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Tadej Pogacar’s aggressive style paid off with a stage win into Laruns, as he outsprinted a small group of GC favorites and an incredible Marc Hirschi for the stage win.
The Tour’s second and final Pyrenean stage saw major GC shakeups. Primoz Roglic took the yellow jersey off Adam Yates and finished in a small group containing Egan Bernal, Pogacar, and Mikel Landa that took time on all other rivals.
Pogacar moved himself into seventh overall and Bernal slotted into second. Two Frenchman, Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet, sit in third and fourth.
How it happened
The peloton couldn’t settle on a breakaway group for the first two hours of the stage, despite attempts from Thomas De Gendt, world champion Mads Pedersen, Greg Van Avermaet and more. Every move was covered, pulled back, and another would go. It was brutal.
Finally, the revelation of stage 2, Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi, found some distance. His lead extended out to a few minutes, with a 20-rider chase group behind. He continued on as the chase group was pulled back. He wouldn’t see another rider for 80 kilometers.
The GC race remained relatively calm until the final climb, the Col de Marie Blanque. The lead-in to the category 1, with bonus seconds available at the top, was controlled by Jumbo-Visma, first by Robert Gesink, then Wout van Aert, then George Bennett and Sepp Kuss, who appeared mostly recovered from his bad day on stage 8.
The steepest section of the Marie Blanque lies in the last three kilometers, and GC riders eyed each other as it approached. Would Tadej Pogacar try again? He took 38 seconds on his rivals a day before.
Hirschi, slamming down gels and taking a few slightly sticky bottles, had his lead cut to two minutes halfway up the climb. It would be touch-and-go to the top.
Pogacar answered the question with 20.5km to go, pushing off the front and into a few bike lengths of space. Tom Dumoulin took up pacing duties for Roglic behind. The acceleration sent the yellow jersey of Adam Yates off the back. It was Dumoulin’s last major effort, too.
Roglic pulled Pogacar back. The front group was then four – Roglic, Pogacar, Bernal, and Landa.
Bernal was the next to push on, pushing through the 12% grades like he was attacking through treacle. In the slowdown after Bernal’s move, Porte was able to come across to the front group, making it five.
Pogacar tried again, but nobody could find a gap. Behind, Quintana led a group with Bardet, Uràn, and Guillaume Martin.
A slowdown up front allowed Bardet to come across, briefly, until the acceleration came at 150m to the summit for the remaining five- and two-second time bonuses. Roglic and Pogacar sprinted, and nearly tangled, taking the seconds in that order.
The situation into the descent to the finish: Hirschi, off the front, followed 11 seconds later by a group of four containing Roglic, Pogacar, Bernal, and Landa. Guillaume Martin, Bardet, Uràn, Quintana, and Porte, and Mollema were within spitting distance.
The yellow jersey chased, caught up by the likes of Dumoulin and Miguel Ángel López. The gap stretched. His yellow passed to Roglic on the road.
Hirschi pulled a few seconds out on the furious descent, taking all sorts of chances. The group of four behind chased hard, eyeing bonus seconds and the stage win. With 3km to go, they could see the Sunweb rider ahead.
With 2km to go, with his gap down to 100 meters, Hirschi sat up, taking a bet on his sprinting legs over the four GC riders.
Roglic led into the finish, Hirschi opened the sprint, but there were no gifts for the man who’d been out front all day. It was Pogacar with the best legs and the stage win ahead of Roglic, with Hirschi in third.
The second group crossed 11 seconds back, and the Yates group crossed at 54 seconds.
Top 10, stage 9
1 POGACAR Tadej (UAE-Team Emirates) 3:55:17
2 ROGLIC Primoz (Team Jumbo-Visma)
3 HIRSCHI Marc (Team Sunweb)
4 BERNAL Egan (INEOS Grenadiers)
5 LANDA Mikel (Bahrain – McLaren)
6 MOLLEMA Bauke (Trek – Segafredo) 0:11
7 MARTIN Guillaume (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits)
8 BARDET Romain (AG2R La Mondiale)
9 PORTE Richie (Trek – Segafredo)
10 URÁN Rigoberto (EF Pro Cycling)
Top 10, GC
1 ROGLIC Primoz (Team Jumbo-Visma) 38:40:01
2 BERNAL Egan (INEOS Grenadiers) 0:21
3 MARTIN Guillaume (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) 0:28
4 BARDET Romain (AG2R La Mondiale) 0:30
5 QUINTANA Nairo (Team Arkéa Samsic) 0:32
6 URÁN Rigoberto (EF Pro Cycling)
7 POGACAR Tadej (UAE-Team Emirates) 0:44
8 YATES Adam (Mitchelton-Scott) 1:02
9 LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel (Astana Pro Team) 1:15
10 LANDA Mikel (Bahrain – McLaren) 1:42
In other news
| Aru abandons the Tour
Sunday’s stage was not all good for UAE-Team Emirates as former Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru pulled out of the race, marking the second straight Grand Tour that Aru has abandoned. After working his way back from iliac artery surgery to start last year’s Tour, he pulled out of the 2019 Vuelta due to muscle problems.
Following Aru’s withdrawal from the 2020 Tour on Sunday, UAE team advisor Giuseppi Saronni expressed his displeasure in a surprisingly blunt interview in an interview on RAI 2, levying extremely sharp criticism at the Italian climber that has battled through health problems for most of his time with the team.
“When an athlete is suffering physically and muscularly, some find the clarity and strength to react,” Saronni said. “Fabio, on the other hand, does not.”
| Pidcock wins the U23 Giro
Tom Pidcock sealed the overall win at the Giro Ciclisticio d’Italia with a victory on Saturday’s eighth and final stage.
On a day that took the peloton up and over the Passo del Mortirolo, Pidcock topped Henri Vandenabeele by one second, with Samuele Zoccarato in third, 1:20 back. Pidcock took the overall title with a healthy advantage of 2:25 to Vandenabeele, with Kevin Colleoni dropping to third on the final podium.
| Rochette signs with Rapha
Pan-American cyclocross champ Maghalie Rochette has signed a deal with Rapha.
The 27-year-old Canadian, who rode to her first World Cup victory last year in Iowa City, will ride in Rapha kit for the next two years. According to Rapha, brand and rider are collaborating on a special edition collection set for a spring 2021 launch.
| Faulkner wins Tour de l’Ardeche stage 4
Kristen Faulkner won Sunday’s fourth stage of the Tour de l’Ardeche, putting in a big ride to ascend to victory at Mont-Lozère. Lauren Stephens finished as runner-up on the day to secure the one-two for Tibco-SVB, with Mavi García taking third.
With three stages to go, García remains in the overall race lead, eight seconds ahead of Anna Kiesenhofer.
| Coming up at the Tour
Monday is the first rest day at the Tour. Racing resumes on Tuesday.
In case you missed it
| TDF Power Analysis: Pogacar’s Peyresourde attacks and new climbing record
Giancarlo Bianchi takes a look at Tadej Pogacar’s numbers on the Peyresourde, revealing just how impressive the youngster’s day was.
Today’s featured image of Tadej Pogacar winning stage 9 of the Tour de France comes from Cor Vos.