Vincenzo Nibali takes his first stage win of the 2015 Tour de France at stage 19 on La Toussuire

Cover: Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Todd Hofert


Three stages remained in the 2015 Tour de France, each becoming progressively shorter in length. The 138km stage to La Toussuire today, the longest of the three and perhaps the most difficult, but falling short on the hype of its successor, the Stage 20 finale on the fabled switchbacks of Le Alpe d’Huez.

IAM Cycling, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire
IAM Cycling, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One would have thought that the general classification was pretty well defined coming into the final weekend, only disaster likely to upset the order that has been established. But if there ever were a stage for disaster, the Tour is it, as are the final days in the Alps after three weeks of surviving the world’s most difficult bike race.

Peter Sagan, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire
Peter Sagan, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The interesting fact of the day, according to InfoStrada Sports Twitter account, Peter Sagan has surpassed Sean Kelly in outright 3rd place for the most green jerseys in Tour de France history with 68. Only Erik Zabel (88) and Freddy Maertens (70) have more. Peter Sagan is only 25 years old and should move into second place behind Zabel at the end of this years Tour.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Joaquim Rodriguez picked up where he left off yesterday and attacked the first climb right out of the gate. He succeeded in gathering the ten points for the first man over the top. Along the way attacks from Valverde, Nibali, Contador, Barguil, and Mollema found Chris Froome behind the action painfully aware that this would not be an easy day in the saddle.

A group of 21 riders would establish itself on the descent and through the sprint point. The riders in the break were: Tanel Kangert (Astana), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Roman Kreuziger and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), José Herrada and Malori (Movistar), Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Losada (Katusha), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx), Pierre Rolland, Cyril Gautier and Romain Sicard (Europcar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Stef Clement and Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) chasing to include himself in that break, the race now just 10km from the start of the Col de la Croix de Fer.

The peloton hit the Croix de Fer 2:12 behind the stage leaders being led by Lotto NL-Jumbo and the welcome sight of Laurens Ten Dam tapping out the tempo on the front. The grupetto started to form.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire
Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pierre Rolland attacked his break-mates on the climb and back in the peloton, Astana came to the front to set up a move for Vincenzo Nibali. Astana’s pace would shed significant weight from the Yellow Jersey group. The breakaway all caught and passed with exception of Rolland and a chase of two, Ruben Plaza and Rigoberto Uran. Robert Gesink dangled off the back of the Yellow Jersey group. Geraint Thomas suffering a similar fate and Froome was left with only Wouter Poels to support him.

Alejandro Valverde launched an attack ahead of the banner marking 5km to the summit. His gap opened quickly and Wout Poels summoned what courage he had left to try and contain the move for his team leader. Robert Gesink was able to regain contact with the Yellow Jersey group and appeared to have recovered. Valverde continued to try and consolidate the gap or at least keep the pressure on the Sky led chase. The Movistar plan to go all in for the overall win was taking shape.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire
Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 La Toussuire Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chris Froome suffered a mechanical and in a show of poor sportsmanship, Vincenzo Nibali looked at him twice, recognized the race leader was stopping and immediately launched an attack. The real contenders honored the unwritten code of conduct and waited for the race leader to get back on his bike.

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Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pierre Rolland would lead the race over the summit followed by Nibali at 1:06 and Romain Bardet attacked the Yellow Jersey group in hopes of resting the Polka Dot jersey away from Joaquim Rodriguez who had fallen back to the peloton. Chris Froome grabbed sixth place points.

Nibali continued his pursuit of stage leader Pierre Rolland on the descent of the Croix de Fer and up the Col du Mollard. He would catch him with dirty hands shortly after they crested the climb, the Yellow Jersey group now 2:00 behind. Romain Bardet made his move off the front of that group attempting to consolidate his position in the mountain points competition.
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Movistar was straight back to the front on the start of the final climb. Rolland and Nibali had 1:45 in hand on the peloton. The tempo in the select group accompanying the Yellow Jersey was high and the group began to thin out as expected. Nibali attacked Rolland with 16km left to the summit finish, Rolland was cooked.

Status quo up the climb, Chris Froome and Sky benefitting from the Nibali move, the pressure to contain it now on the shoulders of those riders such as Contador and Gesink trying to defend their 5th and 6th place GC standing, the gap between Nibs and the Yellow Jersey group of 11 riders 2:23 as they rode beneath the 10km to go banner.

