|Rui celebrates win number 2 of the 2013 Tour - Stage 19 - Photo Credit: Graham Watson|
Movistar team is having an incredible tour. With 2 wins from todays victor Rui Alberto Faria da Costa; and another win, the white jersey and a possible podium for Nairo Quintana the team has more than made up for Alejandro Valverde's mechanically induced inability to fulfill his role as GC contendor. It doesn't mean Valverde hasn't been a valuable leader. He was resigned to his fate after losing 10 minutes on the windswept stage to Saint Amond Montrod due to a broken rear wheel. Despite that disappointment he has continued to ride strong and has played domestique extraordinaire for the Colombian while also giving Costa the springboard he needed to ride to 2 victories this week, the second being today's stage 19 which ended with his jump from the break away group to solo to victory on the Col de la Croix Fry. Some might say it's payback for Costa's GC opportunity being eliminated as well when he was ordered to stay back with Valverde and limit his losses on that fateful day in the second week, while the young Quintana was allowed to go with the lead group and maintain the possibility of a podium finish in Paris.
Rui Costa has had the freedom to make the breaks 2 times in the last 4 days for 2 reasons: 1) he is so far back in the GC that the race leaders are not concerned with him gaining time and 2) Alejandro Valverde has shouldered the load of protecting Quintana against all of the other GC contenders. He has made the most of that freedom by making well timed attacks when the competition was at it's most vulnerable. Today he had teammates Reuben Plaza and J.J. Rojas to work for him in the break. They helped him to make up time on Pierre Rolland who had been out in front on his own for almost 50 km. Costa caught Rolland early in the final climb and then made his move on the steepest part of the road. Rolland had no answer and simply sat up and fixed his glasses on his helmet as he watched the climber from Portugal ride away to victory.
Costa crossed the line 48 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden and 1:44 ahead of Klodens Radio shack teammate Bakelants - who continued his strong run in this tour by taking yet another podium. Rollands collapse was dramatic, as he lost over 6 minutes to Costa in only a few kim. He can take solace in the fact that he won enough mountain classification points during his break that he will wear polka dots tomorrow as he sits only one point behind Froome for the outright win in the climbing contest. Expect him to be out front again tomorrow in the final mountain stage of this amazing tour.
And what of the GC contenders? Well, JRod took the fight to Quintana and Contador, but was unable to distance them and gain any time. Froome had a much less stressful day and handled all of the surges with the same calm and focused efforts we had seen from him on all the stages prior to yesterday. The group ended up crossing the line together nearly 8 minutes behind Costa and the leaderboard remained status quo, with all eyes fixed on tomorrows penultimate stage of the Tour. With 6 categorized climbs and one HC mountain packed in to only 125 km, the riders should be fresh and ready to attack on the final cllimb of the day and the tour - the 8.5 % hors categorie finish up the Annecy - Semnoz.
Get up early or set that DVR folks, because it should be a true donnybrook on the last real racing day of the 100th edition of Le Tour de France.