- Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14 of the Tour de France at the summit of the treacherous Col du Tourmalet.
- Julian Alaphilippe pulled off another great performance, defending his yellow jersey and extending his lead over Geraint Thomas.
- After two strong days on key stages, Alaphilippe is now a serious contender for the overall victory in Paris.
Thibaut Pinot prevailed at the top of Col du Tourmalet on Saturday to win Stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de France, while Julian Alaphilippe once again extended his overall lead with an unexpectedly powerful performance.
Alaphilippe—who has led the Tour for 10 stages total and defended his yellow jersey for six days straight—attached himself to the main group and never let go, placing second on the stage even as the overall favorites got dropped one by one on the steep slopes of the Tourmalet.
One of the Tour’s most legendary climbs, the Tourmalet has appeared in the race 83 times but only served as a summit finish for the third time this year. With an average gradient of 7.4 percent over a whopping 19K, the Pyrenean mountain saves its hardest pitches for the top.
That’s exactly where Geraint Thomas, the returning champion who sits in second place on the General Classification, got left behind. The leading group, with Alaphilippe safely holding on, rode away from Thomas inside the final kilometer. He couldn’t bridge the gap and, as a result, crossed the line in eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot and losing a good 30 seconds to Alaphilippe.
Thomas’s deficit to the Frenchman was 1:26 at the beginning of the day. It now stands at 2:02, thanks to a six-second time bonus given to Alaphilippe at the finish.
Steven Kruijswijk, another overall favorite whose Jumbo–Visma team set the pace for much of the final few kilometers, crossed the line in third. He maintained third place on the GC, but actually lost two seconds to Alaphilippe.
Egan Bernal, the 22-year-old Colombian and Thomas’s co-captain on Ineos, gained some time by finishing with the front group, taking fifth behind Emanuel Buchmann and rising one spot on the GC. After a disappointing performance in Friday’s individual time trial, Bernal seemed to have ceded the Ineos leadership to Thomas. Now, it’s not entirely clear whom the British super-team will ride for going forward.
Earlier in the day, Tim Wellens, Vincenzo Nibali, and Élie Gesbert had lead the race in three-man break, fighting for points in the King of the Mountains competition. Wellens, the Belgian who has worn polka dots since Stage 3, defended his jersey on the Category 1 Col du Soulor. Nibali, the 2014 Tour champion who looked as though he might go for the climber’s jersey this year, will instead have to settle for hunting for stage victories.
The breakaway was caught a few kilometers before the foot of the Tourmalet, a hors catégorie (“beyond category”) ascent. Romain Sicard launched solo attack to base of the climb and became the first rider to start heading up its lower slopes.
Two other Frenchmen, Gesbert and Lilian Calmejane, started chasing, with Gesbert dropping both his countrymen to lead the charge up the mountain. He was caught with about 10K to go. Then Warren Barguil, who started the day at 6:39 behind in the overall rankings, attacked, leading the race for a few kilometers before getting caught about 5.5K from the line. The move earned him a jump from 22nd to 13th on the GC.
From there the pack was gradually whittled down, with more and more pre-race favorites falling behind every kilometer. Adam Yates, who lost time in Friday’s ITT, was dropped on both the Soulor and the Tourmalet, seeing his GC chances slip away. Nairo Quintana fell off with about 10K to go, with his Movistar team now likely to ride for Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
Alaphilippe, who started the race as a long-shot contender for the final victory, has increasingly looked like he might wear yellow all the way to Paris. With a tremendous climb coming right after an impressive win in the ITT, he has one more day in the Pyrenees to defend—and, as he’s done these last two days, extend—his overall lead.
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