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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 10, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it. - Clint Eastwood

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage nine reports

Stage nine was the 2017 Tour's Queen Stage. So it's no surprise my inbox was filled with team reports.

We'll start with the sad news from BMC:

09 July, 2017, Chambery (FRA): Richie Porte suffered a devastating crash on stage 9 of the Tour de France which forced the Australian out of the race.

Porte went down on the descent of the hors categorie Mont du Chat when he slipped off the road into grass and crashed into the side of the mountain at a high speed.

After receiving immediate attention on the side of the road, Porte was taken to hospital for observation where he underwent X-rays.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa explained the nature of Porte's injuries. "Richie Porte was transferred to the Centre Hopitalier Metropole Savoie in Chambery where he was evaluated by Dr. Zerr. He underwent X-rays to determine the extent of his injuries. His condition was stable from the beginning, he was responsive and he remembered everything that happened before and after the crash," Dr. Testa explained.

"X-rays confirmed a non-displaced right clavicle fracture and a non-displaced right acetabulum fracture. Richie also suffered extensive superficial abrasions involving the right side of his body. At this stage, the injuries will not require surgery. The plan is to re-evaluate Richie tomorrow morning and confirm that he is stable enough to be transferred home."

Richie Porte

Richie Porte racing in stage five

Dr. Testa confirmed that Porte will require a minimum of four weeks off the bike. "Normally, a fractured clavicle and pelvis would require four to six weeks' recovery, providing there are no complications. If everything goes to plan, Richie could be back on the bike at the beginning of August and slowly build his fitness up from there. Based on Richie's recovery, we will re-evaluate his program for the rest of the season in consultation with BMC Racing Team management."

Team Sky also suffered some terrible luck at the Tour. Here's their update:

Geraint Thomas has described his ‘devastation’ at having to abandon the Tour de France due to a broken collarbone.

The Welshman crashed heavily on the fast descent off the Col de la Biche midway through stage nine and, despite initially attempting to carry on, he was forced to admit defeat.

Talking through the crash, Thomas said: “Everyone was nervous, everyone wanted to be at the front and a few people were battling to get between myself, Froomey and the rest of the boys. I let [Rafal] Majka in and then he came down right in front of me on a straight bit of road. I had nowhere to go, went over the top of him, and landed on my collarbone.

“Team doctor Jimmy [Juan Mercadel] said he thought it was broken but I got back on the bike and carried on down the descent, but when I got on the flat I knew something was wrong. Then the race doctor said exactly the same so I ended up stopping then, went for a scan, and it’s broken.”

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas in better days. Here he's in yellow after stage two.

Thomas was sat second overall at the start of the day having enjoyed an excellent start to the race. He won the opening prologue in Dusseldorf to become the first Welshman to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, but his disappointment at leaving the race early is clear.

He added: “I can’t really think about that at the moment. I’m just thinking of the devastation of leaving the Tour and another Grand Tour. I crashed at the Giro on stage nine, and it’s stage nine again here. I was lying second overall on both days as well. It’s just so disappointing.”

Yet Sky's Chris Froome remained the GC leader. Here's Sky's stage nine report:

Chris Froome finished third on a breathless stage nine to extend his overall lead in the Tour de France. An elite group of general classification contenders battled it out into Chambery, with a podium and four bonus seconds for Froome allowing him to extend his yellow jersey advantage to 18 seconds.

The toughest stage of the race thus far bit hard, with Geraint Thomas crashing out of second place on the treacherous descent off the Col de la Biche.

Froome enjoyed superb support from his Team Sky team-mates throughout the 181.5-kilometre test, which despite featuring seven categorised climbs was clipped off at a rapid 35.45km/h.

The fireworks truly began on the final of those climbs - the Mont du Chat – with Froome forced to stop and carry out a bike change following a technical issue. With team-mates around him, and a sporting slowing of the pace up ahead, the maillot jaune made his way back to the group.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome near the end of stage nine, trying to drop the others in the lead break.

Further up the hors-categorie ascent fresh attacks fired, with Froome looking to push the tempo. With big names such as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) dislodged, an elite group headed over the top.
After the race Froome admitted it had been a tough day for a number of reasons.

