SAN DIEGO, July 25, 2014 – Stage 19 was supposed to be a gentle ride for the peloton on the day before the time trial stage, allowing the sprinters to come out and play.
Mother Nature had other ideas. The weather was miserable with storms and swirling winds. It made for tricky riding and slippery streets. On the way into the finishing town of Bergerac, the main contenders hoping to still pull off a sprint finish crashed. Game over for them today.
It was Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardauskas of Garmin-Sharp who made the smart move, staging a breakaway from the peloton with 20 kilometers to go. He stayed out of the way and became the first Lithuanian to win a stage at the Tour de France. It eased the pain of losing team leader Andrew Talansky and team member Jack Bauer just missing a stage win.
Navardauskas said everything went according to plan, putting an initial rider in the early breakaway group,Tom-Jelte Slagter. “Tonight, it’s champagne!” laughed Slagter after the stage.
“I was worried that the same thing would happen to me as it happened to Jack Bauer a few days ago,” said Navardauskas. “I knew I had 20 to 25 seconds lead for all those last ten kilometers or so but I didn’t know what was happening behind me really. When five top sprinters go full gas shoulder to shoulder, it’s amazing how fast they go and it’s hard to stay ahead of them.
“So I just went as fast as I could, hoping I wouldn’t end like Jack who was caught with 25 metres to go. I was afraid of turning back. I didn’t want to lose and tell myself later that I could have done better. I gave all the energy I had left,” said Navardauskas, and it was enough.
The group of riders who crashed were within the three kilometer safety zone, and did not lose any time. All of them got up and successfully crossed the finish line.
Vincenzo Nibali stayed safely out of the fray holding the yellow jersey with little to worry about ahead of the closing time trial. No change among the top ten riders today. See the entire classification here.
Two of the specialists’ jerseys are locked up. Rafal Majka is the King of the Mountains winner, and Peter Sagan is the green sprinter’s jersey winner. Pinot and Bardet will decide the white young rider’s jersey in the time trial. Tom-Jelte Slagter of Garmin-Sharp wins the red number as the most combative rider for leading the breakaway setting up Navardauskas for the stage win.
Stage 20 will determine who stands on the final podium in Paris. It is a 33 mile long time trial from Bergerac to Perigueux. The stakes have never been higher in what riders call “The Race Of Truth.” While a time trial specialist like Tony Martin will aim for the stage win, riders sitting in second through fourth place are only 15 seconds apart, with several good time trial riders like American Tejay Van Garderen hoping to gain enough time on them to get second or third place. Competitors will not hold anything back, and it will be a thrilling contest from start to finish.
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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