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Egan Bernal poised to win first Tour de France as Nibali claims shortened Stage 20

Ineos holds top two spots on GC heading into Paris

The GC competition of the 2019 Tour de France sputtered to its completion on Saturday as yellow jersey wearer Egan Bernal wasn’t put under any pressure from his rivals on the landslide-shortened 20th stage, but Julian Alaphillipe was dumped from the podium. Vincenzo Nibali soloed to his sixth career Tour stage victory, attacking from a breakaway that included Michael Woods. Despite the thrills and chaos of the 106th edition, the race will have a predictable conclusion: Sky/Ineos with another Tour de France victory, seven in eight years via four different riders. For the second year running and the third time in eight years, Sky/Ineos will have two men on the final podium in Paris.

The Truncated Course

After yesterday’s shortened-on-the-fly stage, Tour organizers made the decision late Friday that the first half of Stage 20 would be removed because of landslides on the Cormet Roselend. Therefore, Saturday would be 59-km in length, with the ascent of Val Thorens, 33.4 km of 5.4 percent, the final summit finish.

Cancelled? More cuts?

Before the race started in Albertville there was concern that weather conditions on Val Thorens was too wretched and that the stage might be cancelled or the climb cut short 11-km.

Here was the top-5 overnight:
1) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Ineos) 78:00:42
2) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0:45
3) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Ineos) +1:03
4) Steven Kruijswijk (The Netherlands/Jumbo-Visma) +1:15
5) Emanuel Buchmann (Germany/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:42

The Breakaway

Once more Michael Woods was in the day’s breakaway, another big one that reached the foot of the climb with a 2:00 lead. Kruijswijk’s Jumbo-Visma led the peloton looking to vault the Dutchman onto his first Grand Tour podium.

Woods took off on the lower slopes with Nibali, Ilnur Zakarin and Tony Gallopin.

Val Thorens

Richie Porte was the first top-10 rider to succumb to the yellow jersey group’s pace. French champion Warren Barguil was looking to nick his place. Then the inevitable occurred: after an inspiring Tour de France Julian Alaphillipe cracked and dropped away from the peloton.

Nibali went solo with 12-km remaining. Simon Yates attacked from the GC group, drawing Barguil and Marc Soler. Then Nairo Quintana made a dig. None of the moves lasted. With 5-km to go, Nibali only had a 30-second lead. The only excitement in the last couple of kilometres was Mikel Landa attacking within the last kilometre to try to pluck the victory from the Shark of Messina.

Nibali hung on for the win. Alaphilippe dropped down to fifth from second on GC. Woods finished 36th on the day, moving up five spots on GC to 31st, which is his third best Grand Tour spot out of five races.

Feel for Nairo Quintana, as Egan Bernal is about to become the first Colombian Tour de France winner. Last year’s titlist, Bernal’s teammate Geraint Thomas, will be the runner up and Kruijswijk third.

Sunday is the procession into Paris for the final sprinter’s clash on the Champs-Élysées.

2019 Tour de France Stage 20

1) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Bahrain-Merida) 1:51:53
2) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +0:10
3) Mikel Landa (Spain/Movistar) +0:14
36) Michael Woods (Canada/EF Education First) +5:06
59) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +8:55

2019 Tour de France GC
1) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Ineos) 79:52:52
2) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Ineos) +1:11
3) Steven Kruijswijk (The Netherlands/Jumbo-Visma) +1:31
4) Emanuel Buchmann (Germany/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:56
5) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +3:45
31) Michael Woods (Canada/EF Education First) +1:20:40
82) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +2:56:11