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An excellent Navardauskas makes a well-timed attack with 14km to go and manages to hold off the peloton to save Garmin’s Tour; a big crash brings down riders like Sagan and Bardet while Nibali retains the yellow jersey

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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EF EDUCATION - EASYPOST

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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25.07.2014 @ 17:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ramunas Navardauskas saved what had until now been a very unfortunate Tour de France for Garmin-Sharp when he took an impressive solo victory in stage 19 of the race. Having attacked on the final climb, the Lithuanian held off the diminished peloton after a big crash had brought down the likes of Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), with John Degenkolb beating Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in the sprint for second. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) avoided the carnage and defended the yellow jersey on the eve of the time trial.

 

When Andrew Talansky left the race, Garmin-Sharp lost all its purpose in the Tour de France as the team had been fully built around the American and with no real winner candidates on the roster, it seemed almost impossible for them to win a stage. However, Ramunas Navardauskas defied expectations in today’s stage 19 when he took an impressive solo victory, repeating the feat he achieved in last year’s Giro d’Italia when Ryder Hesjedal had dropped out of GC contention.

 

Knowing that it was their final chance to win a stage, Garmin-Sharp went into the stage with a plan to attack and they were aggressive right from the beginning. Tom-Jelte Slagter was part of the early break and dropped his companions with 30km to go.

 

While the Dutchman did an impressive job to keep the peloton at pay, his teammates prepared themselves for the final climb that was located inside the final 15km and was the perfect launch pad for attacks. Alex Howes made the first move on the descent before Navardauskas made his move on the ascent.

 

The Lithuanian powered clear and quickly bridged the gap to Slagter. The Dutchman took one final turn for his teammate before dropping back and from there it was a time trial for Navardauskas.

 

Behind, only Cannondale showed any interest in leading the chase and so the leader built up an advantage that reached 25 seconds. When Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front for Daniele Bennati, he started to lose ground though and the tables seemed to have been turned when Omega Pharma-Quick Step took over inside the final 4km.

 

Just as this happened, however, Navardauskas was saved by the wet conditions that made the roads extremely slippery. With less than 3km to go, a big crash brought down lots of riders, including Peter Sagan and Romain Bardet, and split the peloton to pieces.

 

Only a select group of riders remained ahead and now it was left to Niki Terpstra and Matteo Trentin to bring back Navardauskas for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. It was all too late though and with a few turns inside the final kilometre, they could go any faster than the Lithuanian.

 

Navardauskas even had plenty of time to celebrate his win while John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) again had to settle for second after beating Alexander Kristoff and Mark Renshaw in a sprint.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crossed the line a little later but wasn’t involved in the crash himself and duw to the 3km rule, he will lose no time. Hence, he goes into tomorrow’s decisive 54km time trial with a 7.10 lead over Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). While the overall win is not in danger, the podium spots are still up for grabs on the very long, rolling course in Southern France.

 

A transitional stage

After the three big stages in the Pyrenees, the riders started their long journey towards Paris by travelling 208.5km from Maubourget to Bergerac. The stage was almost entirely flat but with 13km to go, the riders reached the top of the day’s only climb, the Cote de Monbazillac whose 1.3km at an average gradient of 7.6% was expected to challenge the sprinters.

 

The 164 riders that finished yesterday’s stage took the start under a rainy and cloudy sky and prepared themselves for what was the last chance for many teams to win a stage. Hence, many expected a fierce battle in the early part of the stage but the breakaway got clear pretty early.

 

A 4-rider break

Cyril Gautier (Europcar) launched the first attack and after 5km of racing he was joined by Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne) to form a front trio. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) took off in pursuit and managed to join the breakaway after a few kilometres of hard fight.

 

The peloton didn’t slow down though and at the 10km mark, a dangerous 12-rider group with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) had gone clear. The peloton couldn’t allow this to happen and they quickly neutralized the move.

 

Taaramae bridges the gap

As the peloton slowed down, the gap had reached 1.10 and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) took off in pursuit. He made the junction at the 16km mark while Astana rode slowly on the front of the peloton.

