Tour debutante ensures maiden podium visit in Bergerac
The Tour de France may currently be closer to the vineyards of Bordeauz than those of Épernay but that didn't stop Garmin Sharp from celebrating its stage 19 successes with champagne.
Ramanus Navadarkus justified his selection over that of the more sentimental choice of David Millar in his farewell season, by claiming a solo stage win while Tom-Jelte Slagter's presence in the breakaway helped set up the daring solo win for his teammate and earned the Dutchman a visit to the podium for the most combative rider prize.
Despite missing out on his goal of performing well in the Vosges, Slagter has persisted throughout his debut Tour to make his presence known and was duly rewarded on a wet stage 19 in the Dordogne.
"It couldn't be better," Slagter said of the team's victory. "We came to the Tour with a very strong team and we lost our guy for GC but we kept fighting. At the end, we win this stage. It doesn't matter who is the winner, me or another team member. I'm happy. We worked really well in the breakaway and I had the legs to leave the guys behind when I realized the peloton wasn't very far behind.
Slagter, who won two stages at Paris-Nice in March, was active in the day's breakaway and attacked with 30km left to become the leader on the road. Behind him, the remnants of the break were gobbled up with 20km left to go, the 25-year-old kept on turning the pedals over out in front.
He was the first to start up the only rated climb of the day: the côte de Montbazillac. At 1.3km in length, it offered the peloton a 7.6% gradient. Garmin-Sharp was present at the head of the bunch, ready to pounce as Slagter was dangling 20 seconds ahead.
Navardauskas attacked, bridging across to his teammate before dropping him before the descent and Slagter explained that was happy to see it was his teammate that bridged across, so he gave it his all for the team victory.
"I knew Navardauskas was stronger for the final part," he said. "He can time trial very well so I gave him this last pull at the top of the hill."
The win was the first for Garmin at this year's Tour and Slagter won't be the only relieved rider or staff member of the team for having salvaged something from the race after the withdrawal of GC hopeful Andrew Talanksy and Jack Bauer's near miss in Nîmes on stage 15.
"We had to win a stage. Tonight, it's champagne!"
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