Navardauskas wins Stage 19

AP

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. His lead of more than seven minutes over his closest challenger is so big that only a racing disaster could strip him of it.

Navardauskas stole away from the pack late in the 208.5-km trek from Maubourguet to Bergerac in southwest France. 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 on the Garmin-Cervelo squad that won the team time trial at the Tour that year, and he also won a stage in last year’s Italian Giro.

Garmin-Sharp made the win a team effort.

First, Dutch rider Tom-Jelte Slagter joined a five-man breakaway early on, then sped ahead alone. Alex Howes of the United States helped pull the Lithuanian up front, before Navardauskas went away solo with about 13 km 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.”

The performance offered some vindication for Garmin-Sharp, which has had a rough Tour.