Rigoberto Uran wins his first stage of the Tour de France in photo finish
The Tour de France had six high-mountain climbs on a single stage for the first time since 2011. The pain and suffering of stage nine was indiscriminate. Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran’s photo finish win over Frenchman Warren Barguil is just half of the story. As the stage unfolded a number of fierce battles broke out, right the way to the finish line. A number of big names had to withdraw from the race, including Robert Gesink, Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte. Thomas seems to be on a run of bad luck, he of course was forced to retire from the Giro d’Italia, just a couple of months ago.
Tim Wellens went full gas from the start. He was joined by a host of riders including Tony Gallopin, Michael Matthews, Thomas De Gendt and Jan Bakalants, 38 in total. The peloton was controlled by Team Sky who sat in their familiar position at the front. AG2R are very familiar with the local area, their tactics of attacking on the descent began to look fruitful. Thibaut Pinot hasn’t had too many mentions, but he took the first climb of the day. Many, if not all of the riders are feeling the effects of eight days in the saddle. Seven groups formed early on in the stage. The wet conditions were having an effect early on in the stage, Robert Gesink and Manuele Mori were involved in a crash. Gesink and Mori were both subsequently forced to abandon, they wouldn’t be the only names on withdrawal list.
Team Sky continued to control the peloton as the riders made their way up to Col de la Biche. Movistar were content to let the Sky riders do the work. 39 riders sat at the front with 125Km to go and Movistar’s Carlos Betancur moved into the virtual yellow jersey. Chatter broke out on Social Media as to when the counterattack would come. Team Sky didn’t panic and Laurens ten Dam was content to suffer and do the pulling for the breakaway.
The next casualty of the stage came when news broke of a crash involving Thomas – he was forced to abandon. A fragmented peloton left Chris Froome isolated and he chased the wheel of Porte. Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski and Mikel Nieve rode hard to get back in support of their leader.
Warren Barguil first over the Grand Colombier he was quickly followed by Alex Vuillermoz, Bauke Mollema, Tiejs Benoot, and Primoz Roglic. Nairo Quintana wasn’t having much luck, he became isolated and was forced to change his bike. When GC contenders became isolated it makes live that little be more difficult. They must quickly adapt and become self-sufficient, fetching their own bidons from the team car. With so much drama it was easy to forget about the intermediate sprint, Michael Matthews took that to earn himself 20 points.
With the gap at 2’25” and on the ascent of Mont du Chat, it was Froome signalled for mechanical assistance. Fabio Aru had the audacity to attack but Porte was quick to put a halt to that attack, Aru didn’t look too happy. Froome, on a new bike, worked his way but up to Aru group and a game of cat and mouse began, Alberto Contador, Quintana went backwards. The high-risk descent from the top of Mont du Chat proved to be very costly for Porte. The BMC leader crashed and was taken away by medical staff. It’s fair to say that the World of Cycling wishes Richie, Geraint and the other injured riders all the best and a very speedy recovery.
Frenchman and GC contender Romain Bardet became the stage leader, he powered on through the flat roads and on into Chambéry. He wasn’t going to have it his own way. Hot in pursuit was a group of riders, time trialling in and effort to reel in the Frenchman. The chasing pack including Froome, Barguil, Aru and Uran. It came down to a sprint of the climbers. Barguil was initially given the stage win over Uran, a decision that was overturned shortly afterwards. It’s mixed feeling for Froome. He remains in yellow but will have to defend the jersey without his trusty leuitent, Thomas. All the riders will regroup tomorrow on a well-earned rest day.
Juraj Sagan, Matteo Trentin, Mark Renshaw, Ignats Konovoalovas, Jacopo Guarnieri, Mickaël Delage and Arnaud Demare all failed to make the cut and will therefore witdraw from the race.
The race so far
In summary, Froome looks strong and it’s not surprising to see him in the leader’s jersey. Team Sky are now down to eight riders and will have to work that little bit harder to protect their leader. Quintana may be showing signs of fatigue after his efforts at this year’s Giro d’Italia. The Colombian has got even more problems, his team have been wittled down to seven riders. Aru and Bardet are both in the best position to challenge Froome for the yellow jersey. There are lots of racing to come and we’ve seen that anything can happen. Contador doesn’t look like he has got the fight or the legs to make a sustainable challenge to the race leader. Dan Martin has shown his quality but he’s going to have to do something speacial to reduce his 1’44” defecit to Froome.