LARUNS – Britain’s Geraint Thomas stretched his Tour de France yellow jersey lead on Friday as Slovenian Primoz Roglic won the 19th stage on the final day in the mountains to push Chris Froome off the virtual podium.
Thomas, who has held the race lead since stage 11 having won back-to-back stages in the Alps, finished second on the final stage in the high Pyrenees at 19secs behind Roglic after the Lotto-Jumbo rider had launched an impressive attack before the summit of the Col d’Aubisque.
The Welshman’s final sprint to clinch second place earned him six bonus seconds, which increased his overall lead on Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to 2min 05secs ahead of the penultimate-stage time trial on Saturday.
Roglic’s efforts saw him move up to third overall at 2:24 behind Thomas, with Froome now fourth at 2:37.
“I am really happy with this victory. It’s a really nice feeling to win again in the Tour,” said Roglic.
“I felt really good. I tried several times (to attack) on the Aubisque and I finally got away in the descent. It’s perfect.”
Roglic, a former ski jumper, was a constant thorn in the side of Team Sky on the final climb, where his accelerations left four-time champion Froome struggling to hold the wheel on several occasions.
The Slovenian redoubled his efforts shortly after cresting the summit, defying the shrouds of mist to accelerate away from Thomas, Froome, Dumoulin, Spaniard Mikel Landa and Frenchman Romain Bardet to leave them in a desperate chase on the 20km descent to the finish.
Although Thomas’ yellow jersey bid was not at stake, except in the event of a catastrophe, Team Sky are desperate to see Froome finish among the podium places in Paris on Sunday, and were in no mood to give Roglic a free run to the finish.
Froome managed to limit the damage by following wheels most of the way down before finishing eighth and last from the seven-man group of favourites who crossed the line 19secs behind Roglic.
Roglic, who only took up cycling six years ago, now has two stage wins on the race, having won a stage in the Alps last year.