Tour de France (st. 9)
Enric now 12th overall, well supported in the end by Alejandro Valverde to only concede 54″ against front group in Laruns. Pogacar (UAD) wins stage as Roglic (TJV) takes over GC lead.
/ Today’s route
It was the second, and final, Pyrenees stage, a day with less climbing and probably less of a chance for the GC contenders to try any moves, yet with very interesting terrain nonetheless. 153km from Pau to Laruns, getting over the Soudet (Cat-3) through Issarbe / Hourcère (Cat-1) plus the Marie Blanque (Cat-1), the latter 18km from the finish.
/ Weather report
In excess of 30ºC on Friday – and then 10ºC at the top of the Soudet. Cloudy skies from the start, with some light drizzle expected early on and maximum temperatures not higher than 19ºC. Good conditions for some – too much of a change for many?
/ Keys to the race
- The day’s breakaway as a matter of sheer strength, only created at the first big climb of the day -Issarbe (Cat-1)- after a brutal start to the race. It took 60km, with all kinds of moves and many Movistar Team riders in the front splits -Soler, Oliveira, Verona, Erviti, Rojas and Cataldo trying to escape-, before Marc Hirschi (SUN) went solo. An eight-man pursuit unfruitfully tried to stay close to him, with Barguil (ARK), Reichenbach, Gaudu (GFC), Martínez (EF1), Castroviejo (IGD), Kämna, Formolo (BOH) and Fraile (AST).
- Jumbo-Visma pushed hard into the first climbs and later drove a steady pace at a peloton with Valverde, Mas, Rojas and Verona, which was 4′ behind Hirschi after the downhill of the Soudet (-60km) and caught the G2 at the côte d’Ichère (Cat-3). The Dutch outfit picked up the pace again massively in the approach to the Marie Blanque, where two accelerations from Pogacar (UAD) tore it into several pieces.
- Mas, dropped from the front GC group -containing Pogacar, Roglic (TJV), Landa (TBM) and Bernal (IGD)-, fought and pursued the leaders into the final stretch of the ascent and the downhill as part of a third echelon containing yellow jersey Adam Yates (MTS). A final helping hand from Alejandro Valverde allowed for the deficit, at times higher than one minute, ended up being just 54″ over the line in Laruns. Ahead, Pogacar won the stage into a five-man sprint after his group caught Hirschi with 2km to go. Roglic is now in the lead of the overall classification.
Enric Mas: “So, how would I sum up today’s race. Easy: full gas at the start, full gas at the finish, full gas in between (laughs). A really tough day, with that moisture in the air, wet, dangerous descents – I felt really cold into one of those downhill sections. I’m satisfied despite that, with today’s performance and this whole first stretch of the Tour. After the results and sensations we had collected through the ‘restart’ of the season, we have to feel satisfied about our current situation. If you compare it to what this team has always been, it’s not a superb result, but things are going right. We should theoretically get stronger through the remainder of the race – and I really hope that is the case.”
/ Upcoming goals
A well-deserved first rest day for the entire Tour convoy awaits on Monday, near La Rochelle, with a long transfer (400+km) this evening. The race resumes on Tuesday with the Blues on top of the team GC, as riders take on a dangerous stage 10, always near the coast and with potentially strong winds, between Île d’Oléron and Île de Ré (168km).