Bergerac, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania won Stage 19 of the Tour de France on a rainy Friday, while Italy's Vincenzo Nibali remained in firm control of the yellow jersey as the overall leader with just two days remaining in cycling's most prestigious event.
Navardauskas finished the 208.5 kilometers from Maubourguet to Bergerac in a time of 4 hours, 43 minutes and 41 seconds for his first career Tour de France stage win. He crossed the line alone after a crash within the final three kilometers ended the stage win hopes for many of the top sprinters.
"It was a big dream to win a Tour de France stage," said Navardauskas. "It's everyone's dream."
Germany's John Degenkolb won a sprint to finish second, seven seconds behind, followed by Norway's Alexander Kristoff and Australia's Mark Renshaw.
Nibali was placed 24th on Friday and was actually more than a minute behind the stage winner, but the crash within the final three kilometers left all the riders in the peloton with the same time as the runner-up group.
"It was important not to take any risk," said Nibali about Friday's strategy. "That was the essential for me. The rain had made the finale difficult."
The Italian still has an overall lead of 7 minutes and 10 seconds over Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who had initially finished 40 seconds ahead of Nibali. France's Jean-Christophe Peraud is 7:23 behind and Spain's Alejandro Valverde is another two seconds off the pace in fourth.
Rain throughout Friday's race helped cause many flat tires, but there were no crashes early. A group of five leaders never got more than 3 1/2 minutes ahead of the peloton and after Navardauskas moved to the front in the closing moments, his lead was whittled to under 30 seconds with less than five kilometers to the finish.
The sprinters' group appeared poised to steal the stage win until the crash. Green jersey leader Peter Sagan of Slovakia was among those caught up, while the incident also caused the yellow jersey group to slow down -- leading to the time credits.
"I was caught in the crash, I tried to avoid it but I couldn't," said Peraud. "Obviously the rain did not help, especially in a finale with a lot of turns and nervous sprint in the end. We crashed, it's classic."
With Nibali in firm command of the yellow jersey, Saturday's time trial will help determine the remainder of the podium. Just 15 seconds separates Pinot, Peraud and Valverde.
Stage 20 on Saturday is the only time trial in this year's Tour and runs 54 kilometers from Bergerac to Perigieux.
The Tour concludes on Sunday with the traditional finish along the Champs Elysees in Paris.
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