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Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) continued Jumbo-Visma’s domination with a striking solo win on stage 19 of the 2022 Tour de France. The Frenchman attacked the embers of a brave three-man break containing Jasper Stuyven and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) just as it was caught within the final kilometre.
Laporte topped Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Jasper Philipsen, who won the bunch sprint over Alberto Dainese (Team DSM), to become the first French stage winner of the 2022 Tour de France. It was a bitter disappointment for the pure sprinters given dearth of opportunities in this year’s race.
“I still can’t believe I’ve won,” Laporte said. “The team really trusted me today and Wout told me that today was for me after we had a great Tour.
“Our first goal was to make sure Vingegaard was safe with three kilometres to go. Then just before entering the last kilometre I saw that there was a gap and I made the jump to the front group. I can’t believe I could finish it off.”
Stuyven, Laporte and Wright held off the peloton with a striking stubbornness, lingering 10 seconds ahead of the peloton for the final 10km. With one kilometre to go, Wright made a bold attack and for a moment seemed like he might take the stage victory.
However, the counter-attack came from Laporte, who managed to establish a gap over the peloton in the final 500m and sprinted ahead to take stage victory as Stuyven and Wright were absorbed by the group.
“I’ve been happy even if I haven’t had any results because I’ve been working hard for the team. I have always given everything and today I got my chance. It is an exceptional day in an exceptional Tour.
“The fact that it is also the first French victory makes it extra beautiful. I’m very happy, also for my family and the French public, who I hope are happy too.”
The ever-combative Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) sprinted up the final rise, latching onto the wheel of the sprint and managed to gain five seconds over race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and third-placed Geraint Thomas (Ineos) – but it was just a drop in a bucket 201 seconds deep.
With the mountains classification wrapped up by Vingegaard, the green jersey sealed by Wout van Aert, and Pogačar facing a nearly unassailable gap in second overall, Jumbo-Visma could have sat back and let another team take the spoils.
But the Dutch team were in no mood to give gifts and Van Aert burned what matches he had left after his superhuman ride on Hautacam to nail back the breakaway and set Laporte up for another win for the team.
How it unfolded
Stage 19 of the Tour de France departed without Movistar’s GC contender Enric Mas, who suffered terribly on the final mountain stage to Hautacam and tested positive for COVID-19 – the 16th rider to leave with the virus – while lying 11th overall.
With 188.3 kilometres ahead, the peloton left Castelnau-Magnoac for a long, hot day in the saddle en route to Cahors and, after a demanding few days in the Pyrenees capping off one of the fastest Tours in history, the sprinters’ teams fought to keep any breakaways from getting too much time.
The first attackers, Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mikkel Honoré (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) could never get much more than a 90-second lead.
Simmons led the escape across the line at the intermediate sprint in Auch after 38.4km, while Philipsen snatched a few points over Van Aert from the peloton behind.
Getting stopped by the Derniere Revolution climate action group’s third time blocking the route to draw attention to their cause – government regulations for more energy-efficient buildings – didn’t help the escapees’ momentum. After a brief stoppage, the gap reached its maximum and then began falling as Lotto Soudal, Alpecin-Deceuninck, Team DSM, Team BikeExchange-Jayco and TotalEnergies kept the pace up.
With 130km still to go, the gap came down to only a dozen seconds and Politt sat up. But a surge from the remaining riders kept the breakaway going. When it came to the Côte de la Cité médiévale de Lauzerte, the first of two climbs en route, Simmons attacked with Mohorič, but the Slovenian succumbed to the American’s attack with 48.4km to go and sat up.
The climb caused some splits in the peloton around the same time, with the first half at 40 seconds and the anticipated crosswinds making the chase difficult.
All of the favourites were in the front until Tadej Pogačar punctured. It was almost fortunate that nearly all of his teammates were in the second group, and he was picked up by Mikkel Bjerg, latched onto the convoy and managed to get back in.
With a bend in the road heading onto wider roads and a change in the wind, the bunch slowed down and the gap to the second peloton began weaving its way through the convoy to rejoin. Simmons survived to take the point on the Côte de Saint-Daunès and was then caught with 35km to go.
On an unclassified climb, Pogačar made a cheeky attempt to jump away but was immediately nailed back by Van Aert. On a short, unclassified climb, Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ) countered and while he could not hang on, he sparked a move by Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
Powered by a brisk tailwind, the trio gained half a minute and TotalEnergies, BikeExchange, Lotto Soudal and Alpecin were at panic stations trying to close them down with 10km to go. It wasn’t until Van Aert came forward with 5km to go that the three escapees came into sight, inspiring Lotto Soudal to surge. Bodnar nailed the gap back and Laporte jumped across. Wright attacked under the red kite, Stuyven surged but only succeeded in pulling Laporte up to Wright and then the Jumbo-Visma rider powered away to victory.