21/07/17 - 8:30 PM
Embrun - Salon-de-Provence
Tour de France • Stage19

Embrun - Salon-de-Provence
Tour de France - 21 July 2017

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Team Sky lead the peloton over the pack and so Chris Froome retains his 23-second lead over Romain Bardet and 29-second lead over Rigoberto Uran - with this Tour set to be decided on the streets of Marseille with that all-important 22.5km time trial.


Meanwhile, the peloton is still riding the final moments of this stage - and there have been no attacks, with Team Sky leading their yellow jersey towards the line...


Someone's happy...


That round-about with 2.9km to go proved pivotal...


Confirmation of the top ten today, with Boasson Hagen outfoxing his breakaway rivals on the longest stage of the race.


So, Edvald Boasson Hagen strikes again on the Tour - six years after he won a brace of stages for Sky in 2011. Following the withdrawal of Mark Cavendish in stage 4, this win has saved the Tour for his Dimension Data team - and came after the Norwegian 30-year-old finished second twice (in cruel photo finishes) and third twice.


Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) takes second place about six seconds back before Jens Keukeleire wins the sprint for third at 13 seconds. An impressive - albeit anti-climatic - end to this stage.


Victory for Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data!


Flamme rouge for the former Norwegian national champion... and this is almost a procession!


They've given up! Arndt is the only rider who is trying to catch Boasson Hagen...


Boasson has dropped Arndt and is soloing clear - he's going to win this one at a canter!


Arndt and Boasson Hagen are the only two riders who take the favourable route around the roundabout - and they have opened up a small gap.


The games of cat and mouse are starting now as they enter the outskirts of Salon-de-Provence.


Now Thomas De Gendt attacks - and he's closed down by Benatti and Keukeleire...


Albasini puts in a huge attack and takes Chavanel and Boasson Hagen with him. The Norwegian takes control and then slows the tempo. He's be a popular winner today.


Chavanel the next to attack. The French veteran is riding his 17th consecutive Grand Tour...


It's odd to see Boasson Hagen working so hard - perhaps he just doesn't want anyone to ride clear. On paper, he's the fastest finisher - but we're at the end of the third week of a gruelling Grand Tour. Any of these nine riders could win.


Albasini and Boasson Hagen zip clear, with Bakelants closing the gap for the others. It looks like Orica are playing the Albasini card now, with Keukeleire for the sprint...


Elie Gesbert puts in a dig to string out the leading group - that would be some way to end his first Tour...


Meanwhile, the peloton is a full 10km and 10 minutes further back...


The gap is up to 25 seconds now and it looks like those caught out of this split will miss out on fighting for the stage today.


The German Nikias Arndt is a very strong sprinter and he could pull off a real coup here to deliver Sunweb their fifth win of a quite superb Tour.


The gap is about 15 seconds now for these nine leaders, with the 11 chasers working hard to rejoin them ahead of the finish. The danger men in this lead group are clearly Boasson Hagen, Albasini, Keukeleire, Bennati and Arndt.


The nine leaders are: Bakelants, Chavanel, De Gendt, Keukeleire, Boasson Hagen, Gesbert, Arndt, Albasini and Bennati. So most of the fast men are here - except Ben Swift, who is in the second group.


There are actually three groups now, with the second two almost coming back together. Correction: De Gendt is - of course - driving the first group. It was his team-mate Gallopin off the back.


The break has split again - with nine riders on the right side of the split. Thomas De Gendt is currently sitting right on the back of the second group, so he's either playing a dangerous game or simply paying for his efforts of these past few weeks.


Keukeleire is really giving it some welly on a slight uphill segment - and that's blown the break apart into numerous groups... it will come back together, but that would have put some of these escapees very much into the red.


Lilian Calmejane has a dig off the front of the break but it comes to nothing for the stage 9 winner, who has nothing to lose today.


The pace is much higher as the break tries to shake off some of the deadwood. It's hard to see how this will pan out - you expect some of the less zippier riders to try their luck early rather than wait for the streets of Salons-de-Provence.


Quite a technical finish today - it's probably lucky that we're not going to have a big bunch sprint with those tight bends to negotiate...


One rider who has been very quiet in this break is Rudy Molard of FDJ. He's from Embrun, where today's start was, and has friends and family at the finish at Salon-de-Provence. What a story that would be... After all, FDJ are down to just three riders (against 20 staff!) in this year's race following that time-cut gaffe involving their stage 4 winner Arnaud Demare, plus the withdrawal of Thibaut Pinot earlier in the week. A Molard win would put a smile back on the face of manager Marc Madiot...


