Primoz Roglic kept his lead in the Tour de France on Friday with just two stages remaining as Denmark’s Soren Kragh Andersen burst clear to victory on stage 19.
Sam Bennett inched further ahead in the struggle for the green jersey by beating rival Peter Sagan, who failed in two bids to shake off the Irishman.
Sunweb rider Andersen also won the stage at Lyon last week in similar style, striking from 3km out, this time he attacked with 16km to go.
“I have proved myself in the greatest race in the world,” said Andersen. “I just thought ‘holy shit’ I’ve won two stages in the same Tour.”
“This is a result of all the work we have done at Sunweb over the past two or three years,” he said.
In the race for overall Tour de France victory Jumbo’s dominant leader Roglic retained a 57 second advantage over his Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar.
That duo face a much-awaited individual time trial on Saturday, which features a Category 1 mountain where the 21-year-old Pogacar has vowed to topple Roglic.
The younger man did just that recently in the Slovenian national time-trials.
“So far so good. Better even because I kept my energy for the big day,” Roglic said.
“I know how I’ll handle tomorrow. I’m feeling okay health-wise and I’m quite excited about it.”
Jumbo’s assistant manager Merijn Zeeman will not be there for Roglic. Zeeman was thrown off the Tour on Thursday for threats and insults to the control team checking Roglic’s bike.
“We are not happy with that, It’s not good for us. “I wasn’t there when all this happened, but it’s not nice as he cannot be here anymore,” Roglic said.
After three days going up and down Alpine mountains, stage 19 had been described as an easy day for the overall contenders, and so it proved.
This was not the case for Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter Bennett however, who fended off the seven-time green jersey Sagan in their close-run contest for the remaining sprint points.
Bennett vs. Sagan
By the time the peloton reached the Jura vineyards of Chateau-Chalon for climb at halfway, Remi Cavagna was a minute ahead on a solo break rolling through what guides describe as one of France’s prettiest villages.
At the head of the main pack, Bennett won the dash for the intermediary sprint points taking 11, to Sagan’s seven.
Sagan made a bid for glory from 20km out, but Bennett was able to keep up.
As an escape group formed, the peloton slowed to a snail’s pace as many of the lesser riders realised their contribution to this Tour was essentially over due to the nature of the final two stages.
At the front, Andersen kept working and finished 53 seconds clear. Bennett again outsprinted Sagan, finishing eighth, one place ahead of the Slovak.
Saturday’s 36km time-trial gives Roglic’s rivals a last chance to grab the yellow jersey.
The Tour de France then culminates with the traditional parade ride into Paris which looks like being a triumphal progress for Roglic. But, with two sprints on the stage, Sagan could still snatch the points jersey from Bennett in the furious final charge around the Champs Elysees.