Tour de France 2019: Stage 9 — Impey plays it cool for his first Tour victory

Bastille Day. The sun shone. The crowds came out to fete both a Frenchman in the mailllot jaune and a stage finish in Romain Bardet‘s home town! A classy break went up the road to play for the win, and Daryl Impey kept his head to beat Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) in a two up sprint to claim his maiden Tour de France victoire – the first for Mitchelton-Scott in three years.  There was no change on the overall as the GC guys rolled along thoroughly enjoying a lull in proceedings.

In praise of the break

I love the dynamics surrounding break formation. Which riders are allowed, which groupings will be chased down.

With Sunweb’s Nicholas Roche the highest placed at +23mins, Deceuninck-QuickStep and everyone else were only too happy to let this one up the road – while they took the opportunity to just police the front and allow the time gap to grow to around 14 minutes! We haven’t seen such double figures since the halcyon days of yesteryear.

On a TOUGH day out, it was fascinating to see which of the break would survive to make their bid for glory. The rolling parcours gave them plenty of opportunity to both wear down the opposition and punch away on their own. Attritional would be le mot juste.

In that spirit, I am awarding a slew of honourable mentions to riders who played their cards with everything they had in their legs.

First up BORA-hansgrohe’s Lukas Postlberger for a bold attack on the cat 3 Cote des Guillaumanches with 50km to go. He was eventually reeled in as he hit the last climb of the day into a ferocious headwind.

I had a gap in the front after the downhill and after a bit of hesitation because I knew there was still a long way to go, I decided to take my chances and attack. I gave all I had in the first kilometres, then as we were approaching the climb, they were coming closer. I tried to save some energy for the climb but after they caught me, it was impossible for me to follow the attacks. Nevertheless, this is part of the race. If you don’t try, you can’t win.

Next up is Team Sunweb’s Nicholas Roche. Yes, he’s still in the race. Yes, he was off the leash, and yes I was thrilled to watch him fly. There was also the bonus that should he succeed, the French would claim him as a home win on Bastille Day.

His repeated attacks in all the right places on the Côte de Saint-Just – the last climb of the day – broke the leading group of riders apart. Eventually he got away with Benoot, but just couldn’t hang on when they were joined by Impey.

I had goosebumps going up the climbs today. When you’re a kid you dream about going up climbs with all these crowds and I was kind of living the dream again. It was nice to be back in a Tour de France breakaway.

Tiesj Benoot, he of the marvellous name and an iron will forged in the white hot melee on Belgian roads. He knew when he got away with Impey in the last 8kms that the South African champion was the better sprinter, that he could not take him to the line and win. He tried to ride him off his wheel countless times, and even as they approached the line, he forced Impey to the front to give himself the best chance. It wasn’t to be, but he did become the fourth Lotto-Soudal rider to claim the most combative award. What a #TDF2019 for the men in white and red.

Last, but not least, is the honourable mention for our stage victor Daryl Impey.

I can only applaud the smart, tactical game he played. The South African looked all but out of it when Roche and Benoot rode away from him. But he kept his nerve to bring them back and then used all of his vast experience to claim his first Tour de France victory. It was cool, clinical, calculating but, OH BOY the emotion afterwards.

I’ve been imagining that emotion on the finish line for a long time, so it’s fantastic to win at this level. The last Tour de France stage victory for South Africa I think was Robbie Hunter in 2007. It’s been a long time between drinks – to win on Bastille Day, that’s fantastic. That’s a magic memory.

Bastille Day on home roads for Bardet

With a stage finish in his home town, the whole of Brioude came out to celebrate Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) today.

They even celebrated him with grass art. BRAVO!

After a rough opening week, it warmed my heart to see Bedhead attack with Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte today. Yes it may have just been for his fans, but it was no less welcome for all that.

I think we all need to see a photo of this.

I LOVE this! See if you can spot Baby Bedhead in the crowd.

Last word to…

Stage 9 – Top 5

1 Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) 4:03:12

2 Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) same time

3 Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida) +0.10

4 Oliver Naesen  (AG2R la Mondiale) same time

5 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) s/t

General Classification – Top 10

1 Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) 38:37:36

2 Guilio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) +0:23

3 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ_ +0:53

4 George Bennet (Jumbo-Visma) +1:10

5 Geraint Thomas (Ineos) +1:12

6 Egan Bernal (Ineos) +1:16

7 Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) +1:27

8 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +1:38

9 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:42

10 Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) +1:45

All the Jerseys

Maillot Jaune:  Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck- QuickStep)

Maillot Vert: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)

Maillot Blanc: Giulio Ciccone(Trek-Segafredo)

King of the Mountains: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)

For the full race review, go to cyclingnews

Header image: GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele  

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