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Tour de France 2018: Roglic wins Stage 19 to move onto podium, Thomas keeps yellow

Joe Robinson
27 Jul 2018

A brave descent from Roglic sees him take the stage and time on GC while Thomas defends lead

Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) took the victrory on Stage 19, the final mountain stage of the 2018 Tour de France into Laruns. Distancing his rivals on the final descent of the Col d'Aubisque, Roglic crossed the line with a time gap that now moves him onto the podium.

This push from Roglic was enough to knock Chris Froome (Team Sky) off the third step, effectively ending his Tour defence for good.

Behind, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) finished just 19 seconds behind Roglic in second place, comfortably defending his yellow jersey with just the matter of an individual time-trial left to ride.

The action all began with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) attacking on the Col du Tourmalet with over 90km left to race. This caused nervousness in the yellow jersey group as they tried to keep the two capable climbers within range.

They were eventually caught on the Col d'Aubisque by a group led by Thomas. Multiple attacks were launched by Roglic and Dumoulin but none were able to crack the Welshman, with all the GC favourites cresting the last climb together.

Tomorrow, the race heads for its final day of true racing, a lumpy 31km individual time trial from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette.

The final mountains

Today was the final opportunity. If anybody harboured ambitions of snatching the yellow jersey off of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) they had to attack today. With only a flat time-trial and the ride into Paris left, Thomas's two minute lead looked solid unless he suffered in today's Pyrenees.

Movistar, the LottoNL-Jumbo duo of Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) needed to try something. If not, they were simply handing yet another Tour title over to Team Sky.

Luckily, today's parcour was conducive to attacking. At 200.5km in length, the day took on three classic Pyrenean ascents, the Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and finally the Col d'Aubisque, the final mountain of this year's Tour.

The Aubisque, at 16.9km and 4.9%, would not be hard enough to shake off the metronomic motion of the Team Sky mountain train on its own. If anybody wanted to enter the history books they needed to attack on the Col du Tourmalet. 

The Tourmalet is a Tour legend. It's the most used mountain at the race being featured for an 82nd time this year. Rising above 2,000m in altitude it's a stern test that always filters the weak.

The start of the stage was frantic. Many teams saw this as a last-ditch opportunity for a stage victory while GC riders wanted teammates up the road as potential allies later in the day.

Many attacked causing the speed of the peloton to be high, stretching the bunch into a long line. Eventually a group of three escaped followed by a larger bunch including Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors). 

In the break, Jungels was joined by teammate Julian Alaphilippe, on the hunt for more mountain classification points. Also present were Daniele Bennati and Andrey Amador (Movistar), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) and Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic).

This group forged a lead of over three minutes but not without difficulty. Behind, Katusha-Alpecin had cracked the peloton whip increasing the pace. For who? They only had Ilnur Zakarin's 12th place to defend, but seemd willing to put everything into the chase.

Eventually the break hit its rhythm and with 140km to go built its lead to over three minutes, which it maintained onto the Col d'Aspin. 

Behind, things weren't looking good for green sprinter's jersey wearer Peter Sagan who was struggling off the back. The toll of his crash from earlier in the week was beginning to tell.

He was routinely pouring entire bidons of water over himself to keep cool as he bounced all over his bike. His hips were twisted to help his injured right side and he was flanked by two teammates.

Ahead, Alaphilippe made certain of keeping his polka dot jersey all the way to Paris by taking maximum points on the Col d'Aspin – provided he finishes the race, obviously.

The attacks we were all waiting for duly arrived on the lower slopes of the Tourmalet as Romain Bardet and Silvain Diller (AG2R La Mondiale), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Zakarin all attacked. Clocking under the 100km mark, the gap to the break had dropped below three minutes with the accelerations behind.

Dillier sat up following his work setting up Bardet. So did Wout Poels in the peloton behind, falling away from the head of affairs leaving just five Team Sky riders to control the attackers. The gap was now 50 seconds with much of the Tourmalet to climb.

By now, the break had been reduced to just seven which included Alaphilippe, Barguil, Nieve, Gorka Izagirre, Tanel Kangert, Adam Yates and Andrey Amador. 

Behind them, Landa attacked from the chase group and alongside Rafal Majka built a lead of two minutes on the Team Sky-led peloton by the summit of the Tourmalet, by which point Bardet had joined them.  

With 60km left to race, the yellow jersey group had been whittled down significantly to just 29 riders, and were now 3 minutes behind the leading group of Landa and Bardet. It was going to be a straight drag race to the foot of the final climbs. 

Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) then bobbed to the fore ahead of Team Sky. Bouncing out of the saddle, the rangey figure raised the pace to try and close in on Landa in order to protect the GC spots of Roglic and Kruijswijk. He wasn't making much of an inroad, though, especially when Landa and Bardet attacked again just before the next climb, the Col des Borderes.

It did whittle down the yellow jersey group still further, though, including seeing off Sky's Jonathan Castroviejo to leave Thomas with just three teammates, one of which was Froome.

As Gesink went bust, Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski took over to try and peg back the break. Jersey open, he looked to be struggling with the heat. 

The next major move from the Thomas group came from Kruijswijk, who rolled the dice to see who he could put under pressure.

Landa, meanwhile, was a man on a mission, attacking the lead group with 14km of the Aubisque still left to climb. 

Behind them, knowing this was his last chance, Dumoulin attacked. Thomas and Roglic followed with Bernal, Martin and Froome also managing to cling back on. The move distanced Kwiatkowski in the process leaving Team Sky with just the three riders.

Again Dumoulin accelerated but Thomas was able to match him bringing everyone else back with him. Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) was next to go. With the Irishman not a true GC threat any more, Thomas let him go.

Sky's last remaining domestique finally popped when Bernal could give no more, which triggered Roglic to attack. Now it was down to four-time Tour champion Froome to turn domestique hunting down the Slovenian time trial specialist. The yellow jersey group was now just four riders with over 30km left to race.

Make that three as Froome then began to struggle, dropping off the back of the lead group. This was down to the pace set by Roglic, who had caught up to teammate Kruijswijk. It was advantage LottoNL-Jumbo.

Tongue wagging like a dog, Froome was fighting to regain control but to no avail. He had been caught by the young Bernal, such was his struggle.

Bernal buried himself to bridge Froome back across, managing to re-find the back of the yellow jersey group which had swelled as much of what remained of the day's breakaway riders were pulled back in. Then Bernal found the strength to head to the front in order to help pace his team leader. 

By now, the Landa/Bardet group was in sight. The tank now fully empty, again Bernal cracked and again Roglic attacked passing Landa and Bardet and gapping Dumoulin and Thomas who were struggling to catch the former ski jumper.

The only rider still ahead was Majka who had gone off alone in the lead. After a brief regrouping behind, Roglic and Bardet again attacked which forced Froome to chase in aid of Thomas. But Froome couldn't do the business which made Dumoulin take up the chase, now fearing his own position on GC.

Finally they crested the Aubisque, Majka now just a handful of seconds clear of the remaining GC favourites. The 20km descent to the finish promised to be fast and furious, and certainly an opportunity for the brave.

And Roglic proved to be the bravest of them all, building a lead then turning to full time-trial mode to maximise the gap into Laruns and lift himself into a podium position with just two stages of the race to go.