July 24, 2015

LA TOUSSUIRE, France (AP) The Latest from the Tour de France (all times local):


8:30 p.m.

Romain Bardet could become the first Frenchman in three years to win the King-of-the-Mountains jersey at the Tour de France.

In Friday's 19th stage, Bardet took the red-and-white polka dot shirt from Joaquim Rodriquez.

Bardet had drawn even with the Spaniard in the best-climber contest a day earlier by winning Stage 18, at 68 points apiece. Rodriguez led an early attack Friday to defend it, and was first over the day's first climb. But then the Frenchman sped ahead.

By the end, three climbs later, Bardet had 90 points - three more than Tour leader Chris Froome. Rodriguez has 78.

The final mountain stage is Saturday, and it's a whopper with climbs up the Croix de Fer pass and a finish up the fabled Alpe d'Huez.

The last French rider to take home the jersey was Thomas Voeckler in 2012.


7:55 p.m.

Geraint Thomas bemoaned his ''terrible'' 19th stage as he plunged from fourth to 15th place overall at the Tour de France.

The quick-witted Welshman said: ''As they say, sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail.''

As his Team Sky leader Chris Froome held onto the yellow jersey Friday by finishing 1 minute, 14 seconds after stage winner Vincenzo Nibali, Thomas saw his distant hope of a podium finish vanish as he crossed 22 minutes after the Italian. Thomas had begun the day trailing Spain's Alejandro Valverde, in third, by 2:25.

''I was just empty today. It was always going to happen, but I was hoping it was going to come on Monday,'' Thomas quipped, referring to the day after Sunday's finish of the three-week race on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.


6:05 p.m.

Nineteen down, one big stage left to go for Chris Froome: The Briton appears on the cusp of his second Tour de France victory - even though he lost more than a half-minute to his main rival in Friday's up-and-down ride in the Alps.

In a dazzling attack, Colombia's Nairo Quintana - who is second overall - outpaced the British race leader on the final uphill of the 138-kilometer (86-mile) Stage 19 from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire ski station.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali won the stage, beating Quintana by 44 seconds and Froome by 1:14. Nibali vaulted from seventh place to fourth overall with his victory.

While a success for Quintana in striking a psychological blow against Froome, the Colombian remains more than 2 1/2 minutes behind the Briton heading into Saturday's decisive Stage 20: a 110.5-kilometer (68.6 mile) ride with a finish up the fabled Alpe d'Huez.

(This story has been corrected to show Nibali rose from seventh, not eighth, to fourth.)


5:50 p.m.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali has regained some glory in the Tour de France by winning the mountainous 19th stage in a solo breakaway.

The Italian accelerated out of a group including overall leader Chris Froome during Friday's hardest Alpine ascent, the Croix de Fer pass, then gradually overtook breakaway riders who had got out front earlier in the 138-kilometer (86-mile) ride.

Froome was willing to let Nibali get away - within limits. The Sicilian entered the stage in seventh place, 8 minutes, 4 seconds behind Froome. It was Nibali's fifth Tour stage victory.

About 90 seconds behind, Froome lost several seconds to his main rival for the title: Colombia's Nairo Quintana, who began the stage 3:10 behind in second.


5:00 p.m.

Denmark's Michael Valgren has dropped out of the Tour de France just two days from the race finish in Paris due to an airway infection, his team spokesman said.

Victor Petri of the Tinkoff Saxo Bank team said Valgren was coughing at the start of Friday's 19th stage and wasn't feeling well, but had wanted to race anyway. By the first climb of the 138-kilometer (86-mile) ride, Valgren was dropped by the peloton and team staffers recommended his withdrawal.

The 2014 Danish champion had begun the day in 110th place, nearly 2 hours, 55 minutes behind race leader Chris Froome.


1:40 p.m.

Tour de France riders are off on the third of four days in the Alps, with Chris Froome hoping to cling on to the yellow jersey until the race ends in Paris in two days.

The 138-kilometer ride takes the pack over four climbs, including the Croix de Fer pass - one of the hardest ascents in cycling - and an uphill finish at La Toussuire ski station.

Froome, the 2013 champion, beat back attacks from his main rivals for the title over the first two days in the Alps.

Race observers say his only real remaining threat is Nairo Quintana, second overall, behind by 3 minutes, 10 seconds.

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