Another descent to the finish on a stage featuring a mythical Tour de France climb meant another stage victory for LottoNL-Jumbo's Primož Roglic, and with it the second Zwift Rider of the Day award of the 2018 Tour. After last year's win at Serre Chevalier, the Slovene added to his win total after an attacking display in Laruns.
Stage 19 was the last chance for the GC men to affect the overall standings ahead of Saturday's 31km time trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette, and the last chance to try and put time into the race leader, Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, who lay 1:59 ahead of second-placed Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb at the stage's start.
Movistar, somewhat surprisingly given their usually-conservative nature, were the first to try, sending Mikel Landa up the road with 102km of the 200.5km left to run. It was the Spaniard who provoked the first appearance from Roglic's team at the front of the peloton, working to limit the gap and preserve his then-fourth place on GC.
On the Col du Soulor, the toughest part of the Col d'Aubisque, teammate Steven Kruijswijk went on the offensive, part of a tactical move which saw Roglic try to shake Thomas and Dumoulin and bridge up to the Dutchman. The move worked in a sense, as Team Sky's defending champion Chris Froome – who lay just 16 seconds ahead of Roglic in third – dropped from the group.
The Brit would come back, and he and Thomas would stay in touch over the top of the Aubisque, partly helped by Dumoulin, who led the GC group in pursuit of Roglic as he put in attack after attack on the final mountain of the Pyrenees.
Roglic – a former ski-jumper, in case you hadn't already heard – didn't stop attacking after the climb ended though. As the GC group descended into the mist, with Katusha-Alpecin's Ilnur Zakarin at the rear precariously descending on the drops, Roglic flew off the front, exhibiting a similar aptitude for racing down a mountain as he had on the Col du Galibier last July.
Despite the efforts of those behind, notably Dumoulin, who mostly led the way, Roglic was never going to be caught. A ten-second gap at the bottom of the climb only grew when he got to the flat 2km afterwards.
Froome and Dumoulin shared the work but Roglic extended his lead to 19 seconds as he crossed the line alone, moving up a place on GC to within striking range of the Dutchman.
An understated interview, Roglic was composed after his win, saying: "What can I say? I'm really, really happy. Obviously I had the legs today and somehow I was thinking it's shit if you don't use them.
"I tried a lot of times and finally went away on the descent. It was really perfect and yeah, I'm really happy with it."
When Roglic took the Zwift Rider of the Day prize after stage 14 to Mende, I wrote that his result there could provide the launchpad for a Tour de France victory, calling him a dark horse for victory.
For a rider who has progressed quickly, but linearly, every year since he started riding in 2012, it might be a year too early for the Grand Tour win, but it will surely come on this evidence.
Daniel Ostanek: During this Tour de France, Roglic has been racing on a Bianchi Oltre XR4 featuring paintwork depicting an eagle swooping above the Galibiert – the scene of his 2017 stage win. It proved an inspired choice, with his victory today recalling that effort.
Roglic's win was impressive both in the manner he achieved it and as a neat cap to three weeks during which he showed that he's now a legitimate GC threat. And in a slick piece of symmetry with his previous career speeding down hills, the Slovene can now certainly name himself among the top descenders in the peloton.
Finally, a word for Direct Énergie's veteran Sylvain Chavanel, who today became the most-experienced Tour de France rider in history. The Frenchman, racing his 18th – and what he insists will be his last – Tour, broke Joop Zoetemelk's record by completing his 366th Tour stage today.
On Thursday's stage 18 you voted for Education First-Drapac's Lawson Craddock as your Zwift Rider of the Day. The American crashed on stage 1 of the race, fracturing his shoulder blade. He battled on though, pulling for his team during the team time trial and even trying to get in the breakaway on Thursday.
You can vote for stage 19's Zwift Rider of the Day below. We will announce the readers' poll winner after Saturday's stage 20.
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