Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran delivered an improbable win in the ninth Stage of the Tour de France in Chambéry today by mere millimeters over Sunweb’s Warren Barguil, while leader Chris Froome of Sky saw his rivals limited or eliminated on a dramatic day of racing in the Jura region. Uran, with his rear derailleur non-functional and stuck in his biggest gear, came past Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang for the win with no amount of road to spare as a hard-charging Barguil came painfully close to a huge and courageous win of his own.
While Fabio Aru of Astana and Romain Bardet of AG2R remained with Froome to the finish and defended their positions in the Tour, Froome’s most threatening rival Richie Porte of BMC left the race in an ambulance after a terrible downhill crash, joining a list of riders who fell on slippery descents today. Nairo Quintana of Movistar, Dan Martin of Quick Step, Alberto Contador of Trek and the ORICA duo of Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves all lost significant time on the climb of the Mont du Chat — except for Martin, who climbed admirably but crashed twice on his way into Chambéry.
Slick conditions led to the retirement of several riders, including most notably Geraint Thomas of Sky, the chief lieutenant to Froome, who crashed on the descent of the Col de la Biche. LottoNL-Jumbo also lost Robert Gesink, their captain, and Manuele Mori of UAE was injured, while Jesus Herrara of Movistar was briefly rumored to have crashed out before he (like several others hitting the deck on the day) managed to continue. Rafal Majka of Bora also continued but suffered from the effects of his own crash. The culprit was a bit of rain on smooth roads, causing patches of diminished traction, though overall conditions were not bad. Bardet barely evaded his own crash with some deft handling in a slick corner. Even Contador hit the deck, albeit on the climb of the Grand Colombière, with a touch of wheels involving Quintana.
AG2R were tremendously aggressive all day, forcing matters in both the break and the peloton, though Alexis Vuillermoz was eventually dropped by Warren Barguil of Sunweb and Tiesj Benoot of Lotto-Soudal, who paced things on the Grand Colombiere with some outstanding climbing. Prior to that, Primoz Roglic of Direct Energie had taken honors for the polka dots, but Barguil dropped him on the third climb of the day to take control of that competition.
Michael Matthews of Sunweb took the sprintermediate, and with Arnaud Démare falling dangerously off the pace, Matthews might look like a green jersey contender, sitting third as the day began and possessing the all-around ability that will get him over the mountains in better shape than Demare or Marcel Kittel, the current leader. Stay tuned there.
Starting up the Mont du Chat, Tony Gallopin dragged Jan Bakelandts for a while before getting free at the front of the race, trailed by Barguil and Bauke Mollema of Trek, while the peloton thinned out 2:30 back. Sky completely controlled the pace, though AG2R’s multiple riders in multiple places gave Bardet some real hope of support. Everyone else among the GC pack were left a bit naked, save for the odd helper like Fuglsang with Fabio Aru and BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi with Porte.
Aru launched the hostilities on the final climb with an attack on the Mont du Chat that left Froome behind with bike trouble, but the overall leader had teammates to spare and paced back with little drama (as his rivals seemed to sit up anyway, presumably obeying unwritten rules). By then, Barguil, surviving from the breakaway, had come past the previous leaders and put a significant gap into the fading breakaway members, pacing himself over the Mont du Chat alone with 25 seconds’ lead in the race. Froome himself threw a few punches of his own, and dropped Quintana from contention, with the Colombian still suffering from his Giro d’Italia effort. Porte paced himself well with Froome and Uran, while Aru and Bardet barely managed to stay even at the summit.
But on the twisting descent, Porte lost his line cutting the inside of a slight turn, going off the left side of the road, where his bike slid down and sent the Australian tumbling back across the road where he and Martin slammed into the rock wall on the right side. Martin got up immediately but Porte was put in a neck brace and remained on the road for a while. Latest reports say he suffered a concussion and plenty of cuts and bruises, but no fractures or other more complicated injuries.
That left Froome with only Aru and Uran as they polished off the climb, slightly behind the aggressively descending Bardet and just ahead of Fuglsang. Bardet, second overall, put Froome under pressure with his descent, after barely hanging on going up the climb, and passed Barguil to take the sole lead on the stage. The drama continued behind, as Uran had gearing trouble on a brief climb and the Froome group waited for him, wisely enough, with 10km of flat to the line, but that gave Bardet a 30 second cushion.
Coming into town, Bardet was reeled in with 2.2km remaining, as the chasers (Froome, Aru, Fuglsang, Uran and Barguil) worked together to set up the sprint. Froome briefly tried to ride everyone off his wheel, but once that failed it left Uran and Fuglsang best-poised. The Dane lunged first but from too far, and Uran broke through to take the win. But not before Barguil accelerated and caught the Colombian, just the blink of an eye too late. Barguil reacted like he had won but eventually got the bad news. Froome got third for a four-second bonus, putting him 18 seconds up on Aru for the overall.
Monday’s rest day will be welcomed by plenty of riders. Demare staved off a time cut to hold on to second in the points, and Barguil surged ahead in the KOM competition, for his troubles, while also earning the combativity prize for the stage.
- Rigoberto Uran, Cannondale-Drapac
- Warren Barguil, Sunweb, s.t.
- Chris Froome, Sky, s.t.
- Romain Bardet, AG2R, s.t.
- Fabio Aru, Astana, s.t.
- Jakob Fuglsang, Astana, s.t.
- George Bennett, LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1.15
- Mikel Landa, Sky, s.t.
- Dan Martin, Quick Step, s.t.
- Nairo Quintana, Movistar, s.t.
- Aru, at 0.18
- Bardet, at 0.51
- Uran, at 0.55
- Fuglsang, at 1.37
- Martin, at 1.44
- Simon Yates, Orica-Scott, at 2.02
- Quintana, at 2.13
- Landa, at 3.06
- Bennett, at 3.53
- Barguil, 60 points
- Primoz Roglic, Direct Energie, 30
- Alexis Vuillermoz, AG2R, 27
- Louis Meintjes, UAE, at 2.58
- Pierre Latour, AG2R, at 3.28