"Definitely mixed feelings today," he said. "Of course I’m happy to still be in the jersey but at the same time that was a crazy stage. I’ve just seen the images of Richie Porte’s crash and that leaves you with a horrible feeling. I really hope he’s alright and can make a speedy recovery. Of course my team mate Geraint Thomas as well, he crashed out today with a broken collarbone, so I’ve got mixed feelings after that stage today.

"The rest of my team… the guys did a massive job. A massive, massive job. To control that type of a race today is no easy task and they did it really well, so chapeau guys.

"At the bottom of the Mont du Chat I had a bit of a mechanical problem and my gears stopped working, so I had to swap bikes. Also for that, I think Richie was quite instrumental in slowing the group down and basically saying, ‘Guys, this is not the time to be attacking the leader of the race’, so thanks to Richie and I really hope he makes a speedy recovery.

"Tomorrow's rest day is definitely very, very welcome! I think everyone is pretty wrecked after today, myself included. We’ll definitely sleep in tomorrow and soak that up."

Further drama hit on the descent, with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) losing control and crashing out in an accident that also briefly held up Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors).

Froome combined with his rivals to chase down an attack from Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and six riders arrived together at the finish to contest the stage win.

A photo finish was required to separate Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), with the latter narrowly edging out the win. Froome finished strongly in third behind, with Mikel Landa also finishing well, taking eighth from the chasing group behind.

Heading into the first rest day Froome leads the race by a still slender 18 seconds over Fabio Aru (Astana), with Bardet in third, now 51 seconds back. Landa jumped up to ninth on the day, 3:06 down.

The race:

With a talent-stacked breakaway of 38 riders going clear leaving Nantua, Team Sky opted to stick together and set about trying to control the stage from start to finish.

After four climbs the team had control after strong early work from Luke Rowe, Vasil Kiryienka and Christian Knees. Sadly Thomas’ race then came to an end with a broken collarbone after a rider went down in front of him.

Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Nieve and Landa supported Froome on the painfully steep Grand Colombier, with Sergio Henao also regaining contact over the top. Kwiatkowski put in a huge turn on the valley road to claw back time on the breakaway, ensuring the yellow jersey remained on the shoulders of Froome.

With Team Sky proving to be the strongest team on the day, their advantage was stretched to 7:12 in the team classification.

Team Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford echoed Froome's sentiments on a difficult day at the Tour. On the accident of former Team Sky rider Porte, he told Eurosport: "It looked nasty. I’m quite upset by that really, so we wish him all the best and hope he’s alright. We’ll get in touch with the BMC guys to see if he’s OK.

"G has broken his collarbone for sure which is devastating for him. He had the crash in the Giro, then the rollercoaster of coming here and being in yellow after winning the first stage, and then breaking his collarbone today. We’ll get our arms around him and make sure he’s alright, we’ll get him back on track, but that’s not nice to see."

Brailsford also pointed to the significance of Froome grinding out a few more seconds in a tight GC race. "[Froome] staying in yellow and getting a little bit more time, that was the important thing. Every second counts in this race, we’ve known that. He’s increased the margin by a little bit.

"The team today were majestic, right from the get go. Luke, he didn’t have the best day yesterday, he road fantastically today, then we saw Michal Kwiatkowski who was just outstanding. Really outstanding. The work he did today and the tempo that he can ride in those mid mountains is just phenomenal."

Stage winner Rigoberto Uran's Cannondale-Drapac team sent this:

Rigoberto Uran won a crash-filled stage of the Tour de France in dramatic fashion on Sunday. The Colombian, riding with only two gears due to a late race mechanical issue, won a six-up sprint in Chambéry. To add to the drama, the race jury required finish line photos to declare Uran the winner ahead of Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb).

The stage nine victory is Uran’s first Tour de France stage win and his first victory in Cannondale-Drapac #GreenArgyle. “It’s unbelievable,” said Uran. “I didn’t think it was true. I was actually leaving for anti-doping control when they told me I had won. It’s a huge surprise for me.

