204.5k From Bourg-D’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand
|Stage 19 heads north to Le Grand Bornand|
The first of three grueling stages in the Alps is behind them now. The riders in the Tour De France now have the five climbs of stage 19 ahead of them. 67 kilometers of climbing on the 204.5k course, after the double Alpe d’Huez roller coaster on Thursday, should put some real hurt into the riders’ legs.
Chris Froome defended his lead in the General Classification once again on stage 18. Now the Sky leader holds an advantage of over five minutes on his nearest rival, Alberto Contador. Contador struggled on the final climb up Alpe d’Huez, but was able to limit his losses and retain second place overall.
When the yellow jersey group finally fell apart in the last kilometers of the final climb, Nairo Quintana of Movistar was the only rider able to stay with Joaquim Rodriguez when the veteran climber attacked and went clear. The young Colombian pulled himself up from fifth place overall into a podium spot in third place. He trails second place Contador by 21 seconds. Quintana extended his lead in the young rider’s competition in the process. He now holds a commanding nine-minute lead over Michal Kwiatkowski in that competition.
|Stage 19 route|
Bauke Mollema struggled some more today and dropped from fourth overall to sixth. His teammate Ten Dam dropped from seventh overall to tenth.
Alejandro Valverde pulled himself back up to 11th overall today. A tiring Laurens Ten Dam is in his sights, just 17 seconds ahead in tenth place. Kwiatkowski and Rogers are also within 30 seconds ahead of Valverde. The Spaniard could get well into the top ten tomorrow, but a top five spot is probably beyond his reach now.
Jakob Fuglsang of Astana gained one more place. The Dane now holds seventh place overall. Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp really struggled on Alpe d’Huez and lost over 20 minutes. He dropped from tenth to 19th on GC.
Friday’s stage 19 from Bourg-D’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand features five categorized climbs over a 204.5k route. The first two climbs define the first half of the stage. They are the long Col du Glandon (21.6k averaging 5.1% gradient) and the relentless, 2000-meter high Col de la Madeleine (19.2k at 7.9%).
|Stage 19 profile|
Again, attacks will probably start immediately, as ambitious riders try to make the break on the first climb. Stage 19 could very well be another good opportunity for a break to succeed.
|Profile of the final climb of stage 19, the Croix Fry|
The three climbs that mark the second half of the stage are a little less brutal, but taken all together, it is enough for any rider to have a very bad day. Rain is in the forecast, too. The peloton lucked out with the mostly dry weather on Alpe d’Huez, but tense, cautious descending could return tomorrow with a thunder burst.
The final climb is the category 1 Col de le Croix Fry (11.3k at 7%). It tops out 13k before the finish line. Stage contenders will hope to be first over the top before the 13k descent to the finish at Grand-Bornand if they want to secure the win.
|The finale shows a short incline to the finish|
This is the penultimate opportunity for challengers to make their mark on the race. Saturday is another difficult climbing stage that ends on top of a new addition to the Tour’s mountain repertoire, Annecy-Semnoz. After that just comes Sunday’s flat run in to Paris where the sprinters will have their last shot. The GC battle will be decided Saturday. It is crunch time now.
Stage 19 will be a very difficult stage to pick a winner for. I am going to stick with one of the race favorites, because I think some of the guys in the top ten will try to gain time, and maybe get a stage win in the process.
MY PICK: Jakob Fuglsang