Tour de France (st. 9)
6th place for José Joaquín Rojas in Mulhouse as part of pursuit group behind unstoppable Tony Martin (OPQ); Valverde now 7th overall behind new leader Gallopin (LTB), in eve of Tour’s second big challenge
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
A long break -155 out of the 170km on stage nine from Gérardmer to Mulhouse in the lead, the last sixty on a solo action- awarded World TT champion Tony Martin (OPQ) the win on stage nine of the Tour de France, another day of changing weather and long -though gentle- climbs, six in total, into the Massif des Vosges, where the biggest battle was the one to get into the day’s break. With Jesús Herrada searching the initial attempts, it was responsability for another of the Movistar Team to show the Blue colours up-front: José Joaquín Rojas.
The Spaniard’s group, with no less than 28 units and always pulled by Europcar, which had five of its riders inside, didn’t however find the strength to reel back Martin, accomplanied before the last two climbs by Italian allrounder Alessandro de Marchi (CAN). After a short attempt by Gallopin (LTB) -new race leader, after granted five minutes by Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana at the finish- and Chérel (ALM), the small bunch sprinted 2’45” after Martin, with Rojas in sixth spot. Behind them, Alejandro Valverde -now 7th overall, at 4’01”- and his team-mates crossed the finish with no troubles.
The quatorze juillet, France’s national public holiday, will bring a spectacular mountain route for stage ten, with just 161km, but featuring the Firstplan (Cat-2), the Petit Ballon (Cat-1), Platzerwasel (Cat-1), Oderen (Cat-2), Col des Croix (Cat-3), Chevrères (Cat-3) and a mountain-top finish in La Planche des Belles Filles (Cat-1.)
Alejandro Valverde: “The stage was pretty hard because the start came to be quite fast, and even though the bunch let the escape go away easily afterwards and we didn’t suffer so much in the finale, the route was quite demanding. Tomorrow’s stage will be a very important day in this Tour. It’s the hardest stage of these opening ten days and it’s going to be really tough. We’ll see how the legs go, but I think I’m strong, my team-mates are, and we will go for it. I’m still there and that’s the important thing. What Nibali did is normal; they had taken responsibility in the race for many days and decided to leave it on Gallopin’s shoulders – he’s a great rider, but I don’t know if he will be capable keeping up with the GC riders.”
Eusebio Unzué: “Yesterday’s climb was one kilometer and a half, too short to make an overview too pesimistic or optimistic on those twenty seconds Alejandro lost at the finish. Tomorrow will bring us a more accurate picture on how everyone is doing before the first rest day. I think Astana made a wise move: they have spent eight days working at the front and that, for a team which thinks of winning the day, was a good moment to concede the jersey and find an ally for tomorrow’s stage in the Lotto squad.“