Rigoberto Uran

Stage nine winner Rigoberto Uran

“When there was the crash of Richie Porte and Dan Martin, Martin hit my gear and broke it,” Uran added. “I did the whole descent with a broken gear, and I was thinking that I had to find a way to save the day.”

Save the day he did. The descent off Mont du Chat concluded with around 14-kilometers still to race. Uran’s derailleur hanger was bent, and his shifting was broken when he paid a visit to the Mavic neutral support car where Mavic mechanic Max Ruphy put the chain in the biggest gear, the 11. Uran was left with two gear options: 53/11 and 39/11

“When we knew we had the problem with the rear derailleur, first we made the decision to go to the line with the bike like that,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius. “He could have stopped within the last three kilometres and changed his bike and gotten the same time, but we wanted to win.

“Without the ability to change gears, he needed a long sprint,” Wegelius added. “We told him to go for a long one. We gave him the information about where to be. He did great.”

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) opened the sprint at 350 meters. First Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) burst past Fuglsang. Then Uran jumped in front of them both. Meters before the finish, Barguil pulled alongside Uran. The Dutchman celebrated across the line.

“I saw the TV pictures, saw Barguil raise his hand,” said Wegelius. “Then literally seconds later came the text message from Tissot timing with the Tour results. We get those every day, and it said Uran had won. I believed it, but Andreas [Klier] wasn’t so sure. We just kind of sat there quietly for a few moments. It was intense.”

“It’s the Tour de France. It’s the biggest race in the world. To win here is a huge accomplishment,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “This means a tremendous amount to our entire organization. I couldn’t be prouder of this team at every level. The staff and the riders deserve this. I’m so happy for them. For us.”

Before the descent, the crashes, the mechanical issues and the winning sprint, there were seven climbs, including three hors categorie mountains, to master. Uran conserved in the peloton as his teammates went on the attack. Dylan van Baarle and Pierre Rolland made up a large breakaway group that escaped on the category two climb that began from kilometer zero.

Rolland and Van Baarle lost pace with the leaders over the hors category Col de la Biche. By this point, the peloton had been halved and was seven minutes behind the leaders.

The descent off Col de la Biche further split the breakaway, further thinned the field and saw several key riders crash on the wet pavement. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) exited the race with a broken collarbone.

Up and over the Grand Colombier, only five riders from the original 40 front-runners remained ahead of the peloton. Uran looked comfortable, as comfortable as anyone can possibly look up the Colombier, as the lone Canondale-Drapac representative in a 15-strong yellow jersey group.

The stage was only halfway done.

The race settled into a semi-truce on the gentle roads between the Colombier and Mont du Chat – the only relatively uneventful portion of the 181-kilometer stage – which allowed both the leading group and the yellow jersey group to swell in size.

Uran hit the base of Mont du Chat with two teammates in Rolland and Andrew Talansky. Attacks from the yellow jersey group quickly dispatched those that had lost contact earlier. Barguil, from the early breakaway, reached the summit 25-seconds ahead of the first chase of seven: Porte, Martin, Bardet, Fuglsang, Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (Astana).

Porte crashed heavily on the Mont du Chat descent, bouncing from one side of the road to the other and taking out Martin in the process. Martin bumped into Uran, who managed to stay upright.

Martin was able to scramble back on his bike. Porte was stretchered off the road and into an ambulance. Bardet risked all in pursuit of Barguil and was rewarded with the catch as the descent ended. The Frenchman didn’t linger long and dropped Barguil on the flat run-in to the finish. Uran, Froome, Aru and Fuglsang caught Barguil with six kilometers remaining and Bardet at the two kilometer mark.

The stage was set for Uran to contend for his first Tour de France stage win.

“Any race is full of emotion,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “This one, you know, I was pumped as hell when I saw Rigo going over the top with the first few guys, and when he almost crashed, almost had his derailleur ripped off, I thought: ‘Shit. The black cat strikes again.’

“But the difference between Rigo and pretty much every other bike racer I’ve ever met in my life is Rigo never loses his cool,” said Vaughters. “And that’s why he won today. Even though he had this major mechanical, he never lost his cool for one second. I was nervous. He wasn’t. And that was all the difference in the end.”

