pace in the peloton, 2:40 back.
The breakaway shattered immediately, with a group of five going off the front – Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Mike Woods (EF-Education First), Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), and Nibali. Midway through the climb, Omar Fraile (Astana) clawed his way back to the leaders to form a bunch of six.
Jumbo-Visma set the pace for nearly the entirety of the climb, with their mountain domestiques, George Bennett first and Laurens De Plus after, both taking 15km turns each. With Kruijwsijk starting the stage in fourth overall, just 12 seconds off the podium, the onus was on them to make the race hard for Alaphilippe and Ineos.
By the time Bennett finally cracked with 18km to go, the lead group of six were still 2:00 ahead and the peloton still relatively large. However, when De Plus took up the work, the pace upped significantly and riders began popping out the back. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and polka dot jersey wearer Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) were among the first main casualties.
After so many days of exceeding expectations in the mountains, Julian Alaphilippe finally cracked on 13km to go and started losing ground, fast.
De Plus continued shredding the group until he finally popped on 6km to go, and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Marc Soler, and Nairo Quintana (both Movistar) clipped off the front, though they were soon back under control by Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), who was looking to keep the race hard for his leader Buchmann.
With 3km to go, Nibali was now alone out front, around 45 seconds ahead of the 10-man GC group, with his five breakaway companions having faded through the second half of the climb. Quintana, Landa, Valverde, Buchmann, Kruijwijk, Thomas, Bernal and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-First) were the last standing in the GC group after Wout Poels (Ineos) and Barguil finally dropped.
Kruijswijk, now safe in the knowledge that he was third in the GC, didn’t try a late attack and instead marked Buchmann, who could have taken his spot on the podium if he were to gain significant time. When Landa and Valverde accelerated off the front of the group in the final kilometer, Buchmann and Kruikswijk didn’t respond and instead watched each other.
The Movistar pair chased hard after Nibali, but they left it too late, and the Italian came across the line alone to take the stage win and salvage something from his race after his GC ambitions crumbled.
“I suffered but it’s great to win,” he said. “It wasn’t easy for me after the fatigue of the Giro d’Italia. I tried to do the GC but exploded. There was a lot of criticism and I thought about going home but I fought to honor the Tour de France.”
With tradition dictating that Sunday’s final stage around Paris will see no attacking from the GC riders, today’s standings in the GC battle will remain unaltered. Bernal has also secured the white jersey for young rider, while Bardet did enough to hold on to the mountains jersey. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hangrohe) is still in green.