Ramunas Navardauskas has won the 19th Stage of the Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader's yellow jersey and is expected to take it home with him when the three-week cycling showcase ends on Sunday.
On Friday, the Lithuanian Navardauskas stole away from the pack late in the 208.5-kilometer (129.5-mile) northward trek from Maubourguet to Bergerac to finish in 4 hours, 43 minutes and 41 seconds. Just before crossing the line, Navardauskas looked back at the bunch of sprinters barreling in behind him, kissed his fingers and raised his arms in victory.
"I gave it all," Navardauskas said after the race on Friday. "My teammates worked really hard for me. I took a risk - you have to try - and it worked."
The sprinters finished behind Navardauskas in a pack seven seconds later: Germany's John Degenkolb, Norway's Alexander Kristoff, Australia's Mark Renshaw, and the Italians Daniele Bennati and Alessandro Petacchi. It did help Navardauskas that within the last few kilometers about a dozen riders crashed together while trying to turn right on the rain-slickened roads.
They included the Slovak rider Peter Sagan, who has the green jersey given to the race's best sprinter, and Jean-Christophe Peraud, third overall this year. However, because the crash happened in the last three kilometers, nobody who went down lost time in the title chase.
Podium in Paris
Navardauskas, a 26-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider, became the first Lithuanian to win an individual stage at the Tour de France, and also gave his team its first stage win of the year. In 2011, Navardauskas also rode for Garmin-Cervelo. That year, the squad that won the team time trial.
Friday's result did not change the top standings. The final shakeout will come Saturday, with this year's only individual time trial.
Vincenzo Nibali, who won Thursday's 18th stage, leads his closest rival by several minutes, but the quest for the last two podium spots remains tight. France's Thibaut Pinot is 7 minutes and 10 seconds behind, followed closely by his countryman Peraud, at 7 minutes 23 seconds back, who is followed even more closely by Spain's Alejandro Valverde, 7:25 out of first, 15 seconds out of second, and just two back from third.
German riders started strong, but the country has nearly no hope of making the podium now.
mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)