TOUR DE FRANCE 2021 – STAGE 9 AS IT HAPPENED – BEN O’CONNOR TAKES WIN AS TADEJ POGACAR STRENGTHENS GRIP ON YELLOW JERSEY
Stage 9 of the Tour de France featured two second-category climbs, two first-category climbs, and the race’s first HC climb over 145km stage Cluses to Tignes. You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk.
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BEN O’CONNOR WINS STAGE 9 OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE
Four and a half minutes later, Mattia Cattaneo comes home to take second while, Sonny Colbrelli crosses the line for third. Heck of a ride from the Italian national champion. With that last attack Tadej Pogacar has only increased his lead over the group of favourites and comfortably keeps the yellow jersey. Now we count the casualties.
1.5KM TO GO: CARAPAZ ATTACKS
As the end is in sight for O’Connor, Richard Carapaz attacks back down the mountain. Pogacar is straight on his wheel, and then, inevitably, goes himself. This rider really is playing a different sport to everyone else.
4KM TO GO: CATTANEO PUSHES PAST QUINTANA
Mattia Canneo is now the second rider on the road, and making strides towards the top ten in the overall classification. Ineos Grenadiers, in the shape of Geraint Thomas and Jonathan Castroviejo, are pulling the peloton up the road for Richard Carapaz. In the process they may be saving the yellow jersey for Pogacar.
5KM TO GO: NIC DLAMINI IN TROUBLE
We’re hearing that Nic Dlamini, the first black South African to ride the Tour de France, is already 39 minutes behind the race lead. If current time projections are correct, that could mean the end for him.The green jersey sounds safe, but a group containing Arnaud Demare is at 32 minutes, so it’s touch and go for them as well. Get a wriggle on, lads.
8KM TO GO: THREE MINUTES THIRTY FOR O’CONNOR
With the flat final two kilometres, he’s only got six kilometres left to climb. Further back, Quintana leaves Higuita behind.The heartiest of chapeaux to Sonny Colbrelli, who has managed to stay with the third group on the road, and must be trying to prove something to himself, because what else does he have to play for? Brian Smith suggests he might be motivated by sprint points at the finish.
11KM TO GO: O’CONNOR INCREASES HIS LEAD TO OVER TWO MINUTES
We lose pictures for a short while and when they return, Ben O’Connor has all but secured the stage win. Not only that, but he’s getting closer to the virtual yellow jersey again. “Ride at a good rhythm but don’t go near the red” would be Sean Kelly’s advice to him, as well as to keep fueling regularly.
17.3KM O’CONNOR ATTACKS HIGUITA!
It had been looking like he would have to settle for second on the stage but Ben O’Connor must have fire in his legs. He puts in an acceleration and leaves the Colombian behind. There’s a long long way to go, but he know that as well as we do, and he has a better idea of what he’s capable of. The yellow jersey may just be beyond him, but the Australian stands a very good chance of putting himself into a podium place today.
19KM TO GO: THE FINAL CLIMB
All groups bar that of the green jersey are now on the long, final climb to Tignes. At 2107m, this is the eighth highest finish in the history of the Tour de France.UAE Emirates have brought that gap down but Rob Hatch asks whether they have spent too many domestiques on the effort to keep the race lead. He could be vulnerable on the final climb. Having said that, while a number of riders seem to be suffering in the cold, Pogacar has taken off his jacket and is now showing off the jersey in short sleeves. He’s looking ready to race… Be afraid, be very afraid.
23KM TO GO: THE YELLOW JERSEY HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Do UAE Emirates want to keep the race? All signs point to yes. They’re riding hard at the front of the peloton whie Ben O’Connor pushes on with Sergio Higuita. The gap is currently swinging between 8.15 and 8.45.Nairo Quintana, all but guaranteed to be the King of the Mountains tomorrow, appears to be struggling and has fallen away.
30KM TO GO: WHOOPS!
