Tour de France Stage 19 Preview: The Highest Point of the Race

One or two attacks on the summit finish could determine the stage winner - and perhaps the yellow jersey.

Whit Yost |

The 2019 Tour de France now heads into its second day in the Alps, and though shorter than the previous day, it might be just as difficult. Stage 19 brings a summit finish in Tignes as well as a trip over the highest climb this year: the 2,770-metre Col de l’Iseran.

The hard work begins soon after the start in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, with three smaller, categorised climbs serving as steps up to the day’s Intermediate Sprint in Bessans (58K). A few kilometres later, riders hit the Iseran in Bonneval-sur-Arc.

The Iseran is only 13K long, but its base sits at 1,700 metres above sea level, meaning riders are already pretty high in the Alps before the serious climbing even starts. The gradient averages 7.5 percent, with several steeper pitches, and the summit marks the highest point in this year’s Tour (and of any Tour since 2008).

Expect a breakaway to reach the foot of the monster climb, with out-of-contention GC riders and King of the Mountains hopefuls going for the stage win and/or maximum points over the Iseran. Behind them, the overall favorites will likely choose to ride a stiff tempo rather than launch attacks, letting the ascent thin the group and saving their real moves for the final climb into Tignes.

And while that last climb (7.4K at 7 percent) is “only” rated Category 1, it will surely do some damage. The true Tour champions will emerge here, with perhaps only one or two serious attacks deciding the stage and, possibly, the Tour.

After a valiant effort to defend the yellow jersey through Stage 18, Julian Alaphilippe will struggle to pull off another miracle on Stage 19. He’s at a disadvantage with no descent in the finale, and teams will more aggressively try to dislodge him. The Frenchman won’t go down without a fight, but in doing so he might not only lose the yellow jersey, but fall out of the top five as well.

Riders to Watch

While we wouldn’t be shocked if a rider from the breakaway survives to the finish, we expect this stage to end similarly to Stage 14’s finale on the Col du Tourmalet: The last few riders will get caught near the top of the final climb, and a GC contender will win the day. Egan Bernal flew away from the rest of the Tour favorites a few kilometers from the Col du Galibier summit near the end of Stage 18. If Ineos gives him another green light, he’s a good pick to win – and maybe take the yellow jersey.

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