Lithuanian's solo stage win a reason to celebrate after race of woe
Garmin Sharp turned their Tour de France from tragedy into triumph with a supreme team performance capped by a win for Ramunas Navardauskas on stage 19 to Bergerac.
The Lithuanian, who controversially took the place of an ill David Millar just days before the race started, attacked on the final climb of the 208 kilometre stage and managed to hold off the chasing bunch by a mere seven seconds. For a team that had seen their main hope for glory in Andrew Talansky abandon, it was a hugely welcome boost.
Since the American left the race Garmin would have taken any win that came their way but what made Navardauskas’ stage all the more special for the squad was that it needed the backing of their entire team, a point Navardauskas made in his post-stage press conference.
"From the beginning we had this plan to attack," he said.
Part one of the plan saw Tom-Jelte Slagter infiltrate the main break of the day while the rest of the team protected Navardauskas back in the peloton.
Slagter had been part of breakaways throughout the race, but unlike in those previous forays, he was the strongest rider in a group that contained Cyril Gautier (Europcar), IAM Cycling’s Martin Elmiger, and Arnaud Gérard for Bretagne-Seché Environnement.
Slagter attacked with 30 kilometres remaining, distancing the rest of the break and then attacking as a slingshot for Navardauskas once he leapt clear of the peloton on the cote de Monbazillac with 13 kilometres remaining.
"Tom was really aggressive today. Then he did an amazing pull for me near the top of the climb. He’s a really brave guy and a really strong guy. This was our team’s plan from the very beginning and the whole team worked for this. We were all organised and together."
"Then I attacked on the climb. Tom gave a big pull for me and I went with all my power and did my time trial until the end."
A crash in the bunch and wet roads certainly didn’t help the peloton’s chances, but Navardauskas still managed to hold off a peloton led by Omega Pharma QuickStep and Katusha.
"Ramunas is so strong, and we've known it for so long," said Garmin-Sharp’s Charly Wegelius.
"For him to be able to show it on this stage, is really what he and the whole team deserves. He went solo, it was the only way for him to do it. We knew it was a small chance, and he took it with both hands like the team has done every day since Andrew Talansky left the race, but I think the whole team really deserved that result."
During Navardauskas’ lone break Garmin also put men on the front, in a bid to slow down their rivals from chasing. While a number of teams faltered with fatigue and a lack of a clear plan, Garmin certainly made the most of a clinical performance.
"It's the least they deserve. They've been fighting since the moment Andrew was out of contention. You get what you deserve."
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