Portugal’s Rui Costa won the brutal nineteenth stage of the 2013 Tour de France on Friday, conquering the 204.5 kilometer course for his second stage win of the race. Leader Chris Froome capitalized on a strong day of racing to maintain a 5:11 lead of Spain’s Alberto Contador, a two-time Tour champion.
With only two stages remaining, Froome appeared confident about his chances at a win when speaking to reporters after the race, but hedged his optimism with a bit of caution (via Reuters): “It would take a lot for someone to take more than five minutes. Having said that, I don’t want to be complacent so we have to stay focused and switched on until tomorrow night at least.”
Philippe Mauduit, the sports director of Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff team, spoke after the race about Contador’s realization that there is little chance of catching Froome: “That was not our objective at the start of the Tour but at some point you have to admit that Chris was just much stronger than anyone else in the race.”
We did not manage to destabilize Froome so as the Tour goes, you take what you can and the team classification is a good thing, it reinforces the team spirit and it is something the riders will remember.
Alberto came here to win, not to be second, third, fifth or 10th, it has no importance to him. It does not have the same value when you have already won several grand Tours.
Contador’s not even guaranteed a second-place finish to Froome, for he only leads the fifth place rider by 47 seconds. While the battle for first may appear over, the battle for the podium should make for an exciting last two days.