After three weeks of hard work, the American-based Garmin-Sharp team finally has something to be proud about at this Tour de France as Ramunas Navardauskas won Stage 19 on Friday.
The Tour returned to the flat stages after a few days in the mountains where Vincenzo Nibali only further solidified his hold on the Yellow Jersey, falling into the familiar pattern of a stage. Early on a breakaway group emerged and rode ahead of the peloton for much of the day.
Slowly but surely they began reeling in the riders as the sprint finish was being set up at the line but one rider remained out front' Garmin-Sharp's Tom Slagter. Just as the peloton was getting set to catch him with a little more than 10 kilometers to go, Navardauskas jumped off the peloton and when they caught Slagter, Navardauskas was off and running. It was clear the team was going all-out for a stage win.
With trecherously wet streets, he kept on building a lead on the peloton before the advantage began disappearing but by then it was too late and Navardauskas crossed the line seven seconds ahead of the rest of the riders.
It was a great day for Garmin-Sharp, which lost its top rider, Andrew Talansky, to multiple crashes. They also nearly had a stage win but Jack Bauer was agonizingly passed by the peloton in his breakaway attempt just meters from the finish line. That wasn't going to happen to the Lithuanian Navardauskas on Friday.
Just inside the three kilometers-to-go banner, a crash hit the road, taking down a few prominent riders including sprinters Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan as well as top-five overall rider Romain Bardet. But because it occurred in the final 3k, they all received the same time as the second-place riders (because Navardauskas was clear when the accident happened).
As a result, there were no changes in the overall standings (at least that have an impact on the jerseys) as Nibali will take a massive seven-plus minute lead into the final two days of the Tour for what will be a coronation.
Photo of the day
Oh not much, just an elephant watching the riders go by at the Tour de France. No biggie.
Here it is, the final chance of the Tour to sort some time out and finalize the podium positions with the invidiual time trial. Certainly the position of Vincenzo Nibali is safe up top but the other two podium spots could still change but chances are both will be taken by Frenchmen in what has been a great tour for the home country.
The 54-kilometer sprint will have its fair share of climbs to test the riders but that shouldn't be an issue for the top contenders.
The other question is if anybody can beat Tony Martin, who showed his time-trial prowess earlier this Tour with a tremendous lone breakaway for a stage victory.