 

At this point, the gap was 2.25 but now Cannondale showed their intentions. The Italian team hit the front and soon after they got some assistance from Giant-Shimano.

 

Three teams lead the chase

Those two teams allowed the gap to reach 3.35 at the 38km mark and Cannondale brought it down to 2.55 while Giant-Shimano have taken a small breather. The Dutch team went back to the front and Lotto Belisol also decided to join the work.

 

For a long time, Cheng Ji (Giant), Jean-Marc Marino (Cannondale) and Lars Bak (Lotto) kept the gap stable at around 2.50 while the peloton was pleased to have an easier day. With 116km to go, Katusha briefly joined the work with Gatis Smukulis but when the gap dropped to 2.05, they decided to slip back.

 

Elmiger wins the sprint

The gap even reached 1.50 before the peloton slowed down through the feed zone and at one point, it was 2.50. However, the peloton didn’t leave anything to chance and again started to accelerate.

 

Elmiger was allowed to take maximum points in the intermediate sprint while Mark Renshaw and Sagan moved ahead to take 6th and 7th from the peloton. Bak had now taken a small breather but soon after he was back trading pulls with Ji and Marino

 

Chasers blow up

The gap went down to 1.40 but then the escapees decided to go full gas. They managed to reopen their advantage to 2.30 but a fatigued Gerard was no longer able to contribute to the pace-setting.

 

Marino and Ji blew up and instead Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) joined Bak on the front. The riders were now riding under torrential rain and as splits started to appear, Astana briefly took over before they again left it to Bak to set the pace, now with some assistance from Elia Viviani (Cannondale).

 

Slagter attacks

When Viviani blew up, Fabio Sabatini took over for Cannondale and with 30km to go, they had brought he gap down to 1.10. This was the signal for Slagter to attack and he took off on his own, quickly opening a big advantage.

 

Bak was now getting assistance from Gatis Smukulis and Vladimir Isaychev from Katusha and his teammates Marcel Sieberg and Adam Hansen were also contributing. With 23km to go, the gap was only 50 seconds and Gerard had dropped back to the peloton.

 

Pinot stays safe on the descent

The peloton started to splinter in the wet conditions when Jan Bakelants launched an attack for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. He stayed ahead for a little while but as Maciej Bodnar started to ride hard for Cannondale, he was brought back.

 

On the descent to the bottom of the final climb, Alex Howes made an attack but as FDJ wanted to keep Thibaut Pinot safe, Matthieu Ladagnous and Pinot hit the front, bringing the American back. Meanwhile, Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) was one of several riders to get dropped.

 

Navardauskas makes his move

Omega Pharma-Quick Step hit the front with Tony Martin as they reached the bottom of the climb. However, the pace was not very fast and this opened the door for Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Jack Bauer (Garmin), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Navardauskas to attack.

 

While the former three drifted back to the peloton, Navardauskas continued on his own and quickly bridged the gap to Slagter. The Dutchman led his teammate over the top before drifting back to the peloton that was now led by Peter Sagan and Marco Marcato.

 

Marcato the lone chaser

Marcato started to chase on the descent while Niki Terpstra launched a surprise attack. However, Jack Bauer shut it down for Garmin and so Marcato went back to work.

 

Ladagnous and Pinot again hit the front on the descent but now the gap was 21 seconds. Bakelants made another attack but when FDJ had shut it down, Michal Golas started to chase for OPQS.

 

Big crash mars the finale

With 5km to go, Navardauskas was 25 seconds ahead but he started to lose ground when Tinkoff-Sxo took over with Nicolas Roche and Michael Rogers. However, the real difference was made when Bakelants, Terpstra, Trentin, Petacchi and Renshaw strung things out for OPQS.

 

With less than 3km to go, a big crash brought down several riders and only a select group was left to chase behind Navardauskas. All the work was left to Terpstra and Trentin and they failed to catch Navardauskas in time. While he celebrated his win, Petacchi led Renshaw out but it was Degenkolb who powered clear to take second.

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