Tour de France: Primoz Roglic takes yellow from Yates as Pogacar wins
Jumbo-Visma rider leads on day of double joy for Slovenia
Tadej Pogacar salutes ‘really crazy’ win on 153km stage
Adam Yates lost his grip on the yellow jersey as Slovenian cyclists swept the board in the second Pyrenean stage of this year’s Tour de France, with Primoz Roglic taking the overall lead and a 21-year-old Tour debutant, Tadej Pogacar winning the 153km ninth stage of the race to Laruns in the Pyrenees.
UAE Emirates’ Pogacar, who won three stages and finished third overall in last year’s Vuelta a España, is one of the hottest young talents in cycling and Roglic acknowledged that his compatriot now poses a real threat. “Definitely yes – he is really strong at the moment but it’s still just the first nine days and a lot of things will happen before arriving in Paris,” the Jumbo-Visma leader said.
Pogacar said: “I wanted to gain as much time as I could on GC and I knew that a stage win was worth 10 seconds, so I just went full-gas sprinting.”
Their elation contrasted with the deflation of Yates after Mitchelton-Scott’s overnight race leader was distanced by Pogacar’s accelerations on the steepest sections of the final climb, the Col de la Marie Blanque.
A downcast Yates added that while his legs felt as strong as they had on Saturday’s first Pyrenean stage, the pace into Laruns had been even faster. “It is what it is,” he shrugged. “There are stages in the last week that suit me quite well. It was a big honour riding in yellow, so it was fun while it lasted.”
Yates added: “I did my best. I knew coming into the race I wasn’t 100%, and I gave everything I could to hang on. I think we can be proud of what we did and can freshen up now with the rest day and go after some stages.”
But the defending champion, Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers, showed that he is moving closer to his best form, as he finished fourth on the stage and climbed into second place in the overall standings.
Pogacar had taken note. “He looked better today,” he said of Bernal. “He was really strong in the [final] climb. I think this Tour will be even more interesting in the next weeks.”
Pogacar hinted too that he may have more attacks in store. “If you don’t attack you can’t gain time,” he said. “I needed some time back so sometimes you just need to go full gas, and Jumbo are really strong, so you need to be careful when you attack. But the game for the GC has only just started.”
Yet it is Roglic who remains, as predicted before the race started, the man to beat. “We deserve this,” he said of his yellow jersey. “It’s proof that we’re doing a lot of the right work and it’s a big achievement for everyone working for the team. But the general classification is always a fight for every second and a lot will happen before Paris.”
Rain and mist swept over the first climbs of the stage and it took almost 50km of attacks before the breakaway took shape. Remarkably, despite his dramatic collapse on Saturday’s stage, Thibaut Pinot was in the thick of them, but the Groupama-FDJ rider’s resurgence was short-lived and the Frenchman once again slid backwards on the Col de la Hourcère.
Ahead, Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) moved clear and led by over four minutes as he sped towards the final climb of the Col de la Marie Blanque. The Swiss rider, pipped to the line by Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick-Step on day two, looked set to win his first Tour stage as he entered the final 25km, but the double-digit percentages of the Marie Blanque seemed to knock the stuffing out of him.
A series of accelerations from Pogacar put Yates into trouble, with a quintet of riders – Pogacar, Roglic, Bernal, Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) and Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) – moving clear in pursuit of Hirschi on the steep haul to the summit.
A touch of wheels as they crested the top of the climb almost took down both Pogacar and Roglic but, after a flying descent, Roglic assumed the status of race leader and Pogacar snatched his first stage win in the Tour. The convoy now heads north, past Bordeaux and on to La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime, for the first rest day in this year’s race.