Final week recap: Heartbreak for the French but Colombia gets its first Tour de France champion

We seem to have said this in the previous two recaps but… what a Tour eh?!

The final week provided plenty of drama – and, if your French, plenty of heartbreak – and while the last two Alpine stages didn’t quite map out as planned, Egan Bernal was a worthy winner.

So with the dust continuing to settle on the best Tour in 30 years, here’s a rundown of the final week…

Stage 16 – Nimes > Nimes – 177km

Caleb Ewan repeated his feat of winning after the rest day with another strong performance in Nimes.

The Aussie debutant scored his second stage win, getting the better of Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen in the stifling heat of Southern France.

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While it was joy for Ewan, it was despair for Jakob Fuglsang, one of the pre-race favourites.

The Dane, who came into the Tour in fantastic form, crashed with 28km to go and was soon climbing into the Astana team car on en route to the hospital.

There was also an early crash for defending champion Geraint Thomas – his third of the race – but the Welshman didn’t appear to suffer any ill-effects and was soon back on his bike.

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Crosswinds with 50km to go meant the peloton upped the pace and with that went any chance of a break staying away.

The GC riders, fearful of being caught on the wrong side of any splits, had their men driving, content to allow the sprinters to battle it out.

As expected, Julian Alaphilippe kept the yellow jersey after coming in with the bunch.

Stage 17 – Pont du Gard > Gap – 200km

Matteo Trentin continued Mitchelton-Scott’s fantastic Tour with a solo win into Gap, giving the Aussie team their fourth stage win.

The Italian European road race champion set off on his own at the foot of the Col de la Sentinelle 14km from the end and never really looked like being caught despite a spirited chase by Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Kasper Asgreen.

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The day had started with a huge 34-man breakaway which included Trentin alongside the likes of CCC’s Greg van Avermaet, Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger of Bora Hansgrohe, Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) and stage six winner Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Merida.

They managed to get themselves a big gap before a more select group decided enough was enough with 30km to go and moved out front.

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Trentin seemed to surprise his breakaway companions with an attack and then forged on to stay away and take his third Tour de France stage victory after 2013 in Lyon and 2014 into Nancy. 

Stage 18 – Embrun > Valloire – 208km

A first excursion into the Alps brought with it a victory for the forgotten man of Colombian cycling, Nairo Quintana.

OK, he may not be THAT forgotten but it had hardly been a vintage Tour for the former Giro and Vuelta winner.

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But the Movistar man showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with, soloing away 7.5km from the top of the Col du Galibier. From there he turned in a vintage Quintana performance to secure the 20th Colombian win at the Le Tour.

His compatriot Egan Bernal also had plenty to celebrate – he attacked on the Galibier and moved himself up to second in the overall standings with an attack of his own 3km from the summit.

An attack from teammate Thomas followed and that put Alaphilippe in trouble before he was able to scramble his way to the top and then throw himself wholeheartedly into the descent to catch up with the Thomas group which also included yellow jersey rivals Thibaut Pinot, Emanuel Buchmann and Steven Kruijswijk.

Romain Bardet and Alexey Lutsenko made the most spirited effort of the early break to catch Quintana but it was to no avail.

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Bernal came home eighth on the stage, almost five minutes down on Quintana, but crucially 32 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group.

Stage 19 – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Tignes Col de l’Iseran – 89km

If you thought first Alpine stage served up plenty of drama, it was a mere aperitif compared to what happened on the run into Tignes, or, perhaps more accurately to the top of the Col de l’Iseran.

The weather Gods had clearly decided that this year’s Tour hadn’t quite been spectacular enough so thought dumping a biblical amount of hail on the route might just liven things up a bit.

That, plus mudslides, meant organisers ASO were forced to cut short the stage just after the main GC guys had crested the Iseran and that times at the top of climb would be taken as results with no stage winner declared.

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The main beneficiary was Bernal who went over the top more than two minutes up on the yellow jersey.

It was actually Bernal’s Ineos teammate Thomas who went first, 6.5km from the summit before the young Colombian took control 2km later and picked off his rivals and put Alaphilippe in real trouble.

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As the main contenders – minus Pinot who had abandoned earlier suffering the effects of a muscle tear sustained on the run to Gap – made their way down the other side in pursuit of Bernal and Simon Yates race officials announced the stage had ended.

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After all the initial confusion, Bernal moved into the yellow jersey, 48 seconds ahead of Alaphilippe and a minute and 16 seconds ahead of Thomas.

Bernal became the third Colombian to wear the maillot jaune after Victor Hugo Peña in 2003 and Fernando Gaviria last year.

Stage 20 – Albertville > Val Thorens – 59km

More bad weather meant that the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour was also cut short, although this time it was done with enough advance warning that all the riders knew where the finishing line was.

The fireworks we perhaps expected from the group of GC contenders didn’t really materialise although Alaphilippe’s misery was complete 13km from the summit at Val Thorens as he was dropped and slipped down the standings to fifth.

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It was Laurens De Plus on the front of the main group that turned the screw on the former yellow jersey wearer, the pace just too much for Alaphilippe to sustain.

The beneficiary was De Plus’ teammate Kruiswijk who himself moved onto the podium.

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The stage was won by Vicenzo Nibali who claimed his first victory at the Tour since he won the overall back in 2014.

The Shark of Messina managed to hold off late challenges from the Movistar duo of World champ Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, who finished 10 and 14 seconds

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Bernal rolled home with teammate Thomas to become the youngest winner of the Tour de France for more than a century.

Stage 21 – Rambouillet > Paris – 128km

Champagne glasses were clinked, Colombian flags were draped and Team Ineos felt that familiar feeling as the 2019 Tour ended as with it’s usual stage-of-two-halves into Paris.

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With the GC battle done and dusted the day before, it was left to the sprinters to battle it out on the Champs Elysee and, perhaps not surprisingly, it was Ewan who helped himself to a third win of Tour.

The Australian saw off all-comers on the famous cobbled avenue to cap what has been a quite-brilliant debut performance.

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The racing, as it traditionally does, didn’t get going until the race hit the French capital and despite attacks aplenty on the laps of the city centre, it all came down to the last 200m.

Ewan beat Groenewegen and Niccolo’ Bonifazio of Total Direct Energie with another late surge but there was no doubt the night belonged to another young gun – a certain 22-year-old from Bogata.

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So there we have it, the best Tour for 30 years is done and dusted… And the countdown to next year begins in earnest!

Main image by Alex Broadway, courtesy of ASO.

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