Le Tour’17 St9: Uran Up – Porte Down And Out!
Race Report: Rigoberto Uran announced his return to the very top GC table in Chambery with a sensational finish on one gear to claim victory in a truly wonderful but brutal day of racing. The final was close as ‘Hero of the Day’ Warren Barguil thought he had the win, but the photo finish said other wise.
The Tour de France, to this point, has been run under clear skies and baking hot weather. But the opening time trial and this stage have featured rain and both have taken some serious victories. The wet roads and heavy foliage made descending hazardous and Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte were the most high profile victims as they had heavy falls. Porte was the worst affected as he fell hard on the final descent, sliding across the road and into Dan Martin who he carried into the far wall.
Warren Barguil had been in the break all day, mopping up KOM points to get himself into the jersey by the end of the stage. He had a narrow lead as the riders started the 13km flat drag into Chambery, but when Bardet caught him and Barguil fell away into the Froome group it looked like he was going to disappear out the back. But he stayed in the wheels and when the chasing group of Uran, Aru, Fuglsang and Froome caught Bardet and fought it out for the sprint finish, Barguil found himself on the front with the line in sight. It wasn’t to be though, Uran was able to dive for the line and snatch the victory.
In the GC, it looks to very unlikely for Alberto Contador to claim another victory as he finished more than three minutes behind whilst both Quintana and Simon Yates finished over a minute behind on the day and now sit more than two minutes behind. Other pre-race favorite, Esteban Chaves fell away very early on and will now presumably refocus on stage wins or supporting Yates.
Stage 9 is set to be an absolute cracker. The GC contenders were lured out of hiding once already for the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles back on Stage 5 but this is really the first mountain stage. The riders will set off from Nantua, in the region of Ain which is home to the Tour de l’Ain which has become something of a mini Tour de France, interestingly, that race was won by Romain Bardet back in 2013. They will then make their way almost due south to Chambery, where the AG2R team are based, to finish 181.5km later.
There’s more to the stage than that though, there’s seven categorized climbs between the start and finish, including three uncategorized ones. The final 40km will be familiar to anyone who raced the Dauphine. It includes the fourth category Cote de Jongieux (3.9km @ 4.2%) and the piece de resistance the Mont du Chat (8.7km @ 10.3%) as well as the descent. The Dauphine finished in La Motte-Servolex, 7km shy of today’s finish in Chambery. Unfortunately for the Dauphine riders, the traditional preparation race didn’t include the first 130km that will be faced today. After the peloton roles out from Nantua they will face a stepped 587m altitude gain to the Col du Cuvery, that isn’t categorized, but the Cote des Neyrolles (3.2km @ 7.2%) and Col de Berentin (4.1km @ 6.1%) which make up the Curvery are goals for the king of the mountains contenders.
There’s then a long descent to the third categorised climb of the Cote de Franclens (2.4km @ 6%) after another shorter descent, the real racing begins. It’s the first ever appearance of the brutal Col de la Biche (10.5km @ 9%) the climb only drops below 9% three times, once in the second kilometer, once between the 5th and 6th kilometers and then mercifully for the final stretch, apart from that it’s a horror show for any of the larger sprinters. There’s then a short descent before the harder side of the Grand Colombier (8.5km @ 9.9%) which features a 3km stretch of 11.5%, 14.5% and 12.5% – with the hardest gradient of the race – 22%. There’s a lengthy descent and flat section before the brutal finale.
It had been a race of spectacular weather to this point, maybe not for the riders, however. But, the stage kicked off under slaty skies and rain, although the temperature was still well up towards the 30 degrees celsius mark. With so much technical descending ahead of them, it was an unwelcome opening for the riders. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) went clear early on the opening climb and the Frenchman took the five points towards the KOM competition. On the descent and the first signs of rain took their toll, both Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) crashed and it was race over for the pair of them.
It was a stage built for a breakaway and that’s what we got as Laurens Ten Dam, Warren Barguil, Simon Geschke, Nikias Arndt & Michael Matthews (all Team Sunweb), Tiesj Benoot, Tony Gallopin & Tim Wellens (all Lotto-Soudal), Jan Bakelants, Axel Domont & Alexis Vuillermoz (all AG2R-La Mondiale), Brice Feillu, Laurent Pichon & Eduardo Sepulveda (all Fortuneo), Carlos Betancur and Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Bauke Mollema and Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), Pierre Rolland and Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Alessandro de Marchi and Amael Moinard (BMC), Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Robert Kiserlovski and Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Vegard Stake Laengen and Kristian Durasek (Team UAE Emirates), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Javier Moreno (Bahrain Merida), Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) were the 38 riders represented.
With such a large group out front, the gap quickly grew over the four minute mark ahead of a Sky led peloton.
