- Associated Press - Friday, July 19, 2013

LE GRAND-BORNAND, FranceRui Costa of Portugal won the mountainous 19th stage of the Tour de France with a solo breakaway on the final climb, while Chris Froome retained the overall lead in rainy conditions on Friday.

Costa secured his second stage win of the race after catching Frenchman Pierre Roland about a quarter of the way up the fourth and final major ascent of Col de la Croix Fry.

“A lot of Portuguese fans have supported me through this Tour and I want to thank them,” Costa said through a translator.

German veteran Andreas Kloeden was second, 46 seconds behind, and Belgian Jan Bakelants was 1:44 back in third. Froome and Alberto Contador finished together several minutes behind Costa.

Froome maintained his lead of 5:11 over Contador. He is two days from becoming the second British rider to win the race after Bradley Wiggins last year.

The 127-mile trek featured two HC climbs and two Category 1 ascents between Bourg-d’Oisans and Le Grand-Bornand in the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.

Contador was expected to attack Froome on the long downhill finish, but perhaps because of the rain, the attack never came.

“I didn’t want to attack in the downhill,” Contador said. “A lot of people like me and when they see me attacking downhill they get scared.”

Froome said he wanted to remain cautious.

“Even though there wasn’t much attacking, it was really tough out there,” Froome said. “I certainly feel a big sigh of relief. Today was a day I was nervous about, happy to put it behind us.”

Now Contador has only Stage 20 from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz on Saturday to close the large gap on Froome.

“It all depends on how my legs are tomorrow,” Contador said. “It depends how I feel.”

Froome was not attacked up the first of the two big Hors Categorie climbs to Col du Glandon. The HC climbs are considered so tough they are beyond classification.

The stage then undulated through the valleys and up several big hills, including the Category 1 climbs of Col de l’Epine and Col de la Croix Fry, then ended with a sharp descent to the ski resort of Le Grand Bornand in south-eastern France.

In heavy rain, Costa reached the top and prepared for a long and slippery descent of some 8 miles. Costa’s other stage win was up to Super-Besse ski station in 2011.

Despite his two stage wins, Costa is down in 24th place and 42:16 behind Froome. Colombian climber Nairo Quintana is 5:32 behind and third overall.

“The Tour is a very important race for me. The GC is something for the future, we will see,” Costa said. “I am happy to have won two stages, especially as it’s the centenary Tour so that makes it more special.”

“There was a moment when I wanted to attack and thought about it,” Contador said, “but then I thought it was best to reach the finish line with Roman.”

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