Orica-Scott duo Michael Albasini and Jens Keukeleire are on the front of this break as it comes back together at the bottom of the climb. The gap is up to 9:50,


That Mollema attack comes to nothing and now it's Gianluca Brambilla who sets the tempo on the descent. The break now has more than nine minutes to play with so it's unquestionably going to be one of these riders who wins today. There may only be three Belgians to the nine Frenchmen in the break, but if I had to put my money on either nation, it would be the former. That said, the nation to back should this come to a sprint is Norway - and they only have one rider: Edvald Boasson Hagen. Twice third, twice second... surely he's going to win a stage today?


There's an attack on the start of the descent by Bauke Mollema, the Dutchman who won stage 15 in Le Puy-en-Velay for Trek-Segafredo.


Romain Sicard crests the summit of the final climb of the 2017 Tour de France in pole position to pick up the redundant 2pts ahead of compatriot Elie Gesbert and the Croatian Robert Kiserlovski. The chasers are led over by De Gendt - who else - a few seconds further back.


Chapeau Gallopin! He not only rides back on, he rides past and attacks the break. He now leads the chase on these three leaders, who have about 10 seconds to play with.


Tony Gallopin is suffering. The Frenchman is dropped form the break but manages to fight back - he's clearly paying for his effort yesterday, when he arrived at the foot of the Col d'Izoard near the front of the break.


Sicard and Gesbert attack and open up a gap, with Kiserlovski in pursuit. The Croatian will join the two Frenchmen - and it's Bakelants who leads the chase from the break.


Another gig from Sicard, with Brambilla, Albasini and De Gendt on his wheel. Still 3km to go until the summit of this last classified climb of the 2017 Tour.


Romain Sicard makes the first move from the break, the Frenchman upping the tempo and stretching out the group accordingly. Albasini and De Gendt come through - but the pace is not high and no one has yet been distanced.


The break is about to hit the Cat.3 Col de Pointu (5.8km at 4.1%) which ramps up to 10% in parts so it certainly lives up to its name. Expect some attacks - some riders could use this as a launch pad for a tilt at the stage.


That Keukeleire move came to nothing and the Belgian is back with Orica team-mate Michael Albasini and the other escapees. They still have more than eight minutes to play with so one of these 20 riders will win the stage.


Orica-Scott have two cards to play today - and they've just thrown one on the table: Jens Keukeleire zips off the front of the break, which is odd considering you'd think he'd be their man for the sprint at Salon-de-Provence.


It looks pretty stormy ahead with some really menacing clouds on the horizon. Things could get spicy in the run into Salon-de-Provence...


It's no surprise to see the gap stretch out to eight minutes again for Sky really have no interest in bringing the break back. The team's directeur sportif told French TV just now: "We've let the gap to the breakaway increase to eight minutes but it has decreased against our will. We want it to go up again. We certainly don't want a bunch sprint finish. It would be a risky finale. We're not interested in bringing the peloton back. We want this stage to be the easiest possible but there's a lot of head wind. Tomorrow, Chris [Froome] has no right to fail. It'll be one of the time trials of his life."


The rider De Gendt denied in the intermediate sprint was Elie Gesbert, the youngest rider in the race who turned 22 on the day of the Grand Depart. Shame on you, Thomas...


Gosh, that Thomas De Gendt is greedy - the Belgian, on the offensive practically every day in the second two weeks of the race, rides clear to take the intermediate sprint ahead of a Fortuneo rider. That means De Gendt pockets 20pts and moved onto 130pts and above Chris Froome in the points classification. That's good enough for sixth place but it won't trouble the green jersey Michael Matthews, who has 364pts and is destined to win the competition come what may in Paris.


We have the intermediate sprint at Banon ahead - but given the fact that none of these escapees are a threat to Michael Matthews' green jersey, it's just going to be a chance for the wildcard team Fortuneo-Oscaro to up their prize money tally and get some coverage for their sponsors...


Lotto Soudal have two riders in this break - De Gendt and Gallopin. They were both on the offensive yesterday and have, indeed, been very attacking throughout the Tour - the Belgian in particular. Our friends at GCN visited the Lotto Soudal team bus recently and here's what they came up with...


The host nation already have five stage wins in this Tour - one more than they would become the most successful nation for the first time since 2010, when they won six stages. And it's looking good for France today with nine of the 20 escapees being French: Gallopin, Chavanel, Hardy, Molard, Calmejane, Perichon, Sicard, Gesbert and Simon. The big problem is that none of the above are fast finishers and would all lose out in a sprint to the likes of Boasson Hagen, Bennati, Swift, Arndt and Keukeleire.


