Froome holds on to yellow jersey as Costa wins 19th stage
RUI COSTA won the mountainous 19th stage of the Tour de France with a solo breakaway on the final climb, while Chris Froome stayed in yellow as expected attacks never materialised yesterday.
Costa secured his second stage win after catching Frenchman Pierre Roland about a quarter of the way up the fourth and final major ascent of Col de la Croix Fry.
“A lot of Portuguese fans have supported me through this Tour and I want to thank them,” Costa said.
German veteran Andreas Kloeden was second, 46 seconds behind, and Belgian Jan Bakelants was 1: 44 back in third.
Froome and his main Tour rival Alberto Contador were still some distance behind Portugal’s Costa when he clinched his third career Tour stage win.
Contador was tipped to attack Froome on the long downhill finish, but perhaps because of the rainy conditions, the attack never came.
Froome and Contador rolled over the line together, several minutes behind Costa, and Froome maintained his lead of 5: 11 over the Spaniard, becoming the second British rider to win the race after Bradley Wiggins last year.
He has only today’s 20th stage from Annecy to AnnecySemnoz to claw back his large deficit to Froome, who will probably look to stay safe so he can match Wiggins’ feat tomorrow.
Colombian climber Nairo Quintana is 5:32 behind in third overall.
Froome was not attacked up the first of the two big HC climbs to Col du Glandon. They are known as HC, Hors Categorie, because they are considered so tough they are beyond classification.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal and Spaniard Jon Izaguirre opened up a lead of more than seven minutes over the yellow jersey group once they went over the top of Glandon.
As Hesjedal and Izaguirre reached the second HC of Col de Madeleine, the peloton was 10 minutes behind. Hesjedal forged ahead before being caught and overtaken by Frenchman Pierre Rolland.
The stage then undulated through the valleys and up several big hills, including the Category 1 climbs of Col de l’Epine and Col de la Croix Fry, then ended with a sharp descent to the ski resort of Le Grand Bornand.
Rolland maintained his lead up l’Epine – zooming up the 7.3km in just under 19 minutes.
The main pack was still about 10 minutes back when Rolland approached the last climb. Three of Froome’s Sky teammates found the going too hard, however. Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas drifted off.
Costa, who won Tuesday’s medium- mountain stage, charged after Rolland up Fry, a climb of about 11km.
Despite his two stage wins, Costa is down in 24th place and 42:16 behind Froome.
Meanwhile, Froome sat on Contador’s wheel. The Spaniard had Saxo- Tinkoff teammates Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger to help him.
“There was a moment when I wanted to attack and thought about it,” Contador said, “but then I thought it was best to reach the finish line with Roman.”– Sapa-AP
SOLO BREAKAWAY: Rui Costa of Portugal celebrates winning Stage 19 of the Tour de France from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand yesterday.