Start location: Moirans-en-Montagne
Finish location: Poligny
Start time: 13:15 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:11 CEST
Stage 19 takes place under the imposing shadow of the Jura mountains by the France-Switzerland border, but, much like stage 18, all of the major surrounding climbs will be overlooked (the GC riders will have to wait for yesterday for the climatic mountain stages, which takes place further north in the Vosges). But while there won't be any spectacular images of riders strewn across these huge peaks that’s so synonymous with the Tour de France, this region of Franche-Comté is still abundant in another aspect integral to many Francophiles and lovers of the Tour: cheese.
Poligny hosts the stage finish, a town with the distinction of being where most of the famous local Comté cheese is aged. Of all the cheeses in France with an AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) label granted for being produced and processed in a specific localised area, Comté is the most popular, and the strict rules means that each part of the cheesemaking process takes place in the surrounding area this stage takes place in. The milk comes from the Montbéliarde and French Simmental breeds of dairy cows from the region, and the production factories used to milk these cows are nearby in order for it to remain as fresh as possible, from where the cheese is transported to cellars in Poligny to mature. The result is what could be called the Wout van Aert of cheeses in terms of its versatility, as the way it can be sold at different ages makes for a great variety of tastes.
Stage 19 profile sourced via ASO
Like stage 18, this looks set to be a tight contest between the sprinters and the breakaway, only this time the balance is tilted further towards the latter. The terrain is more rolling, and there are enough small uphills at the start of the day, including the category four Côte du Bois de Lionge, for a strong group to go clear. In particular, the inclusion of category three Côte d’Ivory just 25km from the finish, with its inviting 5.9% average gradient over 2.3km, looks set to be a springboard for attackers to jump out of the peloton in search of the stage win even if the day’s early break is controlled.
Counting against any attackers will be a dead straight 8km run in to the finish in Poligny, which will give the chasing peloton the encouragement of being able to see the riders they’re pursuing, while burdening the escapees with a disheartening sight when they give in to the irresistible urge to look over their shoulder to see what their gap is. But even if the race does culminate in a bunch finish, a gentle but significant uphill rise in the final kilometre could mean that it’s a different kind of sprinter that triumphs today.
With the sprinters narrowly missing out on stage 18, they are unlikely to let the opportunity slip away again. However, as the race nears Paris, the opportunities for both sprinters and breakaway artists are becoming scarce, so we expect an intense battle for the win.
In a potential sprint finish, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is a strong candidate for another stage win, but he will face tough competition from Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco Alula), Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), and Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), who will also be vying for victory.
Considering the undulating profile of the stage, it might favour the breakaway. Bahrain-Victorious could further add to their stage wins with British champion Fred Wright, who will be looking for any opportunity to go clear. Alternatively, they may choose to send Matej Mohorič into the break, who is also a strong contender for the stage win.
Magnus Cort could end EF Education-EasyPost’s stage win drought if he manages to join the breakaway. The same could be said for Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng. Lotto-Dstny's Pascal Eenkhoorn, who came second on stage 18, along with Victor Campenaerts, who put in a serious effort for his team on the last stage, will also be aiming for a stage win as well.
Soudal-Quick-Step, despite winning stage 18 through Kasper Asgreen, will still be desperate to add more wins to their tally having been so used to multiple stage victories at the Tour over the year. With no sprinter, the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, Yves Lampaert, Rémi Cavagna, or even Asgreen once again, will aim to be in the break with the hope it'll stay clear to the line again.
Alpecin-Deceuninck have already indicated they may try and put Mathieu van der Poel into the breakaway as an alternative should the sprinters not get their chance, but his presence may stifle cooperation in the closing kilometres for an escape group.
We think it’ll come down to a bunch sprint and there is only one man who has been one pedal stroke ahead of the other sprinters and that has been Jasper Philipsen. Missing the opportunity on stage 18, we don’t think he’ll let anyone beat him to the link this time.