The break has passed through the feed zone with a gap of 7:20 on the Sky-led peloton, which has Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao and Christian Knees on the front.


The gap is coming down now as the mercury approaches 30 degrees in Provence. Our 20 escapees have 6:45 having earlier had in excess of eight minutes over the pack.


The gap is down to seven minutes with Team Sky the only team doing anything in the pack. With so many sprinters having crashed out or packed their bags - or just in rotten form - there doesn't seem to be much interest in chasing this break. If there is, this video explains how the teams collaborate and go about hunting down a break...


Well, this is exciting...


The gap is up to eight minutes so it's increasingly looking like the stage will be won from a rider in this 20-man break. That said, it is the longest stage of the race and the legs are tired. They've been going for about 100km today and so still have more than half of the terrain to cover, plus the most challenging climb - and potential crosswinds.


The average speed so far today has been 43.3km/h - pretty impressive given those two climbs. My average speed on my commute to work is usually around 26km/h - albeit over urban roads littered with red lights and traffic.


11 of the 22 teams in this year's Tour have at least one win to their name - so 50% are still looking to get on the score-sheet, so to speak. From this break, the following teams are winless: Movistar, UAE Team Emirates, Orica-Scott, Dimension Data, Katusha-Alpecin, Lotto-Soudal, Cofidis and Fortuneo-Oscaro.


As mentioned earlier, the Alpha Jets have made their presence known... a dress rehearsal for their inevitable appearance in Paris on Sunday.


We have two stage winners from this year's Tour in this break: Lilian Calmejane (stage 8) and Bauke Mollema (stage 15). Meanwhile, Edvald Boasson Hagen has twice missed out on a win to a photo finish (stage 7 to Marcel Kittel and stage 16 to Michael Matthews), and has also finished third twice.


The gap continues to grow for this breakaway, which now has 7:30 over the Sky-led peloton. Michal Kwiatkowski seems to have found another pair of Oakley Jawbreakers after discarding his yesterday on the Izoard...


14 of the 22 teams are represented in this break, with notable absentees being BMC (who tried to get Greg van Avermaet into an earlier move) and Cannondale-Drapac (for whom Pierre Rolland and Dylan Van Baarle were in that earlier, initial break). Direct Energie have three (Calmejane, Chavanel and Sicard) as do Fortuneo-Oscaro (Gesbert, Hardy and Perichon), while Orica (Albasini and Keukeleire) and Lotto Soudal (De Gendt and Gallopin) have two.


Another withdrawal to report - the second of the day: Timo Roosen of LottoNL-Jumbo has called it a day - and he must be badly ill because you don't just throw in the serviette so close to Paris. That means we have 167 riders left in the race.


Yesterday it was Colombia Day and today it's Belgium's national day. With three decent Belgian riders in the break - Bakelants, Keukeleire and De Gendt - perhaps we will see the French neighbours emulating Warren Barguil's exploits on Bastille Day in Foix.


Puncture for Ben Swift of UAE Team Emirates, who will have to fight back to rejoin the break. The British rider will be a good bet to win the sprint should this break stay out all the way to Salon-de-Provence.


After a short descent the riders are going uphill once again - it's a longer slog than the last climb, but uncategorised. As the race passes through the picturesque hamlet of Gigors, the gap is up to 5:40. None of the escapees are a threat on GC - the best placed rider is, indeed, Bauke Mollema, the Dutch stage 15 winner who is 47 minutes down on Froome.


Bahrain Merida have had a rotten race - and they've lost another rider this morning, with Czech Ondrej Cink calling it a day before the first climb.


It's an intriguing group, this. We have some decent sprinters here in Swift, Boasson Hagen, Keukeleire, Arndt and Bennati; there are some excellent rouleur breakaway specialists in De Gendt, Gallopin, Calmejane, Chavanel and Bakelants; some decent climbers who could look to take advantage of the Col de Pointu 50km from the finish - the likes of Albasini, Mollema, Brambilla, Kiserlovski, De Gendt (again), Calmejane (again) and Chavanel (again!).


One of the Fortuneo-Oscaro riders - Hardy, I think - edges ahead take the 2pts over the top of the climb before boshing an energy gel. The gap is up to 4:30 for the escapees now. Happy days.


The 20 escapees are (courtesy of letour.fr): Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Daniele Bennati (Movistar), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Ben Swift (UAE), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Michael Albasini and Jens Keukeleire (Orica), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Gianluca Brambilla (Quick Step), Robert Kiserlovski (Katusha), Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Lilian Calmejane, Sylvain Chavanel and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Elie Gesbert, Romain Hardy and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro).


