Tour de France Stage 9 Review

Dan Martin wins Stage 9 of the Tour de France. If you were to scan the results you’d see a chasing group with Froome, Contador, Valverde and Quintana and other names. Only you’d never know what happened.

Instead this was one of the most explosive mountain stages for years, a day when everything was thrown upside down by a relentless start where attack followed attack and Chris Froome found himself without a team mate. In the end things calmed down but it was still a wild stage.

With no stage to preview tomorrow, here’s a look back

Earlier Peter Kennaugh’s had crashed out. A touch of wheels and he vanished into the roadside vegetation. He climbed out but was left chasing all day, a sign that Froome was without support. Less spectacular but equally significant other Sky riders were being dropped with the sprinters, riders like David Lopez.

The photo above might look like something from Saturday’s stage finish but instead it’s from Stage 9 on Sunday and taken in the first hour of the race. The pace has been so fast that several Sky riders have been dropped and the yellow jersey is coming under attack and Richie Porte has to set the pace and help counter the moves.

The pace never let up. Ahead moves were trying to go clear. This wasn’t your usual lottery-ticket selection, instead we saw serious names pushing the pace, for example Tejay van Garderen put in a big attack. Each attack was followed by a long chase. Garmin-Sharp a regular presence along with a point-hunting Pierre Rolland but no move was pulling away. Saxo-Tinkoff was driving hard, happy to see Porte distanced and Froome isolated. It continued in the valley section to Bagnères-de-Luchon with Ruben Plaza attacking to pace Alejandro Valverde and Chris Froome joining them. This was almost unknown, almost 100km to go and the yellow jersey was going away in a move with a rival.

Onto the Peyresourde and Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal had a small lead. Movistar were chasing and pacing. It was like one of those documentaries from the African savannah where a pack of jackals takes on a bigger beast. Movistar didn’t want to strike at first but instead tried to fatigue the prey.

The Col de Val Louron-Azet started with its series of steep climbs. Movistar’s pacing up the climb suggested some control of events but the pace was not ferocious. The group remained large despite the steep slopes and near the top Sylvain Chavanel got distanced, a clue that riders you don’t expect in the front group were still there.

The final climb was the Hourquette d’Ancizan. With all Movistar’s work they had to launch moves to get rid of Froome but with all their work launching moves was not easy. As much as Froome had been isolated during the day, he’d still managed to spend most of the time on someone else’s move. So when Nairo Quintana started his attacks the yellow jersey stayed seated and bridged across in the rotary frenzy of a low gear.

Movistar’s signal strength
There’s a phrase in French from the poet La Fontaine that says “la montagne a accouché d’une souris” or “the mountain gave birth to a mouse”. It means something big ends up with a small result. After the excitement of the first half of the stage, the finale had to quieten down, legs were tired. But it’s better to celebrate the action rather than wish it could have continued right to the end. Sure Movistar couldn’t shake Froome but they isolated Team Sky, left Richie Porte trailing, bolstered Quintana’s position in the white jersey and consolidated their lead in the team standings. If you predicted this at the start of the day you’d have been laughed at.

Garmin-Sharp’s Plan
For a team sponsored by a sat-nav provider Garmin-Sharp took a wild journey in the Pyrenees. Before the race they’d promised chaos but delivering it was something else. An early two man effort saw David Millar and Jack Bauer driving hard to the first climb. Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal took up the pace in the middle of the stage. On the Hourquette d’Ancizan Dan Martin was the most incisive, attacking when others were hesitating. The plan worked like an episode of The A-Team and staff can chomp on their cigars with pride this evening.

Belkin’s Stealth
Belkin put three riders in the front group and Bauke Mollema sits in third place overall with the likeable Laurens Ten Dam in fourth place. It’s all going well with Robert Gesink seemingly enjoying a less-pressured role.

