SAN DIEGO, July 24, 2015 – Colombian rider Nairo Quintana of Movistar finally played his cards in the high stakes poker game called the 2015 Tour de France against the yellow jersey on the final climb of Stage 19 Friday.
Chris Froome of Sky Racing held a three minute lead on Quintana for much of the race, but Quintana demonstrated his patience, waiting for the optimum time on the final climb of a long hard day to mount an attack on a summit suited to his talents.
Quintana was the big winner of the day, opening up a 30 second gap at the finish ahead of Froome, and gaining time on rivals Alberto Contador of Tinkoff Saxo and his teammate Alejandro Valverde. Froome put up a tenacious defense, and minimized any damage. He now leads Quintana by 2:38. Valverde remains in third, 5:25 back; Vicenzo Nibali moved up into fourth place, 6:44 back, and Alberto Contador dropped into fifth place, 7:56 back.
The breakaway attacks began the moment the starter flag dropped. The leaders were content to the group of 30 riders go. Pierre Rolland of Europcar surged ahead and maintained a lead for three-quarters of the race, hoping to give France another stage win and improve on his second place finish Thursday.
Rolland was caught by a rider with greater motivation, 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali of Astana. Nibali pushed past leader Chris Froome of Team Sky on the climb up the col de al Croix-de-Fer when Froome hesitated for a moment dealing with a brief mechanical incident as a rock got caught in his brake calipers.
Nibali made up time on the dangerous decent of Col du Mollard and he powered up the final climb on La Toussuire to salvage his 2015 Tour with a statement making stage win. In cycling, this is called “showing panache.”
Inspired by his stage win Thursday, Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale won the early climbs to move into first place in the King of The Mountains competition over Joaquim Rodriguez, a nice consolation prize for French fans. No one will catch Quintana for the best young rider jersey or Peter Sagan in the green sprinters jersey.
Before the 160 remaining riders in the 2015 Tour can turn on to the Champs Elysees in Paris Sunday, they all must navigate the final stage in the Alps Saturday. On Thursday, Quintana said Toussuire is a nice finish, but he prefers Alpe d’Huez. The iconic Alpine stage puts an exclamation point on the 2015 Tour in Saturday’s final competitive stage. It is the first time this climb has been left to the day before the ride into Paris.
The stage is only 68 miles, but it will be 68 miles worth of anticipation and drama. Barring any disaster, the Tour is down to two riders. Can Quintana make up the remaining two and a half minute gap on Froome, or will he end up being content with second place on the podium in Paris? Put the coffee on and set the alarm. This one is worth getting up early to watch. Coverage begins on NBCSN at 7 a.m. ET/4 a.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google
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