Chris Froome recovered from a fall to extend his overall lead of the Tour de France on a rain-ravaged and crash-strewn 19th stage won by Frenchman Romain Bardet.
Froome of Team Sky slid off on the descent from the penultimate climb of the day and although he was able to continue, he had to struggle up to the summit finish at Saint-Gervais on a team-mate Geraint Thomas’ bike and crossed the line 36 seconds down on Bardet of Ag2r-La Mondiale in ninth place.
However, his closest rival in the general classification, Bauke Mollema who rides for Trek-Segafredo, also crashed and suffered even heavier time losses, which meant Froome ended up extending his overall lead from 3min 52sec to 4min 11sec.
Bardet has moved up to second place following a brilliantly timed attack and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana is now 4min 27sec down in third after being the second of the overall favourites to finish.
Adam Yates of Orica-GreenEdge didn’t crash but wilted on the 9.8km final climb and has dropped to 4min 36sec adrift in fourth, while Mollema has plummeted to 10th overall, 7min 42sec down, after losing more than four minutes.
Bardet, meanwhile, daringly decided to attack on the penultimate descent and not only stayed upright but pulled away from Lampre–Merida rider Rui Costa to claim the second Tour stage win of his career and climb three places in the general classification.
He said: “It was just my bike rider’s instinct. It wasn’t planned at all. At first I thought about GC (general classification), but when I caught Rui Costa, I knew I was going to go for the stage win. That was all that mattered at that point.”
Stage 19 started in dry weather conditions and the peloton crested the penultimate climb, the Montee de Bisanne, depleted but with all the overall favourites present. However, rain then began to fall heavily on the descent and with previously dry roads suddenly soaking, riders started skidding off at almost every corner.
Richie Porte was the first to tumble and only regained contact with the peloton after a frantic chase aided by his BMC teammates, but Mollema wasn’t able to catch back up after he fell with about 14km to go.Cannondale–Drapac rider Pierre Rolland also took a heavy fall skidding off the road but got back on the saddle and completed the stage.Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin was earlier forced to abandon the race with a suspected broken wrist. The Dutch man won stages 9 and 13 and now looks to be in
Froome by now was tiptoeing down the mountain, but when he crossed a white line with 11km to go, his back wheel slipped from beneath him and brought him down, wrecking his bike in the process.
Although he immediately jumped on Thomas’ bike and regained his place in the peloton, Froome didn’t fit the bike and consequently languished at the back of the bunch waiting for a replacement for the first half of the final climb.
With Team Sky’s car stranded down the road, Froome decided to continue on with Thomas’ bike and moved back to the head of the peloton, but when Porte, Dan Martin and Fabio Aru attacked in the closing kilometres, he couldn’t keep pace and only maintained sight of his rivals thanks to the chase efforts of his team-mate Wout Poels.
While Froome eventually finished 10 seconds down on Quintana, Yates lost 30 seconds and surrendered third place to the Colombian after cracking inside the final 5km, although the 23-year-old Briton dug deep to rally and limit his losses.
Froome can now all but seal overall victory if he survives tomorrow’s 146.5km 20th stage, from Megeve to Morzine in the Alps, which includes four categorised climbs.
Stage 19 result
1 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, 4:14:08
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, +23sec
3 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, same time
4 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, st
5 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +26
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +28
7 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
8 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, +36
9 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +53
13 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +56
23 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +4:26
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 82:10:37
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:11
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +4:27
4 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +4:36
5 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +5:17
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +6:00
7 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +6:20
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, +7:02
9 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +7:10
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +7:42