The Col de la Biche was a slow burner but it spelt the end for Gallopin, Stybar and Edet as all three drifted back and then went pop on the brutal slopes. At the other end of the break, Primoz Roglic grabbed the mountain points with a late surge which he continued onto the descent. The peloton had been much less interested and the gap flew out towards the seven minute mark. Unfortunately, there were yet more casualties on the descent as both Astana riders and Herrada went down on the wet descent, Herrada was the worst off and he joined Gesink and Mori in abandoning the stage. The drama wasn’t over and the descent claimed another victim in the form of previous yellow jersey Geraint Thomas (Sky) and GC contender Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). The Welshman was yet another high profile abandonment, something which will surely impact Froome as the race progresses. Majka got back on his bike but he was really suffering and his GC hopes seemed to disappear in a flash.
Away from the crash drama, there was racing drama as AG2R forced a split in both groups as Bakelants, Domont and Vuillermoz drove clear from the lead group with only Pantano, Poljanski and Benoot able to cling onto their coat tails. Whilst behind them, Bardet took flight on the descent of the Biche and drew Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Fabio Aru (Astana) clear but left Chris Froome (Sky) in behind. The group was back together as they began the penultimate uncategorized climb of the day with a GC group of just 20.
Barguil joined the leading group as the virtual yellow jersey, Betancur, began to falter in the chasing group containing the breakaway remnants. Barguil and Benoot were the last men left standing on the climb and the Sunweb rider took maximum points over the summit. With a long stretch of flat road before the Mont du Chat, the leading duo decided to sit up and wait for Mollema, Roglic and Vuillermoz – who were the best of the rest on this hellish day. That group swelled once again as the chasing group of Matthews, Gallopin (who had a significantly better second half of the stage), Mollema, Betancur, Bakelants, Navarro and Pantano caught back on. It was a sensational effort from Michael Matthews who had clearly taken a leaf out of Thor Hushovd’s guide to winning a green jersey.
As the only flat part of the stage took hold, the Sky led chase was beginning to pay off, the gap was down to a manageable 3.30 with just under 60km left to go. The Sky effort was also helping to isolate their GC rivals, and both Dan Martin (Quick-Step) and Quintana were left without team mates.
Green and Yellow Jerseys
Michael Matthews had one of the easier intermediate sprint wins as he took 20pts on a day when his rivals were suffering at the back of the race. The 20pts kept him in third place in the competition, 52pts behind Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) but it was looking likely to be even better as Arnaud Démare (FDJ) without team mates, was just beginning the descent of the Grand Colombier – 37km further behind. It was likely that the cut off would be set at the 50 minute mark, and barring a sensational hour and a half effort, Démare wasn’t going to get under that.
After the intermediate sprint, Bakelants and Gallopin pushed clear through the beautiful scenery which would be in evidence through the final 50km. The chase was led by Sunweb but their days seemed to be numbered as Sky continued to chip away at the lead. Despite Team Sky’s might, it was advantage Bardet at the moment. He had three domestiques in the break who would be positioned perfectly for him when the climb of Mont du Chat kicked off.
As soon as the climb began to kick up, it was game over for a huge chunk of the yellow jersey group and the breakaway as the gradient hit and the chunk of climbing that had come before took its toll. Both BMC and AG2R fought for control of the front of the GC group, but they were kicked off in favor of the Sky train, Froome had three riders ahead of him as they hit the foot of the climb.
Cat in Hell
Tony Gallopin had struggled earlier in the climb but he was flying now, he dropped Bakelants and ploughed on towards the finish. Mollema was finding his form and he was chasing down Bakelants along with Barguil. The rest of the break were spread all over the lower slopes of the climb, each trying to make their way back to the lead. Barguil was catching fire and he was flying away as Gallopin ground to a halt.
Drama behind as Fabio Aru hit the front, followed by Quintana and Richie Porte (BMC). Froome took what appeared to be a technical, although probably not a puncture, and Aru took advantage of the poor timing to forge clear. There were shades of Ventoux last year as Froome looked around desperately for his team car whilst his domestiques dutifully dropped back. Meanwhile, Richie Porte was looking out for his friend and gave Aru a mouthful until the Italian halted his attack. Froome clawed his way back on to the lead group but Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was the next to push clear as Astana continued to apply more and more pressure.
Meanwhile, in the lead, Barguil had made the move stick and he had a minute lead over the chasers, and two minutes on the Froome group, as they hit the second half of the Mont du Chat.
