• Alberto Contador grimaces through Stage 19's many climbs (Getty Images) (AFP)Source: AFP
Stage 19 to La Toussuire was another opportunity lost for Alberto Contador who suffered cramps throughout the day and relied heavily on his team-mates to pace him through the penultimate mountain stage of the Tour de France.
By
Cycling Central

25 Jul 2015 - 10:52 AM  UPDATED 25 Jul 2015 - 10:56 AM

Despite the difficulties he faced the Tinkoff-Saxo team captain finished the day in a select group of seven riders who rounded out the top ten places for the day. The group crossed the finish line of the 138km Alpine stage 2min 26sec behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who claimed his first victory of the Tour.

Stage 19 report
Nibali bites back to win at La Toussuire
Vincenzo Nibali fought back from an unremarkable Tour de France defence to win Stage 19 and put himself back in contention for a podium place in Paris.

While spectators questioned the Spaniard’s lack of form, Contador explained that in light of everything that happened the stage turned out quite well.

"It was a day where I had to survive. I started with bad sensations and cramps all day so I had to save energy as much as I could,” he said and explained his team’s revised strategy after it became apparent that Contador was in trouble.

“I sent (Rafal) Majka to pull at the front and he set the pace and it calmed a bit down. Things turned out quite well.

“In what regards me, I think it deserves more merit to have reached this point than previous victories. I had strong cramps throughout the day and I was praying to make it through. Tomorrow will be another day,” he said.

The 2015 Giro d’Italia champion began the Tour de France hoping to claim his second grand tour victory of the season, but has not been able to ride at the same level he displayed in Italy last May.

He lost another place on the general classification to Nibali last night but Sky’s Geraint Thomas had an even harder day on the road slipping from fourth to 15th. Contador retained fifth overall at the end of the stage, but his margin to the yellow jersey of Chris Froome (Sky) blew out to almost eight minutes.

Stage 19 extras
Quintana sets record for La Toussuire ascent
After several attempts at breaking the Sky army, Nairo Quintana got the gap he has been hoping for last night and outclimbed Tour de France race leader Chris Froome up La Toussuire.
Spitting games no fun for Froome as rough stage hits Sky
The hatred against Team Sky leader Chris Froome showed its ugly side again when a spectator was seen spitting in his face during Stage 19.
Skyfall: Thomas tanks as podium spot slips away
Geraint Thomas kissed the Paris podium goodbye overnight as the effects of three long weeks on the bike took their toll on the Team Sky stalwart on Stage 19 of the Tour de France.

“Nibali is now ahead in the GC and I congratulate him for that. It's true he did a very good job today,” said Contador.

“We will see how I will feel tomorrow. The most important thing right now is to have a very good massage and recover. My muscles and tendons suffered a lot because the extreme heat dehydrated me.”

Rafal Majka pulled hard on the final climb and showed that has retained good form at this late stage in the race.

“I tried to help Alberto as much as possible during the stage and surely on the final climb,” said Majka who finished the stage in 15th, 5min 2sec behind Nibali.

“It was difficult because there were some flat parts on the climb, which made it difficult to keep the rhythm.

“I like the steep climbs but in the end it is what it is and we are going to try our best again tomorrow for sure.”

The Tinkoff-Saxo team took another hit overnight as Michael Valgren was forced to withdraw with bronchitis. 

With two stages remaining the team will direct all their energy into tonight’s climb of Alpe d’Huez before celebrating their efforts on the Champs-Élysées. It is there that they will help Peter Sagan with one last opportunity for a stage victory and hope to see the Slovak take home the green sprinters’ jersey for the fourth year in a row. 

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