UAE Emirates’ Brandon McNulty takes a glance behind at his leader at just the wrong moment. At least it looked like a soft landing.
44KM TO GO: RIDERS AT RISK?
As the front three head down the mountain, we’ve got time to consider the time-cut. The average pace is currently 33.75km/hour and Brian Smith estimates that it’ll be about forty minutes. Given the green jersey group is currently 21 minutes behind, that should be fairly comfortable for them. As well as Mark Cavendish that group contains Arnaud Demare, Andre Greipel and Nacer Bouhanni. Cavendish also has three team-mates with him.
51KM TO GO: FIVE MORE MOUNTAINS POINTS FOR NAIRO
They’ve all got reasons to work, so there’s every reason to believe this trio will go to the finish. Quintana wants the polka dots, Higuita is after the stage win, O’Connor fancies a bit of yellow – and he’s looking good for it. Of course, if Pogacar were to decide otherwise you have the feeling he could shut down the Australian’s ambitions in a flash, but maybe he doesn’t want to?
59KM TO GO: BEN O’CONNOR ISN’T HAPPY
No sooner has the Australian bridged across to the cooperative Colombian pair of Quintana and Higuita, than the EF Education-Nippo rider darts away. O’Connor might want that yellow jersey, but he’s not going to get a lot of help from these two.In a different part of the race altogether, Julian Alaphilippe goes backwards, clearly suffering the cold and wet. He does the sensible thing, stopping to put on a warmer set of gloves and a new jacket.
63.7KM TO GO: QUINTANA AND WOODS FIGHT FOR SPOTS
With the current wearer, Wout Poels, seemingly out of contention, one of the second and third placed riders in the classification seems likely to take the jersey, but which one? Woods and Quintana clip away from the other three, then the Colombian clips away from the Canadian. Another Colombian, Sergio Higuita, overhauls Woods for second as they summit the Col du Pré. By my maths that puts Quintana in the lead on 44 points, with two climbs to come.
66KM TO GO: IS THE GC RACE BACK ON?
Whisper it, but we could yet have a new maillot jaune by the end of the day. The front group, which no longer counts Wout Poels among its number and cannot be called the king of the mountains group, now has a lead of over 7 minutes 30 seconds. The best placed of the five, Ben O’Connor, is only 8 minute 13 second behind Tadej Pogacar in the general classification. Still a long way to go but we can dream, can’t we?
TIM MERLIER ABANDONS
The winner of stage 3, Alpecin-Fenix’s Tim Merlier, has also withdrawn from the race.
NANS PETERS ABANDONS
Local boy Nans Peters (AG2R), who won at Loudenvielle last year, calls it a day.
72KM TO GO: DISORGANISATION AND DISARRAY DOWN THE ROAD
The Alaphilippe group seem unsure as to how to play this. They’re two minutes behind the King of the Mountains collective, but have a lead of five minutes on the yellow jersey themselves. If someone doesn’t do something, soon, the race could get away from. Conditions aren’t helping, of course. It looks grim out there…
76KM TO GO: THINGS ARE LOOKING UP
We’re almost at the bottom of the Col de Saises, which means we’re almost at the bottom of the 12.6km, 7.7%, Col du Pré as well. It’s the first HC climb of this year’s Tour de France, with 20 points on offer to the rider who summits it first. At the moment it’s looking like one of these six, who have a lead of just over a minute on the Alaphilippe group.Poels and Woods dropped off slightly to gather rain capes and fuel but are about to rejoin their colleagues.
84.8KM TO GO: “IT’S PANNING OUT TO BE A NORMAL STAGE OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE”
So says King Kelly. Famous last words, Sean. Nairo Quintana is descending on his own at the front of the race, while Wout Poels has the company of Ben O’Connor, Lucas Hamilton, Sergio Higuita and Mike Woods. In the virtual GC, O’Connor has virtually made it onto the virtual podium. 94.9KM TO GO: POELS HANGS ON FOR MAXIMUM POINTS
Quintana closes quickly, but not quite quickly enough. Colombian forces Poels to sprint to hang on, and in the end it’s practically a photo finish… but the Dutchman just manages it. 10 points for Poels, taking him to 33, Quintana gets 8, which puts him on 24, and in third place. Mike Woods was third for 6 points, and he remains in second place in that competition, with 29 points.We’re now on the long, treacherous descent of the Col de Saises.