Perhaps everything didn’t go wrong but plenty did. Kennaugh’s crash was just bad luck but it mattered as he was out and only Richie Porte was left at Froome’s side and this was just a matter of time. Dropped Porte found help from team mates behind who raced to pace him back but could not make it and now sits 33rd on GC, over 18 minutes down. To finish a bad day Vasili Kiryienka was the only rider to miss the time cut. Sky had shown signs of weakness with dropped riders during the week and yesterday, for all the hype, most of their riders were gone by the final climb. But as long as the other teams ride high tempo Chris Froome can sit tight.

What Next?
A well-deserved rest day. The race flies north this evening with a rest day on Monday. Next week looks duller, Wednesday’s time trial matters but the terrain is flat until the weekend and a series of bunch sprints awaits. But there’s never a quiet moment in the Tour, there’s always a story.

Now we can look to the Alps and predict a range of scenarios. Some were joking this morning that Chris Froome was starting his post-Tour criterium but today’s ups and downs suggest the Alps can reverse any fortune, especially as they bring much more climbing and offer day after day of effort as opposed to a simple pair of stages.

75 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Review”

  1. Could Sky have done anything more effective to blunt the doping accusations than today’s performance?
    Stunning stage – awesome win for Martin!

    • Clearly Movistar are doping. I mean if Sky are doping and can get destroyed by Movistar, then surely they are too (all said tongue-in-cheek)!

      • I wonder if anyone has said without irony that Sky had a horror show of a day on purpose to put people off the scent.
        It genuinely wouldn’t surprise me, given some of the mud slinging yesterday.

        • Not necessarily doping, but I do wonder whether something is up health-wise at Sky. Sivtsov could be tired from the Giro, Thomas is injured, Kennaugh got taken out by Garmin, and EBH seems to be more focused on the flat this year, but both Kiryienka and Porte struggled way more than could have been expected.

          As an aside, I’ve never cycled competitively, so I’ve no idea about peloton etiquette, but I was surprised to see no-one make any real effort to check Kennaugh was alright. I can understand leaving most incidents to the experts, but when someone disappears over the edge and the medics aren’t immediately on the scene, it doesn’t look great. Even footballers have enough class to help clear an opponent’s airway after a collision, and rugby players batter each other relentlessly, but will readily give up an advantageous position if they see a rival in serious trouble.

          • Riders know there’s someone coming to help, there’s not much they can do if someone drops over the edge. They can report it on the radio and raise the alarm if it’s serious or there’s nobody around.

          • Fair enough, thanks. At least one of the BMC guys did slow briefly, which was nice to see. Given race radios seem to be as reliable as having TJVG as a teammate (and I’m a fan – race radios, not Tee Jay), I’m surprised people see to rely on them for safety information. By all means use them, but there should be a backup system.

            In the other sports I mentioned previously, medical assistance is much quicker on the scene, yet players still to act more urgently. Kennaugh seemed to disappear for a while and the first cars passed right by, but maybe it’s just my perception is awry, and perhaps waiting up to two minutes for proper help to arrive wouldn’t make much difference.

        • Oh please……would it be such a stretch that they gave up their number two position to quell suspicions? A media-familiar outfit such as sky?

          You don’t think it is odd that two riders that have never been known for climbing were the class of the field yesterday?
          Now we know how the Brits must have felt felt when Americans were so blindly supporting LA those years.

          • @Doubter: I really think you might feel more at home in the Cyclingnews fora. Your posts seem obsessed with how naive and foolish we might be to actually think that things are on the improve in this sport.

            And, no, I don’t think their performance is odd at all – it is the best resourced team with, arguably, the best training methods. And some of them dearly paid for their efforts the following day. There’s an interesting podcast with @michaelcreed I heard last night that expresses my thoughts better than I could – I recommend it.

