CAHORS, France (AP) — Christophe Laporte ended the host’s drought of stage winners when he surged out of the peloton in the finale of the 19th stage and claimed his maiden win on the Tour de France on Friday.
Just two days before the race ends in Paris, Laporte spared the blushes for French riders who had not tasted a victory all month. Only twice in race history has France not produced a stage winner, in 1926 and 1999.
Laporte made his move after a trio of breakaway riders was caught with 1.5 kilometers left in the 188.5-kilometer flat stage to Cahors in southwestern France. On paper, the stage looked enticing for pure sprinters but Laporte made the most of the slight uphill section to the finish to deny them.
A support rider for race leader Jonas Vingegaard at Jumbo-Visma, Laporte won ahead of Jasper Philipsen and Alberto Dainese.
It was the fifth stage win this month for the mighty Dutch team that also includes Wout van Aert. The versatile rider from Belgium did not compete for the stage win on Friday, offering the chance to Laporte.
“I’m super happy, I can’t believe it. Wout told me, ‘Today is for you,'” Laporte said. “I was already fully satisfied by our great team work, but to win a Tour stage is a childhood dream come true.”
There was no significant change in the general classification. Vingegaard had an overall lead of 3 minutes, 26 seconds over defending champion Tadej Pogacar, and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas was still in third place, 8 minutes off the pace.
Organizers initially said Pogacar managed to take five seconds off Vingegaard as he sprinted to fifth place in Cahors but they ultimately credited the pair with the same time.
Pogacar tried to escape from the peloton in the last hour but Van Aert reacted quickly and did not let him go before Alexis Gougeard, Fred Wright and Jasper Stuyven moved away with 32 kilometers left.
Van Aert pulled the peloton to set up Laporte, while Michael Matthews, from the BikeExchange-Jayco team, also took part in the chase to pave the way for sprinter Dylan Groenewegen to deliver.
Once he caught the breakaway, Laporte accelerated again and never looked back.
There is just one big test left before the race reaches Paris — a 41-kilometer time trial on Saturday — and Vingegaard seems all but guaranteed to win a maiden Tour title after he built his comfortable cushion at the top of the standings in the Alps and Pyrenees.
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