97KM TO GO: 4 MINUTES 54 SECONDS TO THE YELLOW JERSEY
3.6km to the top of the climb and Rob Hatch gives us a rundown of where the riders in the break are relative to the yellow jersey. Guillaume Martin is at 7.28 down, Ben O’Connor is 8.13 behind, while Wout Poels is another 38 seconds back. There’s no threat to the race lead at this point, but the fight for the maillot a pois is very much on. Quintana, hot on Poels’ heels, is going to make the Dutchman work to keep his colours.
101.5KM: POELS PUTS IN A DIG
Halfway up the Col de Saises, Wout Poels, the new King of the Mountains, pulls away from the group in search of more polka dot points. There’s a maximum of fifty points on offer if someone were to take all of them today.That breakaway group in full: Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Dan Martin, Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Julien Bernard, Kenny Elissonde, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Patrick Konrad, Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Guillaume Martin, Simon Geschke, Anthony Pérez (Cofidis), Ruben Guerreiro, Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citröen), Warren Barguil, Élie Gesbert, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Matej Mohoric, Wout Poels, Dylan Teuns, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Lucas Hamilton, Luka Mezgec, Chris Juul Jensen, Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Jakob Fuglsang, Alex Aranburu, Omar Fraile (Astana-PremierTech), Pierre Latour, Víctor de la Parte, Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Franck Bonnamour, Quentin Pacher, Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM)
104KM TO GO: ONTO THE SECOND CLIMB OF THE DAY
The lead group, over 40 riders strong, is on the lower slopes of the Category 1, Col de Saises. We’ll give you a full breakdown of who’s in it when we have one but as Wout van Aert isn’t, we know there are no riders there within five minutes of the race lead.
112KM: COLBRELLI TAKES IT ALL
Michael Matthews is pulled up to the front by team-mate Chris Juul-Jensen, and leads out the sprint early. As Colbrelli comes round his right shoulder, “Bling” squeezes the Italian champion towards the barrier. Colbrelli still manages to take maximum points, as well as to stay upright, but it looked a bit hairy there, for a moment.Carlton Kirby thinks Matthews’ move was just the right side of legal but Brian Smith begs to differ, and reckons the Australian will be relegated. The official verdict comes through and it looks like he’s gotten away with it… for now.Result of the intermediate sprint at Praz-sur-Arly (km 32.7):
1. Sonny Colbrelli – 20 pts
2. Matthews – 17 pts
3. Alaphilippe – 15 pts
4. Teuns – 13 pts
5. Küng – 11 pts
6. Juul-Jensen – 10 pts
7. Mollema – 9 pts
8. Perez – 8 pts
9. Hamilton – 7 pts
10. Higuita – 6 pts
11. Poels – 5 pts
12. Guerreiro – 4 pts
13. Gesbert – 3 pts
14. Konrad – 2 pts
15. Quintana – 1 ptThat puts Colbrelli on 106 points, 62 behind Mark Cavendish, who’s on 168. Matthews, if he keeps his, will be in a strong second place with 130.
119KM TO GO: COLBRELLI MAKING AN EARLY DASH FOR GREEN
A sizeable supergroup, led by Julian Alaphilippe, has broken clear of the peloton. “Will the Travelling Wilburys go all the way?” asks our commentator? Ask your grandparents, kids.Colbrelli, the Bahrain Victorious sprinter, has decided attack is the best form of attack, and has pipped off the front of that crew. They’re five kilometres from the intermediate sprint.