            Onto your last point, unlike Postal and their ilk in the 90s and 00s, I really don’t think there is anything to pin on this team. There’s no bullying of others, no dodgy soigneurs leaking stories, no rival teams starting whispering campaigns. Okay, there’s one terribly misguided signing of a doctor with a past (who was dismissed) and a couple of DSs who have a “past” as riders (who have also been asked to leave). And, sure, they may have got their PR wrong from time to time, but that’s no reason to hang a team. Justifiable questions (note: not baseless anonymous accusations) from the Fourth Estate should keep that in check .

            As a result, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I am not a “sky groupie” – if there was something fishy, I’d be the first to be cynical.

            Finally, you know what? If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll be incredibly sad but I won’t feel stupid that I allowed myself to believe that things might be better. Some people seem so angry that they feel that they have been made “fools of” in the past and so come to the conclusion “well I’m not letting that happen to me again …. they must all be cheats”. I just think that’s such a sad way to judge a generation of riders who don’t necessarily deserve it.

            Sorry, rant over – thanks, as ever for such a great blog @inrng.

          • To be frank, I think it’s less of stretch to claim that Sky deliberately threw yesterday’s stage than to claim that Froome has “never been known for climbing”.

        • Well, wonder no more.

          The conga line of utterly lacking self-awareness types on the Clinic forum on CyclingNews are proposing exactly that!

          • Yawn, we’ve seen all this before from the LA fans.
            At least he was a former world champion when he started winning all those tours. Froome was a former donkey kicked out of tours for hanging onto cars.

            I wouldn’t take Millar’s defense too seriously. He isn’t going to spit in the soup. But none other than Paul Kimmage has raised questions about your new hero.

    • I’d still like to see a calm discussion of Froome’s ride on Saturday. If it was the third best time ever up Ax 3 Domaines, let’s look at the timings first to check they’re accurate, then observe the conditions on the day and assess everything.

      If the ride was done clean then Sky should be boasting from the rooftops about this, they have plenty to gain by explaining training methods and race tactics to an inquisitive audience. The question is doing this without the noise of people screaming and instant prejudice on either side.

    • I’m not throwing the possibilty something is up with Sky out of the window just yet. Brailsford may have felt the heat from the press and fans coming down after Saturday’s stage and simply might have told Porte to back off so as to appear that they aren’t doing anything sketchy. If anyone noticed whenever the camera was on Porte he didn’t look tired but more pissed off, maybe as a result of Brailsford’s commands? Who knows. But nothing made me happier than seeing the Argyle Armada fight back and the rest of the peloton fight as well, save for Moviestar’s hesitants.

      • Porte merely looked like he’d been told to back off once it was clear he wouldn’t catch the lead group with Froome in it. As getting a second rider in the top ten is far less of a priority for Sky than getting the top step on the podium on the Champs Elysee, this is not a surprise. There are far more logical explanations for what happened than some insane doping cover-up.

  2. More stealth from Andy Schleck, who’s doing surprisingly well, especially when you consider his conflict with the team management.

  3. Garmin were superb from kilometer zero today. They said that they planned to cause carnage at this Tour and were true to their word today! Chapeau to them.

    Team Belkin have also impressed me this weekend. Was particularly impressed with Gesink’s ride today; coming back to the main group toward the end and driving hard on the final descent in an attempt to reel in Fuglsang and Martin. They wanted the stage win. Great intro to the world of pro cycling for the new sponsor on the sports biggest stage.

    Froome showed great resilience in the face of adversity today and Dan Martin provided the icing on the cake for me today.

  4. Awesome stage today. Really enjoyable. One thing is not clear to me. At one point, Costa and Kreuziger were upfront and suddenly Plaza and Valverde made the jump and took Froome with them. What was the tactics behind this? If they did not chase the group, Kreuziger and Costa could easily take 10 minutes or so. Only Belkin and Froome could chase at that point. That was very weird to me. Perhaps Contador and Valverde dont want their teammate to be the highest in GC.

    • They where trying to bridge to costa, a leave Froome behind.