The break is onto the second of today's climbs, the Cat.3 Cote de Breziers (2.3km at 5.8%). The gap is growing so it looks like this break will stay out for quite some time - perhaps even all the way to the finish...


Now this is interesting... we have a high-profile group off the front of the peloton now, and Sky seemed to have given it their blessing as the gap stretches to 1:15. The likes of Mollema, Gallopin, Chavanel, Calmejane, De Gendt, Boasson Hagen, Swift and Bakelants are all here in this collection of 20 riders.


Two Frenchman have a small gap of 10 seconds over the peloton on this hairpinned descent: Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Oscaro).


Seeing that Nostradamus spent his last days in Salon-de-Provence, here’s a prediction for you: despite counter attacks coming on the Col du Pointu some 50km from the finish, the race will come back together for a bunch sprint for the finish. But watch Alexey Lutsenko of Astana: the Kazakh defied the peloton to win a stage here in Paris-Nice last year.


Today's stage finish is held in Salon-de-Provence, which makes a first appearance in the Grande Boucle. You know the Red Arrows-style fighter jets which fly over Paris emitting a trail of red, white and blue smoke on the final day of the Tour? Well, the famous Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France are based in a large airbase near Salon-de-Provence in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France. Salon-de-Provence (population 44,270) gets its name not from its high-society reception rooms but its location on the salt trade routes between the Adriatic, Atlantic and Mediterranean (salé means salted).


French duo Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) pass over the summit with a Fortuneo-Oscaro rider (perhaps Maxime Bouet, making it a French trio) with a very small gap over the peloton. This will have no bearing on the polka dot jersey competition, which has already been wrapped up by yesterday's stage winner, Warren Barguil, who has 169pts - more than double the 80pts of his nearest challenger, Primoz Roglic. Today's climbs offer a combined today of 6pts - so it's lockdown there.


About half a dozen riders off the front now, including Roman Kreuziger (Orica-Scott), Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors), De Gendt and Rolland.


Now Brice Feillu rides over to the break - which annoys his team-mate Bouet. And it's all back together again, with Betancur on the front. There's still 2km of this climb to go so we'll see more attacks, surely...


A Bora-Hansgrohe rider attacks from the pack - which is odd, seeing that there's another Bora rider (Burghardt) in the break. That leads to a flurry of activity behind. And indeed, Burghardt is dropped, which explains things. Petit has already been dropped - replaced by Movistar's Carlos Betancur. But the gaps are all very small and so there's going to be another reshuffle.


The eight leaders have a gap of 30 seconds as they edge onto the Cat.3 Col Lebraut (4.7km at 6%) which has a section that hits 10%.


Yet more splendid views today... and tomorrow we're off to Marseille, which shouldn't be to shabby either!


Julien Vermote (Quick-Step Floors), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pierre Rolland and Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac) and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro) bridge over so we have eight riders ahead now.


Adrien Petit (Direct Energie), Michael Albasini (Orica) and that man van Keirsbulck (Wanty) have managed to edge ahead.


Thomas De Gendt alert: the indefitigable Belgian is on the front again... surely he can't be eyeing up another breakaway? You'd think he'd be on duty for Lotto-Soudal sprinter Andre Greipel today. The German has had a rotten Tour but still has two chances - today and in Paris on Sunday.


We have about a dozen riders off the front of the pack now as they ride alongside the Lac de Serre-Poncon. But with Team Sky coming to the front of the pack, it doesn't look like this one will stick.


Here's what the riders have in store today: three categorised climbs, some rolling roads and - what you can't see in the profile - likely winds towards the end. This race is not over yet!


Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) finds himself out in front alone after the initial attacks came to nothing. You may remember the Belgian from that stage to Vittel, where he stayed out for more than 200km solo before being reeled in ahead of the controversial scenes in Vittel, where Arnaud Demare won as Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish clashed in their last turns of the pedals in the race (Cavendish withdrew injured and Sagan was booted out).


The familiar sight of Christian Prudhomme waving the flag from the back of his red Skoda signals the start of this intriguing stage... and there's a flurry of attacks from the outset.


Twenty seconds passed before a battling Darwin Atapuma – denied a win on Colombia Day – just held on for second place ahead of Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale), the Frenchman edging British defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) for third place and four vital bonus seconds. With Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) crossing the line two seconds back for fifth place, Bardet rose to second place in the general classification – 23 seconds behind Froome – with Uran now 29 seconds off the summit.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 19 of the Tour de France - a rolling 222.5km stage from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence, the longest of the 104th edition of the race.