Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes
Date: July 26, 2019
Distance: 126.5 km
Stage type: Mountain
This is the first of two consecutive stages of around the same shortish length with a finish located well above 2,000 metres. Both are likely to see the main action kick off very early and, as a consequence, the riders in the gruppetto will be hard pushed to finish inside the time limit on each of these days.
From the start in the Maurienne valley, the route bumps steadily upwards, crossing three third-category climbs to reach Bonneval-sur-Arc at the foot of the Col de l'Iseran, at 2,770 metres the highest road pass in Europe. This southern flank is far shorter than the other side, but the frequency of steep sections makes it much more difficult, especially as the riders will already be at an altitude of 1,800 metres when they start up it.
Rising for 12.9km, its gradient is irregular, the road stepping in three separate steep sections divided by two easier parts each of around a kilometre in length. This makes it ideal terrain for the pure climbers – the Colombians? – to launch repeated attacks in order to break the more consistent rhythm of the grimpeurs-rouleurs such as Tom Dumoulin and Geraint Thomas.
From the summit, which is the race's final point-bonus, the route drops for 28km through the ski station of Val d'Isère towards Bourg St Maurice, but heads left below the turquoise blue waters of the reservoir to climb to the finish at the neighbouring resort of Tignes. The route initially follows the minor road that rises very steeply from the bottom of the dam at Les Brevières, where the mountain goats will have a final chance to attack before reaching the more regular grades that lead up to Tignes and two final kilometres that are almost flat.
If local knowledge counts for anything, Groupama-FDJ leader Thibaut Pinot is the rider to watch. The Frenchman has a home in Tignes and regularly trains at altitude around the resort. Happy to be overshadowed and, as a consequence, cede much of the media and public clamour to France's top Tour contender, Romain Bardet, Pinot is one of those pure climbers who recognises this year's route presents the ideal opportunity to shine.