      I don’t think Valverde, did that on purpose. In the final clinb there was even a moment when Costa asked plaza to slow down cas he was having trouble, and when plaza didn’t Valverde went to the front and told him to slow down.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but movistar seemed determined not to allow the rest of Sky to catch up so they probably would have kept drilling it anyway.

      • Athough overall great job from Moviestar, I think they could do better. They could go in a slower pace, anf it would still open more than 5-10 min from Porte (more then enough), and atack Froome… they were going so fast they didnt had the energy to properly attack Froome.
        Only Quintana did.
        If they have done 2-3 attacks each, one of them would be go clear.
        Not sure if the other teams would help Froom chasing and they would probably be on yellow.

        • when watching i thought quintana did his attacks mainly in support of valverde who would launch a later attack on the then tired froome. Thqt would hqve been very thrilling. but maybe he couldnt or did not want to go so far, since they were already happy with throwing out porte from second place.

        • I don’t think they could have gone slower. The gap to Porte was so big because he gave up the chase to conserve energy. That was only after he was already 10 min down. By the time that happened, they were already more than halfway up the final climb. As you said, they probably weren’t confident that they themselves wouldn’t crack if they did too much attacking at that stage.

          With 20/20 hindsight, we can say that they should have aimed higher than just dropping Porte.

  5. Missed the first part of the race today but saw the last 20km or so. I’ll hunt down the full video later. Can’t comment on anything else but Martin and Fuglsang were both really enjoyable to watch on telly. Now the teams think they’ve found the soft underbelly of the Sky train and I think Froome could need a plan B for the Alps. He’s still the strongest one but no more indestructible.

  6. Great stage today right from the off and good to see Dan Martin providing the entertainment at the end. He said he didn’t want it being as predictable as last years Tour. I think SKY were just plain knackered after Saturday and all will welcome the rest day tomorrow. Not so keen on these 30km descents to the finish but them I’m not the one designing a route.

  7. Cycling as it should be. C’est Le Tour, messieurs!
    People are going to end up mighty tired, much earlier than they are used to (let’s hope the authorites are able to prevent everybody from messing around with blood bags and dialysis machines tomorrow), and this will influence results not only in the Alps but also on both TTs. I think all 3 podium places are going to be taken by “ultra-fondista” riders. The 2nd TT will have crazy results.

  8. Pleased to see Belkin putting on a good show; always liked them as Rabobank despite my not being Dutch.

    I do wonder if this is entirely unrelated to Giant apparently considering taking their 3m€ elsewhere next season?

    • I don’t know. The idea that “the sponsor is going so we’ve got to race hard” idea can explain things sometimes but look at Vacansoleil-DCM who have the same issues but are not as visible etc.

  9. gutted!
    watched last few hrs of every stage this week, thanks to 1 week vacation,
    really enjoying the tour for the 1st time in yrs, but was enjoying the sun
    and beer with friend at a pavement cafe this afternoon…which was great,
    but missed todays stage! part of me says grrr!
    now it’s back to work 🙁
    will have to record the stages and watch them at night!
    funkiest tour in yrs!

  10. Not a single world about Kwiatkowski? Today he regain contact with peleton after feeling bad, than try to bring the duo back on descents and still finished third. It was his fourth finished in first four (and second on the podium) in this years Tour de France, where he was to “gain experience”.

    • Too many things to mention today and I felt sorry for video editors trying to make the highlights of today’s stage, what could they leave out? Kwiatkowksi did very well. He is already very experienced.

  11. I thought Evans was well and truly out of the running, but after last night’s stage (Australia time) anything could happen, and he could claw his way back into contention if he doesn’t have another bad day and hits his straps in the time trials. Probably the best stage since Evans dragged his way up the Galibier in 2011. This one stage has been so much more entertaining than the whole of last years Tour.

  12. In the end, though, Froome still looked mighty comfortable. He didn’t have any trouble at all reeling in Quintana’s attacks, and Valverde wasn’t prepared to have a go himself for whatever reason.

