Étape of the Day – Slovenia are at it again!

Featured image courtesy of gettimages

For each and every rider a rest day will be well deserved after a relentless first week at the Tour de France. The climbing has been non-stop, the crashes have been unfortunate and the sprints breath-taking. Stage 9 saw the finale of the first week in the Pyrénées with a 153 km route from Pau to Laruns via some tough summits including the Col de Marie Blanque before the final descent to the line.

Similar to yesterday we saw a breakaway rider try ever so hard to win the stage. Nans Peters was successful in Loudenvielle, Team Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi however didn’t quite complete the job. The young Swiss rider is having a great Tour despite him not taking the stage, to ride like he did today at his age – lots of great things are still to come from Hirschi who deserves the combativity award.

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Cycling’s new nation of superstars are at it again!

The Tour heads into the rest day with a new race leader. Pre-race favourite Primož Roglič is our new leader in yellow, the perfect position for Jumbo-Visma to be in ahead of the first rest day. The Slovenian was once again on form, took second on the stage to take key bonus seconds and will now do everything in his power to keep yellow all the way to Paris. Roglič has a stage win under his belt, Jumbo-Visma have been the dominant team despite a few moments where domestiques were going out the back. Sepp Kuss looked better today so all in all they’ll be satisfied with how week one has fared after three stage wins and now the lead of the race.

Last year’s Vuelta was a huge historic moment for Slovenia, so could history be made further for the country at the Tour de France? After losing time in the crosswinds on Stage 7 two stages in the Pyrénées have been the perfect tonic for young Tadej Pogačar. At 21 years old he becomes the youngest stage winner at the Tour in the 21st century and has clawed back precious time to move himself up to seventh overall, 44 seconds behind his Slovenian compatriot. Pogačar breathes confidence and he has provided entertainment for us at home. You have to feel for Marc Hirschi riding well and denied the stage win but that’s bike racing – Pogačar now has stage success at the Tour one year on from the Vuelta.

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The GC is tight after week one. Going into the rest day both pre-race favourites are in first and second – Primož Roglič and Egan Bernal. Ineos Grenadiers have not been at their best and that’s not an unfair criticism. The numbers game has been won by Jumbo-Visma but then again, the numbers game won’t matter if you don’t deliver yellow come Paris.

The defending champion Egan Bernal is still in a good position in fact today was his best showing as he attacked twice on the Marie Blanque but couldn’t quite distance his rivals. It’s a hard race, it’s a mountainous Tour, it’s still in the balance for Bernal to defend his title. At this point last year, the young Colombian was behind Geraint Thomas on GC, not excelling on the climbs but still in the mix to make the podium. Bernal has a challenge on his hands, Dave Brailsford always has a plan up his sleeve, Ineos have to find a new way to win the Tour. They are still in the hunt.

Who were the winners and losers from Stage 9? We’ve mentioned Roglič, Pogačar and Bernal so what about the French prospects after Thibaut Pinot’s horror show yesterday? Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet both lost 11 seconds on GC but Martin himself remains in third overall and Bardet just behind his compatriot. Cofidis haven’t won a stage at the Tour since 2008 – could Guillaume Martin end that drought? We saw him attack yesterday so perhaps he was paying for his efforts today. A long way to go but Martin is turning out to be the surprise package at this year’s race. Romain Bardet also looks a rejuvenated rider. He’s participating in his last Tour de France for AG2R La Mondiale so one more Grand Boucle to make his team proud?

Colombia are once again having an excellent Tour de France. We know that Egan Bernal became the nation’s first Colombian winner of the yellow jersey last year but for 2020 could we see two Colombians make the podium? Nairo Quintana couldn’t close the gaps on the attacks today but still looks fresh ahead of week two and EF’s Rigoberto Urán is once again putting in good performances at the Tour. He may not be able to repeat his fantastic second place behind Chris Froome in 2017 but a top placing on GC isn’t out of the question. One rider from Colombia who didn’t have a good day was Miguel Ángel López who find himself outside the top ten one minute fifteen seconds behind Roglič.

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Mikel Landa is once again shining bright; Richie Porte is in with a shout of a top ten but the big casualties are Movistar’s Enric Mas and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann. Both teams aren’t having the greatest of Tours, Movistar haven’t done much despite leading the team classification and even though Peter Sagan is in green, not much to shout about for Bora either. Buchmann to be fair did suffer from a crash at the Dauphiné so is unsurprisingly suffering.

A final word must go to Adam Yates who found himself in yellow after bizarre circumstances, rode strong to avoid the crosswind chaos on Stage 7, hung onto the jersey after Stage 8 but wasn’t able to follow the wheels today. He’s out of the maillot jaune but has done a tremendous job in honouring the jersey and making more history for British cycling. The objective now changes for Mitchelton-Scott as they’ll target stage wins for Yates and there will also be opportunities in the sprints for Luka Mezgec.

No change in the green jersey standings as Sam Bennett remains seven points behind Peter Sagan. Benoit Cosnefroy still has the polka-dot jersey and Egan Bernal shoulders the white jersey although Tadej Pogačar could be a threat to him in the weeks ahead.

One non finisher today and a blow to Tadej Pogačar himself with key domestique Fabio Aru leaving the race. Never nice to see a rider leave the Tour and we hope to see Aru back at his best in the not too distant future.

Week one is over, the Tour is on rest day number one. There is still the lingering cloud of coronavirus over the race and it’s particularly annoying when you see spectators not wearing face masks properly. The race moves to the Atlantic coast to begin week two – the 107th Tour rolls on…

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