The Sky train was still pressing on but the gap to Fuglsang had grown to 30 seconds as Froome was now down to just two helpers. Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) had been unhitched and he was in danger of being joined by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) who was really suffering. Fabio Aru hit the front once more and that was all the Sky support could manage as Froome was left alone for the finale. Dan Martin had been distanced but he was clawing his way into contention. Despite the short attack, the GC group was now just six riders as Rigoberto Uran (AG2R-La Mondiale), Quintana, Aru, Martin, Quintana and Porte all joined Froome. Porte was picking up the pace with Bardet and briefly it looked as though they may be breaking Froome. The yellow jersey clawed it back and almost immediately attacked, distancing Aru, Martin and Quintana. Aru hauled himself back but Quintana was heading in the wrong direction. Fuglsang was also back in the GC group as Froome continued his pacemaking. Dan Martin was fighting back and, at the moment, Quintana was the biggest loser of the day as he continued to fade away from the main contenders group.
Meanwhile, there was drama emerging on social media as video emerged of Froome body checking Aru round a corner after the Italian had clipped away earlier in the stage.
Back to the action on the round though and Barguil was first over the top but his lead was minuscule as Fuglsang led the yellow jersey group over just 10 seconds behind. The Astana man was driving down the climb, trying to put Froome under huge pressure. The road was wet in places after the earlier rain and Porte clipped the inside dirt of a corner and smashed into the road, collecting Dan Martin as he flew across the road and into the wall on the far side of the road. Martin was able remount, although he had taken a heavy impact as he bounced back onto the tarmac. It was race over for Porte and he was left in a serious condition prone on the floor. Somehow, both Uran and Bardet had managed to avoid the crash as the debris spread across the road in front of the pair.
Back into the racing and Barguil had padded out his lead towards the half minute mark but he was still faced with 13km of flat before the finish. Bardet was pushing clear from the leading group and his lead was now going out to 15 seconds. Froome was looking for support from Aru, Fuglsang and Uran as they hit the flat section. Despite the bodycheck, Aru was willing to lend a hand but it was four against two as Barguil and Bardet joined forces in the lead. Quintana also wasn’t out of this as he was closing back in on the Froome group who were slowed by a mechanical issue for Uran, who despite some neutral service, seemed unable to change gear as they made it into the final 10km.
Bardet had dropped Barguil and he had 27 seconds on the four chasers and a fast wilting Barguil. The chasers were working well together and the gap was just 18 seconds. There was just 5km left to ride but it wasn’t looking like Bardet would be able to hang on as the chasers just kept clawing back time and the gap was hovering around ten seconds. The chasers were within sight as Bardet glanced behind but his efforts were in vain, the Frenchman might’ve wondered quite why Astana were so willing to assist Froome given their relative positions on GC.
It was all together inside the final kilometer and Froome was leading it all out, Uran was the second wheel and he was bringing it all back together for the other chasers. Fuglsang went for a long one but he was also brought back by Uran, the Colombian was on fire but he was doing so much work as they hit the final 300m. Uran hit the front and he just couldn’t be passed, one by one his rivals were fading but finally, the most unlikely of contenders, given his previous work, Warren Barguil came crashing through to take the narrowest and bravest of victories. Froome grabbed third and four bonus points and Astana left with nothing, despite their charitable donations to the chasing efforts.
Yet more drama though, Barguil had celebrated, he’d shed tears of joy but it was the cruelest of outcomes. Uran had thrown his bike at the last moment and snatched victory by barely a tyre’s width. Heartbreak for Barguil, but an incredible end to a sensational stage which has completely shaken up the Tour de France. It was now clear why Uran had done so much work in the finale, his gear issue had left him with just one to choose from so he’d stuck it in that one, driven hard and waited for everyone else to fall aside.
Tour de France Stage 9 Result:
1. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac in 5:07:22
2. Warren Barguil (Fra) Sunweb
3. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
7. George Bennett (NZ) Team LottoNl-Jumbo at 1:15
8. Mikel Landa (Spa) Sky
9. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
11. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-Scott
12. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 3:32
13. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky
14. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
15. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 4:19
16. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
17. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
18. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
19. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNl-Jumbo
20. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
21. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 4:50
22. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 6:17
23. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis
24. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 7:13
25. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 9:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 38:26:28
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 0:18
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:51
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:55
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1:37
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 1:44
7. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-Scott at 2:02
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2:13
9. Mikel Landa (Spa) Sky at 3:06
10. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNl-Jumbo at 3:53
11. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 5:00
12. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 5:15
13. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 5:30
14. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 6:18
15. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 6:55
16. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 6:58
17. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 7:56
18. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 8:46
19. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar at 10:34
20. Brice Feillu (Fra) Fortuneo-Oscaro at 11:43
21. Warren Barguil (Fra) Sunweb at 14:11
22. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 15:23
23. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 18:44
24. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 20:02
25. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-Scott at 21:06.