  13. Crashes are terrible but Kennaugh’s emergence from the foliage was an immense moment of comedy. He should try to copyright that. What a season DM is having! I hope he gets to do some more damage

  14. It seemed to me, Chris Froome dropped his own team. A 15 rider bunch was trying to establish itself as the break on Aspet when Froome jumped the small 15 second gap on his own. All the GC contenders followed and Porte got dropped. He regained contact on the descent and was leading the Peleton fairly close to the new break when Froome closed the gap again on the Col de Mente. Porte was dropped once again.

    TST then took up the pace making to distance Porte and Evans who had a mechanical. Near the top, movistar took over and then Val attacked with Plaza in the long run thru the valley towards the Peyersuorde brought Froome with him. They had actually opened up a twenty second gap from the chasing peloton and had closed to 45 secs of the four man break when they sat up. I thought that was odd since Movistar had 3 riders and Froome to push their advantage. If they could have hooked up with the break, they could have really distanced themselves from the peloton.

    Chapeau to Morabito for pacing Cadel back to the peloton on the Mente ascent and descent. Also to Dan Martin who attacked again and again throughout the race until he finally got free of the group.

    • Laughing.

      But also agree with TourDeUtah. Evans had a bent rear mech, swapped bikes twice, but still clawed back when Porte could not. Barring accidents, top 5 is the best for him now. But Froome has not won yet. This Tour is far from over. Contador can still have a big stage, maybe even Schleck as well, and Valverde is looking brilliant. Imagine if the ITT was 100km !! Bring it on !!

  15. Savanna stage, indeed, All calculated to surgically expose Fromm and bite and tear at his Achilles heel which has been perhaps exposed as his team!

    They will all lick there wounds, regroup and heal for the safari that will unfold as the road goes up again
    next weekend in the alps.

  16. Movistar blew its chance to do serious harm to Froome by failing to send off riders off the front. With Quintana and Valverde there, and even Costa, it was either lack of confidence, or perhaps personal strategizing amongst the co-team leaders at movistar (e.g., Quintana’s half-hearted jumps off the front, and Valverde not even attempting the jump off the front–because all of them wanted to be the one to pounce on Froome AFTER he juiced out, rather than be the mouse for him to chase after) that made them reluctant to attack Froome with the one-two knockout blow. In the end, after all that effort, Froome is still leading by the same margin.

    • Completely agree…
      They could easy the pace a little bit so they would have all energy to attack Froome multiple times…
      Gap to Porte would be a little bit smaller, but in the end they would have the bigger prize.
      By the way, after today I have no doubt that Froome is currently the best rider on the peloton… it doesnt mean he will win, but it was amasing what he did today after yesterday effort.

      • Impressive the way Froome kept it together without bugging out being all alone vs. all of movistar. He was hurting, but showed the aggressive face when Quintana gave him a poke. Would like to see Froome win this Tour but hard to predict with two weeks left and with so much action this year.

    • they still achieved a lot by distancing porte. Maybe these are conservative guys who didnt wanted to try their luck too much today

  17. After stage 8 I was blown away by how strong Sky were, and just a little concerned as I knew suspicions would be raised. Well it now looks like they have paid for their exertions, which is reassuring. From here until Paris it’s looking like Sky will be ganged up on. Should be an interesting final week!

  18. I wonder if Froome’s starting to wish Wiggins was there…
    I thought Astana looked incredibly weak at the tour after their dominant giro, but apparently it’s hard for Sky to split their squad across the two and keep strength too.

  19. If sky blow up again in the alps, and contador and andy schleck ride into form (i don’t believe any others have the real pedigree to contest froome in the right way and they will still both loose time in the TT), the final week of this tour is going to be insane… froome has to get weaker in the 3rd week with the kind of form he’s been on, i hope, would make this 100th tour even more exciting and truly boost cycling

  20. Yesterday showed a few things.

    1. Sky took too many good men to the Giro.
    2. Froome could really do with assistance from Sir Wiggo’s big diesel engine at the moment.
    3. On the next big MTF, Froome is going to punch clear and take another 30 to 60secs out of his rivals. He’ll be further ahead after the TT as well.

