Portugal's Rui Costa wins rainy 19th stage of Tour de France

Portuguese climber Rui Costa battled the rain in the Alps to win the 19th stage of the Tour de France.
Laurent Cipriani/AP

LE GRAND-BORNAND, France (AP) Rui 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 his main Tour rival 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 tipped 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.

Froome said he wanted to remain cautious.

"For us the objective was to stay on the wheel (of the other contenders)," Froome said. "The team did a huge amount of work today. There are still 125 kilometers to go tomorrow."

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."

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana is 5:32 behind in third overall.

Froome was not attacked up the first of the two big HC climbs to Col du Glandon. They are known as HC, Hors Categorie, because they 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.

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