BERGERAC, France (AP) - A rain-soaked stage across southwest France that was earmarked for sprinters became instead the occasion for a hard-won victory by U.S. team Garmin-Sharp’s Ramunas Navardauskas.
The finale of Friday’s 208.5-kilometer (130-mile) stage from Maubourguet to Bergerac was disrupted when a chasing pack of sprinters crashed in the rain-slick final kilometers, leaving Navardauskas to claim Lithuania’s first Tour de France stage victory.
Here are five things to know about Friday’s Stage 19 of the Tour de France:
RAMUNAS DE BERGERAC: Stage 19 winner Ramunas Navardauskas’ teammates were unanimous in their praise of the Lithanian rider’s performance Friday, which they said confirmed qualities they’ve long known about but which the rider they call “Honey Badger” has tended to keep quiet about.
Garmin-Sharp teammate Jack Bauer was still bleeding from a crash in the finale and wasn’t even sure who’d won when he stopped shortly after the finish line to talk to reporters.
Bauer wasn’t surprised when told Navardauskas had clinched the solo breakaway win under a steady downpour in Bergerac.
“I’m really proud of Ramunas, he’s an awesome teammate, an awesome rider, he’s been an awesome roomate for me the whole tour, and I’m stoked for him,” said Bauer, who was taken down in a pileup near the end of Friday’s stage that also knocked down Green Jersey holder Peter Sagan.
“He always does his job and whenever he gets an opportunity he capitalizes on it. And this was an opportuntity that he really took hold of today,” Bauer added.
Navardauskas is riding his third Tour. Garmin-Sharp riders praise him as a model teammate who always puts the team’s interests ahead of his own.
“We have to fight with him not to be the first guy to bring rain jackets to the car and go and get bidons (water bottles) because he’s just a little bit too kind,” said Garmin-Sharp sports director Charly Wegelius.
Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar, who wasn’t selected for the team’s Tour de France squad, chimed in on Twitter to add his praise for Navardauskas.
“Amazing. Ramunus aka Honey Badger was my replacement. Job well done. Legend,” Millar said.
LITHUANIAN PRIDE: Navardauskas’ win made headlines in his home country of Lithunia. National daily Lietuvos Rytas headlined its website “Ramunas Navardauskas Rewrites History with Tour de France Stage Win” and free tabloid 15 Min splashed the news of the country’s first Tour de France stage winner across its homepage.