This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Rui Costa (Movistar) won his second mountain stage at the Tour de France, soloing through the rain to win the 19th stage in Le Grand-Bornand. He attacked on his own with 66 kilometers to go, and powered his way though at times heavy rain to the victory. Second place went to veteran Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Leopard), 48 seconds later, with his teammate Jan Bakelants third at 1:43.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) led the race for some 130 kilometers before Pierre Rolland (Europcar) took over, with his place eventually taken by Costa. The course was custom-made for the climbers, starting with two HC climbs and ending with three more climbs, the last one only 13 kilometers away from the finish line.
It was a quiet day on the GC front, with the top riders spending much of their day together. At the end, the top seven all remained the same. Mick Rogers (Sky) dropped out of the top ten, as did Laurens ten Dam (Belkin). Daniele Navarro (Cofidis) moved up from 13th to eighth, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) up to ninth, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) dropping from ninth to tenth.
Costa collected his second stage win of the Tour
How it happened
It was another day full of climbing, and it got off to a brutal start as much of the peloton tried to get into the day's breakaway. It took a while to sort things out, but eventually Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took the lead. They were followed by a huge group of about 40.
No one in the lead gave cause for alarm for the GC, so the Team Sky-led peloton was happy to let them go. The gap quickly grew to over seven minutes, even hitting over 12 minutes along the way.
The chase group changed along the way, as riders attacked on the first climb, the hors categorie Col du Glandon. The two leaders went over the top with three minutes over their nearest chasers and nearly eight minutes over the peloton.
There were a number of crashes and abandons on the day. Garmin-Sharp's Jack Bauer went face-first into a barbed-wire fence and had to leave the race, and later Lotto Belisol's Marcel Sieberg crashed on a descent and left with a suspected fractured collarbone.
The second hors categorie climb of the day followed almost immediately, the Col de Madeleine, and brought one of the surprises of the day, as sprinter and notorious non-climber Mark Cavendish jumped from the peloton, along with Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates Michal Kwiatkowski and Jerome Pineau.
Along the way up, Izagirre was unable to stay with Hesjedal and dropped back. The Canadian continued on alone, with Europcar's Pierre Rolland moving up from the chase group in pursuit. Having spent 11 days in the King of the Mountains jersey and coming into the stage 46 points down – there was a chance to make up ground on Froome on a day full of big climbs.
Froome remained in control of yellow
The Frenchman caught Hesjedal before the summit before taking off to secure the points. He then waited for the Garmin rider and thanked him for allowing him to do so.
They stayed together on the long descent and through the flat middle section, but on the third climb, the category 2 Col de Tamie, Rolland attacked again. Hesjedal had been in the lead for some 130 kilometres, but fell back quickly, looking exhausted as he was eventually passed out the back of the peloton.
On the final climb of the day, the Col de la Croix Fry (category 1), the sky started getting threateningly dark. Daniele Navarro (Cofidis) tried to attack on the climb, but he was soon joined by others. Only about a minute ahead of him, Rolland was starting to struggle.
Heavy rain began to fall, first on the peloton and then drenching everyone. It didn't seem to bother Rui Costa, who attacked out of the chase group and quickly caught Rolland with 19 kilometres to go and the duo drove through the wet together only a short distance. Costa had the fresher legs and easily left Rolland behind him.
A group of four soon gave chase, Andreas Klöden and Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) and Bart De Clerq (Lotto Belisol). Nieve dropped off, his place taken by Daniele Navarro (Cofidis)
The peloton was more than nine minutes back and would have obviously have no effect on the outcome of the race, but the battle for GC remained. Froome looks fixed in first place, but Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was not ready to accept his 11th place ranking, and attacked, soon to be joined by John Gadret (AG2R), but they didn't get away.
Costa took the final top mountain points and then set off on the wet 13 kilometre descent with about a minute over his nearest chaser, Andreas Klöden. Mercifully the rain let up as the finish line approached.
A high-powered group broke from the peloton as it neared the final mountaintop: Valverde, Contador, Rodriguez, Quintana, Froome and Gadret. The latter soon took off again with Valverde.
Up ahead, Costa easily cruised in for his second stage win at this Tour, even taking the time to drop back to the team car for early congratulations. 38-year-old Klöden came in second, with teammate Bakelants third, about a minute later.
Gadret and Valverde were not quite able to stay away, and the Spaniard led the way across the finish line 8:40 down, with the Froome group right behind them.
Pierre Rolland (Euorpcar) was determined to take back the polka-dot jersey which he held so long earlier in the race, taking the mountain points along the way, and his chances are looking good. While he failed to take the polka dot jersey outright today, he will wear it tomorrow with the knowledge he is just one point behind Froome. Look for the Frenchman off the front on Saturday on a stage that features a category 2 climb, three category 3 ascents and one category 1 mountain before the grand finale hors categorie finish.