With the stage win, Uran picked up a 10-second bonus and an eight place jump on the general classification. The 30-year-old heads into the rest day sitting in fourth place overall, 54-seconds down on Froome.

“It’s a big move up on the general classification,” said Uran. “It was a really good day for me, and there is a lot of Tour still to come.”

Uran’s win at the end of the first week of the Tour is a well-deserved victory for Cannondale-Drapac. The team in green has spent the opening stages on the attack and up the road.

“It was an awesome moment when I found out Rigo had won,” said road captain Simon Clarke. “Everyone has seen the nine stages of work that every rider on this team has put in. Rigo’s win today was a reward for all of that effort. Every day, whichever rider was meant to go into the break, committed 100% to that team plan. I was sure that if we did exactly the team plan every day it would pay off. It could have been any day. Today was the one.”

White Jersey owner Simon Yates' Orica-Scott team had this to say about stage nine:

24-year-old Simon Yates has extended his lead in the best young rider competition at the Tour de France to almost three minutes after a brutal and dramatic stage nine today.

On a day that produced a lot of talking points including heavy crashes and untimely mechanicals and attacks, Yates remained calm to avoid trouble and finish in 11th place, one-minute 15seconds behind stage winner Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) and race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The British climber now sits in seventh overall, two-minutes and two-seconds behind Froome, but has extended his lead to Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) in the white jersey competition to two-minutes 58seconds.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates

“It was an extremely hard day,” Yates said of the seven-climb, three hors category, stage. “I went super deep, as deep as possible and I finished empty. I gave it everything.”

“I was a bit worried on the final climb because I wasn’t feeling good but the other young guys were already dropped and also in difficulty so I just rode my maximum to the top and also to the finish. Now, I’m just looking forward to the rest day.”

After nine days of racing, including the last two mountain stages, ORICA-SCOTT sport director Matt White summarised the team’s position heading into the first rest day. “It’s been a pretty nervous start as it always is,” White said. “As we saw today, half the battle of the Tour de France is to survive the first half of the race.”

“There are a few guys packing their bags and going home already. We have survived the first half of the race, we have been limiting losses and conserving energy on the flat stages but on key stages like today, we’re making a really good impression.

“Simon is seventh on GC and a clear leader in the white jersey and we still have a lot of climbing to come. We’re very content, we came here for the white jersey and we plan to fight for it all the way to Paris.”

How it happened:

With seven climbs, including three hors category, today’s stage 9 was primed to split the peloton right across the 181km stretch of roads. A large group of 40 riders formed on the first climb, with Michael Albasini there for ORICA-SCOTT.

A few climbs later and the break and peloton were both in pieces with Albasini in the second group on the road and Yates, Esteban Chaves and Roman Kreuziger in the group with the yellow jersey of Froome.

The sharpest slopes of the Grand Colombier proved too much from Chaves who lost touch whilst Kreuziger hung on almost to its peak before regrouping with his leader in Yates on the descent.

The pair tucked into the favourites group as Team Sky pushed the pace in the valley ahead of the final climb. When they reached the bottom of the final ascent the gap to the front of the race, now just two riders, was under three minutes.

Kreuziger completed his final duties for Yates at the bottom before dropping off to leave the Brit to battle with the favourites in the final 35km.

As many riders lost touch, Yates also slipped off the back before joining a chase group of other climbers to limit the damage. Ahead, a bad crash took out Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) used his descending skills to create a gap on his rivals and reach the front of the race.

A regrouping of an elite group of six riders fought it out for the stage victory won by Uran, before the Yates chase group crossed the line just over a minute behind.

Team Sunweb had a good day on the road. Here's their news:

The ninth stage of the Tour de France was a strong showing for Team Sunweb, with Warren Barguil (FRA), putting in a huge ride to take over the lead in the mountains classification.

