Tour of Belgium champion Jens Keukeleire has finished third from a breakaway on stage 19 of the Tour de France today as white jersey holder Simon Yates finished safely in the bunch ahead of the final two days of racing.
Keukeleire was part of a 20-rider breakaway alongside ORICA-SCOTT teammate Michael Albasini and won the sprint for third place behind stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Nikias Ardnt (Team Sunweb) who escaped courtesy of a crucial decision at a roundabout in the final three kilometres.
The Belgian rider himself tried to escape the move with 60km to go and his effort was rewarded with a place on the podium as the most aggressive rider of the stage.
“It would have been nicer if I had have won but of course it’s nice to get on the podium,” Keukeleire said.
“We did almost everything we had to do. We had to get in the break, that was the first thing, we had to reduce the size of the group, that was the second thing, and the third thing was to finish it off and we just couldn’t manage to do that.
“We had talked about a roundabout in the bus. It was better to take the right side but that wasn’t really on my mind. I knew the final and I only realised it once we were already on the roundabout. If Boasson Hagen goes, then you know that you shouldn’t give him more than 10metres. He’s one of the strongest riders in the world.”
Over 12minutes behind the head of the race the peloton rolled through the finish line in Salon-de-Provence, all the general classification riders keen to save their legs for tomorrow’s crucial time trial stage.
The 22.5km race against the clock is a relatively flat but technical course with one short, sharp climb. The stage is the final opportunity to lock in overall placings, with the final day in Paris traditionally a ceremonious one for overall contenders.
“Today the start was pretty hard but once the break went we just kept good tempo and really tried to save the legs for tomorrow,” Yates said.
“I don’t know a lot about the course tomorrow. It looks pretty technical on paper and we will go and check it out in the morning before the stage.
“A time trial is always difficult no matter where it is or how it is. You need to put in your maximum and I will be looking to do that tomorrow, hopefully without any issues like mechanicals or crashes.”
How it happened:
With a lot of teams still with nothing to their names as we near the conclusion of the 2017 Tour de France, the battle for the breakaway was on early.
Twenty riders eventually made up the move that stuck and it included Keukeleire and Albasini for ORICA-SCOTT.
With no threats to the general classification, the peloton let the group out to seven minutes before it extended to over 12minutes by the conclusion of the 222.5km stage.
The crucial moment came after 220km of racing when eventual winner and second place Boasson Hagen and Ardnt took the right side of a roundabout when the rest of the remaining break took the left. The decision saw the pair gain an instant advantage and a chase in the last 2.5km wasn’t enough to recover the duo.
Tour de France – Stage 19 Results:
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) 5:06:09
2. Nikias Ardnt (Team Sunweb) +0:05
3. Jens Keuleleire (ORICA-SCOTT) +0:17
Tour de France – General Classification after stage 19:
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 83:26:55
2. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:23
3. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-drapac) +0:29
7. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +4:46