Bernal Seals Tour de France Win, Nibali Takes Stage 20
- Egan Bernal is the presumptive winner of the 2019 Tour de France after he defended his yellow jersey on Stage 20.
- Vincenzo Nibali took his first stage win this year on the climb to Val Thorens.
- Julian Alaphilippe, who led the course until Bernal nabbed his lead on Stage 19, fell to fifth place overall.
- Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk jumped to second and third place, respectively, to secure spots on the final podium.
Egan Bernal will almost certainly become the first-ever Colombian winner of the Tour de France.
The 22-year-old defended his lead on Stage 20, the race’s penultimate contest, on Saturday as he finished safely with the main group of overall contenders. The youngest rider in the Tour this year, he is set to cross the final finish line in Paris with the yellow jersey on his shoulders.
In the process, he will secure his Ineos team its fifth-straight Tour de France title, as well as its seventh in the last eight years.
Geraint Thomas, Bernal’s co-captain on the Brith super-team and the man who won the Tour last year, will finish in second place overall. Jumbo–Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk will join him on the final podium in third.
Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour champion who took second place in the Giro d’Italia this year, won the stage with a powerful solo charge on a truncated course. Officials had shortened the race’s second-to-last stage to only 59.5K due to mudslides blocking the original route – the result of a sudden hailstorm on Friday that also forced them to call off Stage 19 midway through the action.
Nibali had been leading on Saturday with a small group of breakaway survivors heading up to the summit finish in Val Thorens, a ski resort in the French Alps. The Italian then mounted a solo attack, sailing away alone as the peloton gradually caught each of his pursuers.
The move invited many counterattacks. A chase group formed after two-time stage winner Simon Yates jumped off the front with about 6K to go. Marc Soler, Warren Barguil, and Stage 18 winner Nairo Quintana all made an effort, seeking not only the stage victory but also points in the polka dot jersey competition.
But the yellow jersey group caught the chasers one by one. Meanwhile, Nibali measured his effort well, maintaining a significant gap until the final few hundred meters. Mikel Landa launched an attack inside the final kilometer, and it looked as though Nibali might fall apart at the very end.
However, determined to win a stage this year, Nibali powered on to the finish. He defended his lead and crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (in ninth overall) and 14 seconds in front of Landa (sixth overall).
The peloton, as expected, spent most of the day trying to crack Julian Alaphilippe, the Frenchman who led the Tour for 14 stages total this year and only lost his yellow jersey to Bernal on Friday’s shortened stage. He entered the day in fifth, but the peloton, with Jumbo–Visma and Bora–Hansgrohe’s Gregor Mühlberger setting the pace, finally dropped him with about 13K to go.
As a result, Alaphilippe lost three minutes to his competitors on the General Classification, falling behind Thomas, Kruijswijk, and Emanuel Buchmann to fifth overall. But he put in an admirable race, defending his lead for much longer than pundits expected. He pushed hard, surprising his rivals in the Vosges and Pyrenees, and only found himself spent on the Tour’s last of three days in the Alps.
Romain Bardet, after taking the yellow jersey from Tim Wellens (who had held it since Stage 3) on Friday, will win the King of the Mountains classification after mounting a comeback from a disappointing first two weeks in his Tour.
Peter Sagan will win a record-breaking seventh green jersey in the Points Classification, a feat he secured early with his typically dominant sprints. He leads the field in that category by 85 points.
In addition to the overall win, Bernal will also have the distinction of earning Best Young Rider in the 2019 Tour, adding the white jersey to complement his yellow. For him, and for his home country, it will be a largely ceremonial day of triumph when the race hits the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.