A perfectly executed plan saw Team Sunweb with five riders in the day's breakaway, with Barguil tucked inside the bunch ready to mop up any available king of the mountain points. As the break neared the summit of the first Hors-Category climb, Barguil collected 12 points, followed by maximum points atop Grand Colombier after accelerating away from his breakaway companion. Barguil then found himself solo on the ascent of Chat du Mont, cresting the summit in pole position to secure the lead in the mountains classification. The Frenchman continued to fight to the finish and after 176 kilometres in the breakaway he was still clinging on to the yellow jersey group in the final kilometre. Barguil unleashed all he had for the sprint, and in an incredibly close photo finish took second place. Barguil was also awarded the most combative rider of the day.

Warren Barguil

Warren Barguil is the new owner of the polka-dots

"Today was an amazing day for myself and the team," explained Barguil after the finish. "We had five guys in the break which was brilliant. After Michael won the intermediate sprint the guys went full for my chances on day success and that gave me the confidence that I needed to climb at my best. On the Mont du Chat I did everything I could to make it to the top first and I was really happy to be able to do that. Of course it's disappointing to not take the stage win, but this is the sport and we will continue to fight on."

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) added: "We went on the attack today with a sophisticated plan in an attempt to serve the goals that we have. The team did a perfect job having five guys in the break and with Warren feeling good we decided to protect him, work hard in increasing the gap and gather king of the mountain points. Warren did a really good race and the sprint was really close. We can be proud of the whole team and how they executed the plan today. Of course a stage victory would have been perfect, but the team performed outstandingly and it was a great team effort."

And finally, here's Lotto-Soudal's stage nine report:

Tiesj Benoot and Tony Gallopin animated the queen stage at the Tour de France this afternoon. Seven climbs lay on the route between Nantua and Chambéry, including three hors catégorie climbs. A very hard stage, but a photo finish had to determine the winner.

Tim Wellens was the first attacker of the day. Immediately after the official start the Belgian accelerated. After Thibaut Pinot had bridged first, a large group of about 35 riders followed his example. Three Lotto Soudal riders were part of that group: Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin! On the top of Col de la Biche, after almost seventy kilometres of racing, the escapees had their maximal advantage of 6’50”. Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt were already dropped by then. In the descent Tiesj Benoot got in front with six others. During the ascent of the Grand Colombier another selection was made: Benoot and Barguil were the only two leaders left. In the descent they were joined by Mollema, Roglič and Vuillermoz.

In the valley towards Mont du Chat the leaders waited for the first chasing group, so Tony Gallopin joined the front group again. The peloton then followed at less than four minutes. After the intermediate sprint at 55 kilometres from the finish Tony Gallopin and Jan Bakelants distanced their companions. In the first kilometres of Mont du Chat, with top 26 kilometres from the finish, Gallopin set up a solo attack. Later Bakelants returned with Barguil who then went solo. Tiesj Benoot caught several riders and got in second position, but then the GC riders reeled him in. Romain Bardet took over the lead from Bardet in the last ten kilometres of the stage. Just before entering the last two kilometres Bardet was caught by the first chasing group. Rigoberto Uran beat Warren Barguil in a sprint. Tiesj Benoot finished twelfth, at 3’32”. Almost five minutes later Tony Gallopin got 27th.

Tiesj Benoot: “I wanted to get in the large breakaway yesterday, but I was too far behind. The rest of the day I could save my energy a bit and I hoped to play a role today. This morning I didn’t feel great though, but once we started racing the legs didn’t feel bad at all. Today I didn’t miss the right break. When the selection was made, I could hang on. I was riding at the front and that was wonderful. Afterwards Tony got ahead and that was a good situation too. When he was caught I tried to bridge to Barguil, but that was too hopeful.”

“We lost three minutes lead in the valley, otherwise I might have been able to survive Mont du Chat and battle for a higher result. I can be satisfied with this performance and the way I showed myself. I am glad we have a rest day tomorrow.”

Tony Gallopin: “Despite the fact that I was completely exhausted yesterday, I felt pretty good this morning. That’s why I joined the large breakaway. We had to be attentive, so no group would ride away without Tiesj or me. And we had to try to avoid crashing. After the very tough week I had, I can be very pleased. I was riding alone in front for a while on Mont du Chat, but when stronger riders pass you by, you know it’s over. I am happy with this performance, this is promising for the rest of the Tour.”

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