Holy Mary, Mother of God. We knew that the Roubaix stage of this Tour de France was going to be full on, but I don’t know if we expected it to be full-on bonkers! There were guys all over the road – sometimes on bikes, sometimes on their butts; there was the yellow jersey in a final breakaway; and there were tears – both happy and sad but both genuine. The GC was more stirred than shaken up but there were some big losses.
Rider(s) of the race
John Degenkolb has long been a favourite here at VeloVoices Towers and we’ve been really pulling for him to return to the top tier after the crash where a driver drove her car into the Giant-Alpecin team two years ago, leaving the Mighty Degs to wonder if he’d ever be back in the thick of the big races.Embed from Getty Images
Today, he took an emotional win on an epic stage, keeping a cool head as he rode closer and closer to the finish with Yves Lampaert and Greg Van Avermaet in a final breakaway of the day. The trio made their escape from a crash-decimated peloton on the penultimate pave sector with about 17km to go. The move surprisingly left Peter Sagan and Philippe Gilbert in their dust and with Sagan not putting in a particularly spirited response right away, it almost immediately sealed the win for one of the front three. It seemed as if the peloton of favourites were too exhausted from the relentless on-off of cobbles all day to get their act together. The trio didn’t wait around to see if it was a bluff and quickly gained time …
With carnage, dust and broken spirits behind them, and with 45sec in hand, the trio were able to play a little cat-and-mouse as they went under the flamme rouge, with Degs in front, looking back at GVA on his wheel, anticipating the sprint. Then, with just a few hundred metres to go, it was on and Degs went hell for leather, outsprinting the yellow jersey to his first Tour de France stage win – and a long-awaited and very symbolic victory. It has to be said, for whatever else this stage was, the fact that two former Paris-Roubaix champions – and one future one in Lampaert, I’m sure – were duking it out down to the wire was a sight to see and a rich and satisfying ending to a day of calamity and courage.
And speaking of calamity, my other Rider of the Race is a rider who had possibly the worst luck of anyone who made it over the line, with at least four mechanicals, always seemingly just after he’d made his way back into a peloton after chasing from the one before. Yes, this rider is Romain Bedhead Bardet. It was truly a shit day of unluck for the French rider but, hot damn, he did not give up. Did. Not. Give. Up. Even after he’d burnt all his domestique matches and in his final mechanical had no one to help pace him back through no-man’s land to a peloton who were trying to deal a death blow to the French favourite. It definitely worked in his favour that everyone in that front peloton were so exhausted that they didn’t put the hammer down as much as half-heartedly threw the hammer at the nail and hoped it hit it. It did not. With what looked like a silent scream that lasted about 5km, Bardet worked his way back up to the peloton, losing only 7sec on his rivals as he came over the finish line. Lucky seven.
GC winners and losersEmbed from Getty Images
With the stakes so high on this stage, it’s little wonder that the peloton was nervy, twitchy and prone to crashes. The first big one took out Richie Porte completely before he even got near a cobble – shots of him beside the road, holding his arm in a ‘broken collarbone’ way, crying that once again a stage 9 in the Tour de France had pain etched on it for him, could only be greeted with sympathy. However, in a weirdly passive-aggressive tweet from BMC’s Jim Ochowicz, he says this.
There seems to be some tension around Porte and BMC management, as it was reported that he was going to Trek-Segafredo next season (but now the rumour is that he’ll join Aqua Blue as they’ll be getting a World Tour licence for 2019). It never seems to be straightforward with Porte …
Spare a thought for Tejay van Garderen who, with Porte out, surely must have thought this was his time to shine in the GC. Alas, a crash and some mechanicals meant he rolled in nearly 6minutes down from Degenkolb’s time, tumbling out of third place to 30th. His teammate Greg Van Avermaet, however, was set free to ride his own race with Porte gone and he picked up enough time to stretch his lead to 43sec over second-placed Geraint Thomas.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking of Sky riders, they looked confident through much of the cobbled sectors with that pilot-fish extraordinaire, Michal Kwiatkowski, always seeming to get his teammates into the front for the pavé. However, even Sky weren’t impervious to the dust, the speed and the nerves as almost every rider went down at least once, usually on a corner, including KwiatKrush himself, belly-flopping as he overcooked a dusty left-hand turn in the heat of the race. Co-leaders Thomas and Chris Froome were both in the front chasing group, losing no time to their rivals, but certainly picking up time on riders such as Rigoberto Uran, who had a mare of a day.Embed from Getty Images
Yes, Mick Jagger was not in the best of positions at the end of this stage. When he crashed and how he crashed is unknown – the cameras rarely picked him out – but he ended up losing nearly a whopping 2min on the stage. His EF team, however, stuck with him, worked hard to minimise the damage (who knows what it would have been had he been alone) and in a positive note to the day for the team, Lawson Craddock made it to the finish, fully earning tomorrow’s rest day.Embed from Getty Images
But the big GC winner in my book was Nairo Quintana. Left in the lurch a few stages ago when he had a mechanical, everyone thought that the Roubaix run would be too rich for his blood and he’d lose time hand over fist. But no, he wasn’t the one that was in trouble – he seemed to silently glide through each of the sectors, with a full phalanx of teammates around him (Valverde particularly).Embed from Getty Images
It was, in fact, the third of Movistar’s ‘leaders’ who lost time – Mikel Landa took a hard fall within the last 30km or so but with some Movistarlets to help him, he came in just 7sec down on the front GC group and rose to 10th place in GC, with Van Garderen, Uran and Porte dropping out. But how will he feel after the fall, after the rest day, when stage 10 is a short mountain stage with 3 cat 1s and an HC climb to get over? We’ll find out on Tuesday.
1 John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) 3:24:26
2 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) same time
3 Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) s/t
4 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) +0:19
5 Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) same time
GC Top 10
1 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) 36:07:17
2 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0.43
3 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) +0.44
4 Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) +0.50
5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:31
6 Raja Majka (Bora) +1:32
7 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:33
8 Chris Froome (Sky) +1:42
9 Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +1.42
10 Mikel Landa (Movistar) +1:42
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)
KOM jersey: Toms Skujins (Trek Segafredo)
Best young rider: Soren Kragh Anderson (Sunweb)
Most combative: Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie)
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Header image: © GETTY/AFP/ Jeff Pachoud