The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 9
1st – John Degenkolb (Trek – Segafredo)
2nd – Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
3rd – Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors)
The last stage before the first rest day, and it’s possibly the most crucial of the race as the Tour de France races across the cobbled roads of France’s North. It wasn’t light on cobbles, with 22km worth coming in 15 sectors; the real Roubaix has around 55-60km, so its nearly half a Roubaix. With the stage 156km long, the first cobbled sector came after 49km. From there, they were thick and fast until the last sector with 9km to go. Though wet and muddy cobbles are dangerous, so too are the dry dusty ones that the peloton raced on today; causing numerous crashes.
Yellow – Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
Polka Dot – Toms Skujins (Trek - Segafredo)
Green – Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
White – Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb)
The GC Men
2nd Overall - Geraint Thomas @ 0:43
4th - Bob Jungels @ 0:50
5th - Alejandro Valverde @ 1:31
6th - Rafael Majka @ 1:32
7th - Jakob Fuglsang @ 1:33
8th - Chris Froome @ 1:42
9th - Adam Yates @ 1:42
10th - Mikel Landa @ 1:42
12th - Vincenzo Nibali @ 1:48
13th - Primoz Roglic @ 1:57
14th - Bauke Mollema @ 1:58
15th - Tom Dumoulin @ 2:03
16th - Steven Kruiswijk @ 2:06
17th - Romain Bardet @ 2:32
18th - Warren Barguil @ 2:37
19th - Ilnur Zakarin @ 2:42
21st - Nairo Quintana @ 2:50
22nd - Rigoberto Uran @ 2:53
24th - Dan Martin @ 3:22
A 10 rider break formed after a hectic start, with some big competition to spend the day out front. The nicest place to ride on the cobbles is near the front of the group, and that’s far easier to do in a smaller group
Direct Energie managed to sneak three riders into the break, with Jerome Cousin, Lillian Calmejane and Damien Gaudin all making it. Omar Fraille, Thomas De Gendt, Reinhardt Janse Van Rensburg, Chad Haga, Olivier La Gac, Nicholas Edet, and Antwan Tolhoek joined them.
The group was struggling to extend their gap but were allowed away after a crash caused a in the peloton. The biggest name brought down there, was Richie Porte. The Tasmanian was forced to retire, having broken his collarbone.
The ten men out front built a 3:00 advantage leading into the first section of cobbles, but Tolhoek punctured right at the start, reducing the group to nine.
For the first 5 or so sectors, it was relatively calm in the peloton with the group staying mostly intact. But as the peloton hit Sector 12, Warlaing, the chaos kicked off, with a huge crash happening halfway down the field. Over the next 50km, nearly every GC contender found himself behind the peloton at one point or another – Froome crashed, Bardet suffered numerous mechanicals, Uran was caught behind several splits, Yates was caught out by splits too.
The only riders to stay alert and well-positioned for the majority of the day were Geraint Thomas and the contenders from Movistar (who were surprisingly adept at this). No team fully committed to setting the pace, despite several opportunities to put their rivals under pressure. Bardet spent a long time playing catch-up though, as he suffered several mechanicals and was forced to chase.
The group out front was being slowly whittled down though, with Cousin, and Edet both being dropped. With 37km to go, Van Rensburg attacked his companions, along with Gaudin. Their lead was only 40 seconds at this point, so it functioned as more of a last-ditch attempt.
With 34km to go, another crash occurred – Mikel Landa hit something on the road and crashed heavily. Barely 2km later, Rigoberto Uran was caught up in a crash caused by Julian Alaphilippe. Both were over a minute back on the peloton and had several teammates with them to chase.
At this point, the cobbled specialists were getting testy; Gilbert tried a move off the front but was unlucky enough to puncture seconds later. Sagan had been hot on his wheel, while Greg Van Avermaet also went to the front for a few accelerations, but none made their race-breaking move.
With 18km to go, the break was finally pulled back, and the peloton headed onto the second-to-last sector, Camphin-en-Pevele. Yves Lampaert threw down the first attack, with Degenkolb and Van Avermaet on his wheel. At this point the dust was so thick you could barely see the peloton 100m behind, but rest assured, Peter Sagan was on the front in pursuit.
Sagan’s pace split the peloton, but as they swung back onto smooth roads, the energy in the chase was lost, and the three out front could stretch their lead out to 30 seconds in only a few kilometres of racing
With only one cobbled sector remaining, we saw the GC men attempting to break away, with Froome, Bardet, Roglic and Valverde all attempting small attacks. It was an intriguing 30-strong group that remained at this point, with the big GC names, some sprinters like Kristoff, Greipel, and Gaviria, and the names you’d expect on the cobbles like Sagan. To have any chance of winning though, they’d have to catch the three out front, which looked unlikely with the gap growing, and no cohesion in the chase.
A quartet of Gilbert, Stuyven, Sagan and Jungels set off in pursuit, but they couldn’t get close. Even as the front three started to slow down and play games, they had too much of an advantage.
Under the flame rouge, it was Degenkolb on the front, having been coaxed there by Van Avermaet. It put him on the back foot, and he was forced to lead out from 200m. But Van Avermaet couldn’t come around the German. It was his biggest win since the training crash in 2016 that derailed his career. It's a huge boost for the two-time monument winner, who is now a Tour de France stage winner.
34th - Mat Hayman @ 0:27
72th - Luke Durbridge @ 2:12
77th - Michael Hepburn @ 4:15
79th - Heinrich Haussler @ 5:11
90th - Rory Sutherland @ 5:52
106th - Simon Clarke @ 12:24
145th - Simon Gerrans @ 16:09
146th - Mark Renshaw @ 16:09
165th - Damien Howson
DNF - Richie Porte
The Movers And Shakers
The biggest name to crash out is Richie Porte. As a site with a Tasmanian background, SSS was obviously cheering on Richie, and this one hurts us big time. It’s the latest chapter in his out-of-luck story, and a disappointment for the race as well as Aussie cycling. For such a nice guy, you’d just like to see him get one proper crack at Le Tour.
BMC had a terrible day in the end. Though he was a clear plan B, Tejay Van Garderen lost huge time after several crashes and mechanicals. They kept the yellow jersey, but Van Avermaet will lose it on the next stage and they’ll struggle to be relevant in the rest of this year’s tour. A sad state of affairs considering that the team is unlikely to continue.
Bardet probably runs second in the most-unlucky stakes; by my count, he had six mechanicals. After chasing for an hour at one point, he made it back to the main group and then punctured with 6km to go (I’m sure Geraint Thomas was very upset for him, and would really like to have waited; just a shame the pace was already on!) His chase right until the end bore fruit though as he finished only 7 seconds behind the peloton and other GC favourites.
Landa finished with Bardet, and it could have been much worse for him too. His crash with 34km to go was very heavy. He’ll be sore, but at least he didn’t lose much time. He’s constantly managing the leadership situation with his team, and if he loses too much time, it will be his chances that are sacrificed first.
Uran lost 1:55 to the front group and 1:28 to Froome in the end. His crash didn’t look as bad as Landa’s did, and certainly wasn’t as costly as Porte’s but he lost a fair chunk of time. It puts him a long way off the mark now, and he’s going to need to be aggressive in the mountains.
So in the end, we didn’t quite see the carnage to the overall standings that we expected (aside from the withdrawal of Porte). Several teams had several chances to blow the race to pieces when their rivals faced mechanicals or crashes but chose not too. Everyone seemed concerned about just surviving the day, and who can really blame then
See you back at the social club,