Navardauskas escapes to victory

Lithuania's Ramunas Navardauskas won stage 19 on the Tour de France (AP)

Lithuania's Ramunas Navardauskas won stage 19 on the Tour de France (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Ramunas Navardauskas was rewarded for a daring late escape with victory on stage 19 of the Tour de France in Bergerac.

Navardauskas held off a peloton splintered by crashes on a treacherous finale to the 208.5-kilometre route from Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to claim victory for Garmin-Sharp.

The torrential rain in the Dordogne region aided the Lithuanian's chances as Navardauskas achieved what his team-mate Jack Bauer could not last Sunday in finishing first ahead of the sprinters.

John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) led home a small bunch, with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), the man who caught Bauer in Nimes, third.

Vincenzo Nibali, whose lead remained at seven minutes 10 seconds, will have to wait for his coronation, while the final battle to join him on the podium takes place in Saturday's penultimate day time-trial, the 54km from Bergerac to Perigueux.

Sunday's final day is traditionally a procession before a circuit race on the Champs-Elysees contested by the sprinters.

The three riders in second to fourth are separated by 15 seconds.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) is second, with Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) third, 13 seconds behind his compatriot as the pair battle to be the first Frenchman on the Tour podium in 17 years.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is fourth overall, two seconds behind Peraud and 7:25 behind Nibali, the winner of four stages and a strong rider against the clock.

Should Nibali stay upright, he will become the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, having won the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.

The five others to achieve the feat are Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador.

Contador and defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) crashed out of this year's Tour, but there is no doubt who the outstanding rider has been in their absence.

The 101st edition of the race may belong to Nibali, but the stage belonged to Navardauskas for a first Lithuanian win in the Tour.

The day's five-man breakaway of Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) were always on a short lead as the peloton kept the escapees' advantage hovering around two minutes.

With 32km to go, Slagter accelerated away from his fellow fugitives and he was out on his own 10km later as the bunch absorbed the other escapees.

The peloton reduced the deficit with every revolution despite the wet roads.

Slagter had a slender 15-second advantage at the foot of the day's only categorised climb, the category four Cote de Monbazillac.

The 1.3km ascent might have ended some of the sprinters' chances and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), winner of three of the race's first four stages, dropped out of contention.

Slagter crested the summit first, ahead of team-mate Navardauskas, who then forged on himself on the descent in a bid to hold off the charging peloton.

The Lithuanian - with watching Garmin-Sharp team-mate David Millar writing on Twitter: "If anyone can do this Ramunus can!" - built a lead of 24 seconds with 7km to go in a technical finale made more difficult by the conditions.

Garmin-Sharp loaded the front of the bunch in a bid to slow the peloton and help their team-mate's bid.

A large crash inside 3km to go split the peloton and ended points classification leader Peter Sagan's bid for a first stage success of the race.

The dissolving group helped Navardauskas as he was able to finish seven seconds ahead of Degenkolb.

As the crash took place in the final 3km, all the riders involved finished on the same time as Degenkolb.

Millar was upset after being initially selected before later omitted from Garmin-Sharp's Tour team, but was thrilled with the win.

The Scot added on Twitter: "Amazing. Ramunus aka Honey Badger was my replacement. Job well done. Legend.

"The was an amazing performance by the whole of @Ride_Argyle. That was text book, even if it did look a bit mad for a while there. WOW."

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