Costa Wins Stage 19 of Tour de France
Rui Costa (Movistar) has won his second stage of this year’s Tour de France and the third of his career. The Portuguese rider surged away from Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and soloed home to win Stage 19, a mountainous, 204.5-km ride from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, in 5:59:01. Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack-Leopard) finished second at 0:48, and his teammate Jan Bakelants finished third at 1:44. Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
From the beginning, the racing was aggressive. After a number of abortive sallies, Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol) got away, and at the base of the hors categorie Col du Glandon 40 riders linked up with the two leaders. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Izaguirre got clear, and Jerome Cousin (Europcar) joined them for a time. No one in the break was a GC threat, and the Sky-led peloton did not pursue. At the summit, Hesjedal and Izaguirre led the chasers by three minutes and the bunch by almost eight minutes.
On the Col de la Madeleine, Hesjedal dropped Izaguirre. Pierre Rolland (Europcar), who was in the break for King of the Mountains points, pursued the Canadian and caught him near the summit. He shot ahead, grabbed the points, and waited for Hesjedal. The pair stayed together on the descent, but Rolland dropped Hesjedal on the day’s third climb, the Category 2 Col de Tamie, and the Garmin-Sharp man dropped back to the peloton.
During the ascent of the day’s final climb, the Category 1 Col de la Croix Fry, rain began to fall. With Rolland only a minute ahead of the nearest chasers, Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) attacked and others joined him. Costa attacked from this group and linked up with Rolland with 19 km left.
Rolland was visibly struggling, and Costa dropped him. A four-man chase group formed behind the Movistar man, and it consisted of Kloeden, Bakelants, Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Belisol). Eventually, Nieve dropped out of the group, and Navarro joined it.
At the summit, Costa led Kloeden by about a minute. The Movistar man descended to the finish line and had plenty of time to celebrate. As the Portuguese rider approached the finish line, the rain stopped.
Behind, a GC battle took place. The maillot jaune was secure, but several of the positions below his were held by slim margins. Valverde, who wanted to move up from 11th place, attacked, and John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) joined him. The pair were reeled him, but the combustion reduced the maillot jaune group to Valverde and Nairo Quintana (both from Movistar), Gadret, Froome, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Valverde attacked again, and Gadret linked up with the Spaniard again. The maillot jaune group caught up to the pair, who finished at the head of the group.
Costa said that he owed his victory to good team work. "I'm really happy,” the Movistar man said. “First thing, I have to thank [Ruben] Plaza and [Jose] Rojas, my team-mates into the break, who helped me in everything. They left me fresh at the foot of the last climb so I only had to attack and win, and things went perfectly. It was basically the same strategy from the other day: I had to wait for the last climb and make a move. Fortunately, my legs responded as good as they could do. I think this victory will bring much calmness to the team. Since that day into the crosswinds, my goal was clearly going for stage wins; we had to forget about what happened, and we will really do, because I will remember this Tour by what happened afterwards: these two victories that make me so happy. Movistar is not only Nairo and me: there's Alejandro, always upfront, and a huge team helping us out, making a massive work you often don't see - we owe them everything we have. We'll be helping Nairo tomorrow - he's impressive. Let's see if we can get him safely into the podium. These two stages go to all the people supporting me from Portugal and all those ones always by my side."
In the overall, Froome leads Contador by 5:11 and Quintana by 5:32. Stage 20 will be the last attacking stage of the Tour. The mountainous, 125-km stage from Annecy to Annecy/Semnoz will feature six categorized climbs, including a Category 1 and an hors categorie ascent toward the end of the stage. Forty-seven seconds separate second from fifth on GC. Who will wind up on the podium with Froome? Contador? Quintana? Roman Kreuziger (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff)? Rodriguez? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!