  21. Interesting piece and comments above. Agree about Sky and the Giro – they’re surely missing one of Uran / Henao, in the absence of Wiggins.

    Mr Ring – any idea what happened to Kiryienka on Sunday? Did he have to do a lot of work early in the stage or something? Will surely be a big loss on a team already short of climbing ability.

    • Agree – I thought he looked indestructible on Saturday, a machine. Just flicking through some of the post stage photos, these guys are human x-rays, I’m not surprised that they succumb to fatigue especially given the heat. Missing the cut off is quite an extreme outcome though.

      • Yeah, I like the Robocop nickname for Kiryienka. Love his smooth, apparently effortless pedalling style too – when he’s on screen I tell my ten-year old aspiring cyclist son that that’s what he should be aiming it (and I wish I could ride like that!). Shame he won’t be on screen anymore in this Tour…

    • Kiriyenka did a lot of work to help Porte get back and seemed to crack at the end.

      But several riders in Sky have been suffering. There was bad luck for Kennaugh but others have been dropped on climbs in the race when you’d expect them to be there, Sioutsou, EBH and Lopez notably. If there’s a stomach bug doing the rounds they’re unlikely to admit it otherwise they’ll get attacked even more.

      • Yup, now you mention it Lopez has been pretty invisible hasn’t he? Guess he ought to be there and thereabouts when they come to the Alps.

        Hadn’t realised Kiryienka did lots of work for Porte (I missed the interesting bits of the stage!) Cheers for that, and the blogs more generally. Top quality as always.

  22. and as a postscript to that – just seen this quote from Froome last night:

    ““It doesn’t help to worry, we’re here with whoever we’ve got and we’ve got to make the best of it.”

    Sounds like he doesn’t think he has the squad he’d like, either….

  23. I thought it’d be a classic tour, and the first week delivered. I know a few have bemoaned the lack of a prologue to set an “order” at the start, but I thought the constant day to day fighting, followed by a nice touch from Gerrans to give Impey the Yellow was great. The sprinters / Green Jersey has also kicked off, with more to come this week (although it looks all sewn up by Sagan).

    Nevertheless I really feared after Saturday that it was all over, after a cracking first week it was going to fall a little bit flat with a procession to Paris. Not sure how much more wrong I could be.

    On drugs – I trust in team Sky and their ethos. I was incredulous to see what Froome achieved on Saturday and if he is on anything I think it will be completely independent of the team. Saying that, for the time being I believe that Froome is clean. There is an onus however not only to be clean, but nowadays to go the extra mile to prove beyond doubt that you (and cycling) are clean. In this I don’t think the UCI or Sky are doing enough.

    • With the performance of The Skeleton vs the rest of SKY, it’s obvious that the rest of the team are not on whatever he’s on…assuming he’s on something. Perhaps whatever “treatment” the team administers to the riders was interrupted somehow and only the yellow jersey got the full dose? While I’m happy that the full-team drilling it up the steep climbs ala BigTex and Co. no longer seems to be the case…I still wonder how this fellow who was described on Italian TV as looking as if he was pushing a shopping cart at the supermarket and a skeleton on a bicycle can keep this up, especially without much help from the team?

    • Out of interest, how would one go about proving beyond doubt (presumably you mean a “reasonable” doubt?) that one was clean?

  24. So why is it that where ever Sky goes, when they are racing two stages on same day, their teams often do very well? The metro gnome fairy?
    If they are keeping the same pace, neither chasing or falling behind from the pelaton, as their tv sport announcing groupies claim, then is not some of the other teams not keeping that pace? Then they attack, then they fall behind, making that cadence theory bunk.

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