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The Tour de France always creates stories year after year. It excites, entertains and is of course brutal. The power of La Grand Boucle can carry you over the line, give you strength and determination, but most of all pride. So much admiration for Ineos Grenadiers today after a superb double-act secured a well-deserved stage win for a team that hasn’t achieved its aims but will finish the Tour with something to savour.
Finishing arm in arm after going in the break it is no surprise that the stage win for Ineos Grenadiers was filled with emotion. Determination after the death of director sportif Nico Portal on top of smiles at the line as Michał Kwiatkowski wins his first Grand Tour stage – thoroughly deserved for a man who’s sacrificed himself over the years to deliver Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal Tour success. To add further gloss to the Ineos performance they now have Richard Carapaz leading the King of the Mountain classification – a superb day for the team.
To lose their main man just two days ago it is testament to Ineos Grenadiers for trying everything they can to get in a break, go for stage wins and now maybe seal the polka-dot jersey. While it isn’t the result Dave Brailsford and co would have wanted today’s, stage served a reminder that the team still have talent within their ranks. While Tour de France dominance is over, the drawing board changes the team will return.
You must be made of solid stuff to go in the break three times over three days and not take a stage win. To his credit Richard Carapaz has done immense work to try after team disappointment but helping Kwiatkowski to his first stage at a Grand Tour is quite a moment. Carapaz enters the polka-dot jersey but can he keep it until Paris? With Bernal dropping out, the Ecuadorian has been given freedom to attack – it would be a mini triumph for Ineos if he could hold the jersey.
So many races in one stage today! Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma once again got through the day, Roglič just has one final time trial to get over before Paris. He will be the Slovenian rider happy with the gaps between himself and those behind him, Tadej Pogačar 57 seconds down shouldn’t trouble Roglič much. Pogačar though could still take the polka-dot jersey off Richard Carapaz but for sure he’s guaranteed the white jersey and second overall.
If there’s one rider you have to feel for it is Richie Porte suffering from bad luck once again. Just like his former Sky teammate Chris Froome, he got a flat front wheel on the Glières plateau, but thankfully he didn’t lose any time. He managed to claw back the leaders but it was not the bad luck you want in order to attack. The final time trial does offer up an opportunity for Richie Porte to sneak onto the podium if Miguel Ángel López has a bad day which he has in the past against the clock.
Great ride by Enric Mas who’s quietly ridden himself up to sixth overall but at the expense of both Adam Yates and Rigoberto Urán who lost significant amounts of time today. Every sprinter made the time cut today except André Greipel who abandoned to become the 27th rider to leave the race. Sam Bennett finds himself in green with three stages remaining – the mountains are behind him so surely; he will make Paris now with green on his back.
A mention must go to Marc Hirschi today. After winning one stage, getting in the break today made it clear that Team Sunweb were chasing more. If Hirschi hadn’t of crashed then his probability of winning the stage could have been higher. Disappointing to see him crash after over-cooking a descent but take nothing away from the young man he’s had a fantastic Tour.
Tomorrow will be an easy day for the GC men. Only one category 4 climb, expect Peter Sagan and Matteo Trentin to get in the break to put late pressure on Sam Bennett but overall Stage 19 should be one for the breakaway. It is a lumpy day not entirely flat but teams who have no stage wins to show should go in the break.
Another day down with Paris on the horizon. A sweet day for Ineos Grenadiers, no trouble for Primož Roglič and great to see Sam Bennett survive the time cut. Days like today remind us that cycling is such a brilliant sport to watch!