122KM TO GO: THE PUSH FOR POIS
Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) flies over the top of Sweeny and Ballerini to claim the maximum of five points at the top of the Cote de Domancy. Nairo Quintana and Mike Woods take the remaining 2 and 1 points respectively.Latour pushes on and is joined by Dan Martin who is, according to Carlton Kirby, “looking like the Milk Tray man.” Ask your parents, kids.
126KM TO GO: THE PACE PICKS UP
As they ride through the picturesque market town of Sallanches, which hosted a time trial won by Chris Froome five years ago and, more famously, the 1980 World Championships won by Bernard Hinault, Ballerini and Sweeny are pushing on, with Julian Alaphilippe in pursuit. If the climb is slightly too tough for Cavendish to take those sprint points, then his team is keen to make sure no-one else claims them either. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) are hungry.They’re on the Category 2 Cote de Domancy now.
135KM TO GO: EARLY POINTS UP FOR GRABS
It’s a slightly easier start to today’s stage than yesterday – only slightly – but the first categorised climb is earlier. Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck Quick-Step) working in defence of Mark Cavendish’s maillot vert, and Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) lead the way as they approach the Cote de Domancy. Israel Start-up Nation lead the peloton.The intermediate sprint comes after 32.5km, just outside Megeve, so expect the sprinters’ teams to control the race until then.In case you haven’t already grasped what an extraordinary position we find ourselves in, Dan Lloyd gave us the following stat earlier this morning:
144.9KM TO GO: STAGE 9 UNDER WAY
The jersey-wearers line up behind the race director’s car for the départ fictif, out of a blustery Cluses. Only one of them, the green, is on the same set of shoulders as it was 24 hours ago. Although Tadej Pogacar continues to lead the young rider competition, he obviously cannot wear both the white and yellow jerseys, so Jonas Vingegaard will be showing that one off for today at least.Dan Lloyd thinks we may have a bit of a wait for the break to get away, with a lot of teams already in the hunt for stage wins. Expect no less a furious start than yesterday, for that reason, in our first day in the Alps. They’re looking spectacular between the clouds.Christian Prudhomme is out of the car, and on the radio to check everyone’s present and correct. Let’s go!
PICK YOURSELF UP AND TRY AGAIN
Is it just us, or does today have a distinct “morning after the night before” feel to it? And no, we’re not talking about England’s demolition of Ukraine.How many riders are waking up wondering if what they remember from yesterday really happened? Surely, ~surely~ the fifth youngest rider in the race, in only his third Grand Tour, even if he is the current champion, didn’t devour a deficit of more than five minutes over the last thirty kilometres of the stage? Did he?For at the Tour de France, there are weeks when nothing happens. Then there are stages when entire Tours de France happen. With riders and storylines strewn across the course, there are no prizes for guessing which yesterday was, but which do we think today will be?One who definitely won’t be animating affairs is Primoz Roglic who, after the tribulations he’s been through over the last eight days, must feel some sense of relief to be rid of them. We were not surprised when we awoke to the news that the Vuelta champion has been unable to continue at this year’s Tour de France, nor with what’s to come today, could we blame him. But we were disappointed to hear it. The race that he had built his entire season around, practically his entire career, over in the tangling of handlebars. That, as they say, is bike racing. Could he have been the threat to Tadej Pogacar that he had hoped he was? We will never know. Might he return next year with the same form, and the will to do it all over again? We can only hope.Regardless, this year’s race will roll on without him (and Mathieu van der Poel, who apparently won’t ride if he’s not allowed to do so in yellow). It is an unsparing, unsympathetic beast. Though the first rest day is almost within touching distance, just 145km away, the riders must overcome five mighty climbs, the last of them the race’s first summit finish, to get to it.They’re under Prudy’s orders…
STAGE 8 RECAP
It was a magnificent performance from last year’s winner as he put in a devastating attack that blew away all of his rivals for the General Classification.It was just the latest in a series of fantastic stages as the 2021 Tour De France starts with a bang. You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk.