Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Tour de France 2019: Vincenzo Nibali wins Stage 20 while Egan Bernal confirms overall victory

Jack Elton-Walters
28 Jul 2019

Vincenzo Nibali held off the advances of the GC group to cross the line first on Stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won Stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France after going solo on the slopes of the climb to Val Thorens. Behind him, Egan Bernal (Team Ienos) did all he needed to, which wasn't much, to ensure overall victory.

The stage was drastically reduced from three categorised climbs over 135km to just the final climb and a total distance of 59km due to adverse weather in the mountains.

Despite the shortening of the stage, it was still an entertaining day watching the virtual top 10 change - except the yellow jersey which never looked like changing hands.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was distanced a long way from the finish line and tumbled down the top 10 as a result.

A short day to decide three weeks of racing

Reduced from a 135km route containing three high mountains down to just 59km with the same summit finish, Stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France fell victim to circumstances out of anyone's control.

The weather had already caused the cancellation of the previous day's stage while the riders were out on the road so at least this change was made in advance of the start.

Barring time-trials, this could well be the shortest race day of the season for the peloton and that was reflected in the frenetic pace right from the drop of Christian Prudhomme's flag.

Many riders tried to get in the day's breakaway but it took a while before anything stuck. Some big names were present in early moves including Nibali, Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) and Mikel Landa (Movistar).

We'd been treated to 18 and a half stages of something different but come the start of Stage 20 the Tour took on a familiar appearance and was the worse for it: Team Ineos jerseys lined out on the front of the peloton with the yellow of Bernal latched on the back of the train.

Ahead, the breakaway split into two groups for a bit of motorway through-and-off towards Moutiers.

The flat part of the stage was ticked off in double quick time and before long the riders were on the 33km ascent to the ski station at Val Thorens.

Deceuninck-QuickStep joined Team Ineos at the front of the main bunch and put all legs to work to defend Alaphilippe's place on the podium. He started the day in second having lost the jersey the day before during the confusion of the cancelled stage.

Of anyone in with a shout of bettering their place in the top 10, the onus was on Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) to attack his rivals.

Podium or top 10, there's not really anything in between. Top 4 - didn't do enough to make the podium; top 6 - just say top 10. Kruijswijk started the day fourth and just 12 seconds behind Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos). Better to attack and drop from fourth to seventh than watch your chance of a podium finish roll over the line just ahead of you.

Jumbo-Visma clearly had this in mind as they took to the front in numbers on the lower slopes of the final climb.

At the front of the race, Nibali, Michael Woods (Education First), Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) were 2:21 ahead of the yellow jersey group with 28.2km to go.

Between the lead group and the fourth containing the yellow jersey was another led by Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), while Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was riding alone in no man's land. De Gendt had been trying to shepherd teammate Tim Wellens up the climb to the KOM points and the chance to take the polka dot jersey back from Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).

The peloton had De Gendt in sight when he pushed on again to stay ahead for a little while longer.

The Jumbo train steamed past the shelled remnants of the early break, those who couldn't keep up with the riders out front, and despite the strength of domestiques George Bennentt and Laurens De Plus, the men in yellow and black would have benefited from the power of Wout Van Aert, who crashed out on Stage 13's time-trial.

Dylan van Baarle took it up on behalf of Team Ineos but Jumbo-Visma must have considered his efforts to slow the peloton unwelcome as Bennett, cheeks puffing with the effort, came back to the front.

Under the 20km to go banner Romain Sicard (Total Direct Engerie) thought he'd have a go to close the 1:58 gap to the head of the race as the efforts of Jumbo-Visma had done little to reduce the deficit.

Into his lowest gear and barely moving forward, Bennett's day was done with 18km to go, the fate of his teammate's chances now in the hands of others.

At the front of the race Omar Fraile (Astana) made it across to the lead quartet to make it a quintet, while dropping behind the peloton Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) was summing up his lacklustre race by losing more time to his GC rivals.

Perichon was the first to be shelled from the Nibali led group but the bigger news was coming from behind where Alaphilippe and Bardet were both being distanced by the yellow jersey group. Thanks to Enric Mas, Alaphilippe overtook Bardet and was still in virtual second place overall, at least for a couple of kilometres.

Determined to get something out of this race, Nibali went solo just over 12km from the finish line. Back in the GC group, De Plus had helped Kruijswijk gain a place on the podium by setting a pace that Alaphilippe couldn't stick with but this had the unwelcome side effect of taking away the necessity for Kruijswijk to attack Thomas.

Under the gantry that welcomes visitors to Val Thorens, well over 6km from the actual finish line, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) went in search of his third stage win of the race. Warren Barguil (Total Direct Energie) and Marc Soler (Movistar) went off in search of Yates and as they reached his wheel Nairo Quintana launched a bid to catch up with his Movistar teammate.

Soler went solo to try and catch a fading Nibali while his short-term breakaway partners all dropped back to, and in some case straight out the back of, a vastly reduced GC group now led by Bora-Hansgrohe.

Re-energised and only 3.5km from a stage win, Nibali upped the pace and held an advantage of 39 seconds over Soler and a further seven over those who could spoil his day. Soler was caught but on Nibali rode, desperate to cross the line with his arms in the air.

It was a tense final few hunded metres as attacks from behind looked like they could upset Nibali's day.