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Tour: Dumoulin Soloes to Andorran Win; GC Deadlock Behind

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Contador abandons, Quintana reluctant to attack.

Dumoulin Wins Tour Stage 9 LIONEL BONAVENTURE, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Another stage went to the break, as the heavens opened on Arcalis. It was a strong move that got away on the early slopes of the Port de la Boniagua, containing Dumoulin, a clutch of Movistar domestiques, Pinot, Majka, Rosa, Mathias Frank, and a whole load of others. The first threat they faced was an early move by Quintana team mate and contender Alejandro Valverde, the down on his luck Alberto Contador, and a less wholehearted Sergio Henao. While Henao dropped off the pairing after a while, the Spanish duo arrived at the large group...momentarily. Before long, Contador was dropped, and was clearly suffering on the mountain. Eventually, he was detached from the break, not even able to hold Peter Sagan's wheel on the ascent. He dropped back to the peloton, and after talking with the car for a while, abandoned the Tour de France on the Port del Cantó. By that stage Valverde had long been recaptured, having been bullied out of the break by ambitious stage hunters.

Contador Abandons Tour 2016 Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Pinot, De Gendt and Majka vied for the KOM jersey all day. Pinot beat De Gendt to the summit of the first climb, but the Belgian returned the favour on the second. He took the second category third climb as well, with Diego Rosa nicking second place from the FDJ rider. De Gendt continued alone to the Col de Beixalis, where he totally cracked, and the breakaway group thinned. Tom Dumoulin appeared to struggle on the steep gradient, but he stayed on the group, to be rewarded with a chance to attack on the final bit of flat. He charged away to get an advantage of a minute before even starting the climb to Arcalis, and was never seen by his chasers again, crossing the line in Andorra thirty-eight seconds ahead of Ruí Costa, who won the sprint for second with Majka, costing the Pole his polkadot jersey. He will hand it to Pinot, who finished sixth on the stage.

"It's a dream," said the stage winner. It's an incredible day, queen stage, it was really really hard. It's very very special. I've shown I can do this in the Vuelta last year, but I'm very happy."

Back in the peloton, Sky lead the peloton for the entire stage, without even a hint of a Movistar challenge where it might have been expected on the Col de Beixalis. They controlled the pace, controlled the race, and ensured a fairly large peloton got to the botton of Arcalis together. Henao was the first to attack as it started to rain, and was the first to be brought back, this time by Daniel Martin, who is really coming into his own this Tour de France. Martin too attacked a few times, but was missing the kick he possesses on shorter climbs, never getting away from the peloton. Perhaps, even, he did too much work, as he was often found wanting when Froome made an attack, which he did twice on this stage to no avail. Richie Porte was also in the lead group, and pulled it along for a while, to the surprise and expense of his better placed team mate Tejay van Garderen. He attacked too, also getting nothing, despite the fact that the move could only be handled by Froome, Quintana and Mollema.

From Nairo Quintana? Zilch, nada, nothing. Sure, he stayed with the lead group, but remained totally impassive, never getting gapped, but never making a move or taking any risk. Indeed, perhaps the most dangerous-looking attack was made by Bauke Mollema a couple of kilometres from the finish. He got a decent gap before being hauled back in again. Dan Martin had another go, which finally forced a selection of Froome, Quintana, Porte...and Adam Yates, who is really having a great Tour de France. The quintet arrived together into the final kilometre, with Martin just hanging on. He and Porte lost two seconds on the line.

Le Tour de France 2016 - Stage Nine Froome Quintana Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Froome kept hold of yellow in Andorra, and said after the finish that "That was a tough old day out there. I'm really happy with that. It would always be nice to have a bit more of a buffer in the yellow jersey, but I'm happy. Couldn't be in a better place right now. The race is still very open."

Yates stayed in second place, but Martin moved up onto the podium, with Rodríguez moving down to fifth. Valverde was a bigger loser, now down to tenth. However, with only one Pyrenean climb left — and that's not one that's likely to be decisive, the top ten are as close as could be dreamt. There's only one minute and one second between first and tenth, leaving it all to play for on Mont Ventoux.

Stage Results:
1. NED Tom Dumoulin TGA 5:16:24
2. POR Ruí Costa LAM 0:38
3. POL Rafal Majka TNK "
4. ESP Daniel Navarro COF 1:39
5. COL Winner Anacona MOV 1:57
6. FRA Thibaut Pinot FDJ 2:30
7. NZL George Bennett TLJ 2:48
8. ITA Diego Rosa AST 2:52
9. SUI Mathias Frank IAM 3:44
10. GBR Adam Yates OBE 6:35
General Classification
1. GBR Chris Froome SKY 44:36:03
2. GBR Adam Yates OBE 0:16
3. IRE Daniel Martin EQS 0:19
4. COL Nairo Quintana MOV 0:23
5. ESP Joaquím Rodríguez KAT 0:37
6. FRA Romain Bardet ALM 0:44
7. NED Bauke Mollema TFR "
8. COL Sergio Henao SKY "
9. RSA Louis Meintjes LAM 0:55
10. ESP Alejandro Valverde MOV 1:01