Quintana attacked. Froome forced to chase with Contador and Valverde on his wheel. Froome’s pace cracked them both. Gesink, who was dropped came back and rode past Valverde and Contador, Quintana still prying open the gap to Froome. Nibali’s gap was shrinking.

Vincenzo Nibali would hang on despite the barrage from behind. His stage win and the subsequent gap moved him up the general classification into fourth place overall jumping Robert Gesink, Geraint Thomas and Alberto Contador. Nairo Quintana finished second at :44 seconds and Froome came in third :29 seconds behind Quintana. Pinot, Bardet, Valverde and Mollema would lead the remainder of contenders home.

The fatigue of defending the Yellow Jersey started to show in Team Sky leaving Chris Froome isolated and forced to defend himself. Will it be too little too late for the others? Froome will take his 2:38 margin into the penultimate stage to Alpe d’Huez tomorrow and barring a really bad day for the leader it should be enough for him to ride the Yellow into Paris on Sunday. Regardless of the order at the top of the famed Alp, expect more aggressive last ditch effort racing tomorrow.

It was a day where I had to survive. I started with bad sensations and cramps all day so I had to save energy as much as I could. I sent Majka to pull at the front and he set the pace and it calmed a bit down. Things turned out quite well. Nibali is now ahead in the GC and I congratulate him for that. It’s true he did a very good job today. In what regards me, I think it deserves more merit to have reached this point than previous victories. I had strong cramps throughout the day and I was praying to make it through. Tomorrow will be another day.”
Alberto Contador, Tinkoff-Saxo

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 Top 10

  1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
    ASTANA PRO TEAM 04h 22′ 53″
  2. Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
    MOVISTAR TEAM 04h 23′ 37″ + :44
  3. Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
    TEAM SKY 04h 24′ 07″ + 1:14
  4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) #21
    FDJ 04h 25′ 19″ + 2:26
  5. Romain Bardet (FRA) #12
    AG2R La Mondiale 04h 25′ 9″ + 2:26
  6. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
    MOVISTAR TEAM 04h 25′ 19″ + 2:26
  7. Bauke Mollema (NED) #141
    TREK FACTORY RACING 04h 25′ 19″ + 2:26
  8. Robert Gesink (NED) #131
    LOTTO TEAM NL – JUMBO 04h 25′ 19″ + 2:26
  9. Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
    TINKOFF-SAX 04h 25′ 19″+ 2:26
  10. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) #66
    BMC RACING TEAM 04h 25′ 19″ + 2:26

Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 19

  1. Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
    TEAM SKY 78h 37′ 34″
  2. Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
    MOVISTAR TEAM 78h 40′ 12″ +2:38
  3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
    MOVISTAR TEAM 78h 42 ‘ 59″ + 5:25
  4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
    ASTANA PRO TEAM 78h 44′ 18” + 6:44
  5. Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
    TINKOFF-SAXO 78h 45′ 30” + 7:56
  6. Robert Gesink (NED) #131
    TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 78h 46′ 29” + 8:55
  7. Mathias Frank  (SUI) #181
    IAM CYCLING 78h 50′ 13″+ 12:39
  8. Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
    TREK FACTORY RACING 78h 50′ 56″ +13:22
  9. Romain Bardet (FRA) #82
    AG2R La Mondiale 78h 51′ 42″ + 14:08
  10. Pierre Rolland (FRA) #121
    Team Europcar 78h 55′ 01″ + 17:27

Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 19

Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM):  Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar

Stage 19
Date: 24 July, 2015
Start:  Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Finish: La Toussuire – Les Sybelles
Distance: 138 km

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 route

Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 route map

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Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 profile

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Tour de France 2015 Stage 19 climbs

15.5 km – Col du Chaussy (1 533 m) (D77-VC)15.4 km de montée à 6.3% – catégory 1
83 km – Col de la Croix de Fer (2 067 m)22.4 km de montée à 6.9% – catégory H
103 km – Col du Mollard (1 638 m)5.7 km de montée à 6.8% – catégory 2
138 km – LA TOUSSUIRE (1 705 m)18 km de montée à 6.1% – catégory 1

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Maps courtesy of Le Tour de France / © A.S.O.