• Geraint Thomas suffered a blow on the slopes of Tourmalet with another time loss to race leader Julian Alaphilippe on Stage 14 at the 2019 Tour de France. (Getty Images)
Is a changing of the guard afoot? British WorldTour team's Tour de France dominance in jeopardy as defending champion Geraint Thomas loses time as race enters first foray into the mountains with the decisive final week ahead.
By
Cycling Central

21 Jul - 7:17 AM  UPDATED 21 Jul - 7:32 AM

The first real mountains stage of the 2019 Tour de France quickly separated this year's pretenders from the race's general classification contenders on the long, gruelling slopes of the infamous Tourmalet.

The Stage 14 summit finish saw Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) victorious followed by current race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) six seconds later tied on time with Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma).

Meanwhile, all the heavy pre-race favourites would cross the line in a scattered procession over the next six minutes, most notably defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos), who needed an extra 36 seconds off Pinot's winning time to conclude the 111-kilometre mountaintop final.

Pinot triumphs on Tourmalet as favourites flounder
Thibaut Pinot attacked in the final few hundred metres, taking a historic victory atop the Tourmalet as the brutal finish ruined the ambitions of several GC candidates.

This was 28 seconds more than his Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal needed, who finished eight seconds adrift in fifth behind German Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and six seconds ahead of Spaniard Mikel Landa (Movistar) and 22 seconds ahead of fellow Colombian Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First).

"Just didn't feel right on it from the start really, to be honest," Thomas told a horde of media surrounding him atop stage summit. "Just quite weak. At the end, I just knew I had to try and pace it and I didn't really attempt to follow when they kicked. I thought it was better to try and ride my own pace and limit my losses that way, rather than stay with them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. Maybe I should have tried to stay with them, but it was just one of those days."

TDF 2019: Stage 14 winning moment

Ineos's tyrannical grip on yellow, after having won six of the last seven Tours while under the Sky monicker, seems to be loosening. While Thomas remains second on GC to Alaphilippe, the 33-year-old Welshman has suffered two straight days of time losses and now trails the 27-year-old Frenchman by 2 minutes and 2 seconds after having trailed by 1:12 two stages ago.

Bernal currently sits fourth overall (+3:00), but it is Kruijswijk's placement in third (+2:14) that has many taking notice.

Minus Stage 10 winner Wout van Aert, who crashed out during the individual time trial a day earlier, Jumbo-Visma took the lead in the final kilometres of the Tourmalet to keep the 32-year-old on the stage and GC podium thanks in large part to massive pulls from team-mates Laurens De Plus (BEL) and George Bennett (NZL).

Van Aert: Barrier bounces Belgian from Tour
Rising star Wout van Aert crashed out during unlucky 13th stage individual time trial at the Tour de France.

“This was a great day for us.” said Kruijswijk. “I think my shape is good. Laurens and George rode so fast that I had to slow them down a bit. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw that only ten riders were able to follow. Then I focused on the last five hundred metres. I finished in a good way and this certainly provides perspective.

"During the first 10 days, we were strong as a team in the sprints and now we were still represented by three riders among the best ten on the Tourmalet. After having lost Wout, we had to refocus. I think that worked out well today.

"I’m going to give my all every day. If I can hold on to this in the coming week, it will look good for the podium. But some others showed that it can be over from one day to the next. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves regarding the overall podium.”

TDF 2019: Wout van Aert crash

With Ineos suffering its worst day in the mountains in years, a day in which the British WorldTour team drove a definitive stake through the hearts of its rivals, it was Jumbo-Visma continuing to look calm and collected as they have done for two weeks since opening the Tour with consecutive stage wins. The Dutch squad joined FDJ in tearing up the Tourmalet as Ineos was left to pick up the pieces and re-adjust its tactics with a week to go to Paris.

“We’re going think a little bit differently, but first we have to talk to the guys and debrief," said Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal. "A lot of teams and GC leaders are in the same situation. “Some [rivals] we’ll have to attack, but first we have to see what the guys are saying.

“If you want to attack, you have to have the legs.

“G didn’t have a great day in the last couple of kilometres, but he kept riding and lost around 36 seconds. It’s not a big blow.

"Sometimes you can have a bad day and today was a bad day for him."

Thomas was not alone in his suffering.

Frenchman Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Australian Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) all trudged scatteringly behind, with Porte suffering the most at a loss of 2 minutes 5 seconds to drop 6:49 behind yellow a day after telling media it was critical to start "taking time back."

TDF 2019: Richie Porte cracks on Tourmalet

Former Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is a shell of his former self as the 29-year-old Colombian took 3 minutes 24 seconds to complete the climb. Perhaps the most shocking result belonged to Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).

Just two days removed from his twin brother, Simon Yates, winning Stage 12, the 26-year-old Brit and podium hopeful finished a staggering 6 minutes 42 seconds adrift - 1:07 behind Irishman Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates).

"Not the best day that’s for sure," said Adam Yates, now 10:37 of GC. "Everyone comes out of a time trial differently and usually I come out pretty good but today was a different story. No excuses really, I just didn’t have the legs on the day and that’s how it goes sometimes.

"More than anything I’m just sorry to the guys who have kept me out the wind and looked after me for the past two weeks, they’ve sacrificed their own chances to help me out and in the end it didn’t come off. Having said all that, tomorrow is another day and we will continuing fighting like it’s day one."

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Stage 14, French Flair wins on top of Tourmalet

Mitchelton sports director Matt White echoed Yates's assessment and admits the team will have to change its focus in the final week of racing after having picked up stage wins from Simon Yates and South African champion Daryl Impey (Stage 9) earlier in the race.

"It was a disappointing day for us," said White. "There will be a time to sit down and analyse the reasons why, but what we do know now is that our general classification goals have come to an end.

"The strength of this organisation is its ability to deal with setbacks and move on quickly. We will need to change our approach, so now we are chasing stage win number three."