Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Local Sports

Nibali retains yellow jersey

The Associated Press
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— Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania led a late breakaway in a downpour to win the 19th Stage of the Tour de France on Friday after hitching a ride with his Garmin-Sharp teammates.

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey and is expected to take it home with him when the three-week cycling showcase ends Sunday.

Navardauskas stole away from the pack late in the 208.5-kilometer (129.5-mile) northward trek from Maubourguet to Bergerac. He looked back over his shoulder, kissed his fingers and raised his arms in victory, with a bunch of sprinters barreling behind him. They crossed seven seconds later, and the stragglers followed.

The 26-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider became the first Lithuanian to win an individual stage at cycling’s greatest race, and gave his team its first stage win this Tour. In 2011, he was also part of the Garmin-Cervelo squad that won the team time trial at the Tour that year, and he also won a stage in the Italian Giro last year.

Garmin-Sharp made the win a team effort.

First, Dutch rider Tom-Jelte Slagter joined a five-man breakaway early in the stage, then sped ahead alone. Alex Howes of the United States helped to pull the Lithuanian up front, before Navardauskas went away solo with about 13 kilometers (8 miles) left.

“I gave it all. My teammates worked really hard for me,” said Navardauskas. “I took a risk — you have to try — and it worked.”

Within the last few kilometers, around a dozen riders crashed together while trying to turn rightward on the rain-slickened roads. Among them were Slovak rider Peter Sagan, who has the green jersey given to the race’s best sprinter, and Jean-Christophe Peraud, who is third overall.

Under course rules, because the crash happened in the last 3 kilometers (2 miles) , nobody who went down lost time in the title chase.

The top standings didn’t change. The final shakeout comes Saturday with this year’s only individual time trial. Nibali leads his closest rival by more than seven minutes, but the quest for the last two podium spots is tight. Only 15 seconds separates Thibaut Pinot, Peraud and Alejandro Valverde.

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