It was a matter of déja-vu for many on the road to Champagnole. A sprint was expected for the last time before Paris, but with twelve teams still without a stage win and a wide-open points competition, it was guaranteed to be hard to control.
TOUR REPORT STAGE 19
Départ: Bourg-En-Bresse > Arrivée: Champagnole
It’s become quite a rare thing to see a real fight for green with Peter Sagan around. By stage 19 of a Tour de France, we’re used to seeing the Slovakian resplendent in green with a comfortable buffer over second, but not this year. This year, Irishman Sam Bennett is playing Sagan at his own game and he’s winning.
Stage 19 was a race of two parts. Only Remi Cavagna peeled himself free of the weary peloton early on, intent on giving his Deceuninck-Quickstep team an easier ride to the finish. He no doubt hoped for some company, but he was all alone for 115km. A few riders attacked from the peloton shortly before the intermediate sprint and joined the Frenchman at the front of the race, but their lead was short-lived.
There was no rest once the race came back together. A flurry of attacks off the front culminated in a selection that would not have looked out of place in a spring classic. Crucially, the top three in the points competition all made it, Bennett glued to Sagan’s twitchy wheel.
The front group started attacking each other once the peloton called it a day, but they were all caught napping when Søren Kragh Andersen put in his scorching acceleration. The favourites exchanged glances rather than reacting with their legs and before they knew it, he was gone.
After 15 kilometres, the Sunweb rider had stretched out a lead of almost a minute and was able to enjoy his second stage victory at this Tour de France. Luka Mezgec of Mitchelton-Scott sprinted to second just as he had in stage 14 and a few seconds later, Bennett won the three-up sprint with Sagan and Trentin to incrementally extend his green jersey lead.
In the end it was a quiet day for much of the peloton. Along with their GC rivals, Bahrain-McLaren safely shepherded leader Mikel Landa to the finish, staying out of trouble at the front of the main group. They even enjoyed some recovery towards the end of the stage as sights were levelled at the final weekend.
Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.