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Having anticipated the climbers in a 10-rider group, Dumoulin soloed to victory in stage 9 of the Tour de France; Froome, Quintana, Porte, Martin and Yates won the GC battle but failed to distance each other; Froome retains the lead

Photo: Sirotti

CHRIS FROOME

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RAFAL MAJKA

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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10.07.2016 @ 18:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) made it three victories in the last three grand tours when he took his first Tour de France stage win after a memorable solo ride in torrential rain on the Arcalis climb on stage 9 of the Tour de France. The Dutchman anticipated the climber in a 10-rider group and held Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) off to take the biggest win of his career. Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC), Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) emerged as the strongest GC contenders but as they failed to distance each other, Froome retains the lead.

 

Known as a time trial specialist, a classics contender and a rider for one-week stage races, Tom Dumoulin emerged as a grand tour contender at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. An amazing performance allowed him to win both an uphill finish and a time trial and if the race had had just one mountain stage less, he would have won the race overall.

 

A few weeks ago, he continued his three-week success by winning the opening time trial at the Giro d’Italia and so he went into this year’s Tour de France with the chance to become one of only a select few to have worn the leader’s jersey and won stages in three consecutive grand tours. Unfortunately, a bout of illness in the build-up set him back and after a bad ride in stage 5, his dreams of yellow were over.

 

Two days ago Dumoulin said that he would ride like ‘a wet newspaper’ for the rest of the race if things didn’t get better but apparently his legs have come around remarkably quickly. Today he made the ha-trick of stage victories by claiming a marvelous solo win on the big mountain stage to Arcalis in Andorra.

 

Dumoulin was part of a big 20-rider breakaway that had escaped after a very hectic start that saw both Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) go on the offensive. He made the selection when the group was whittled down to just 10 riders but as he was up against climbers like Rafal Majka and Thibaut Pinot, he knew that he had to anticipate the final 10km climb.

 

That’s what he did and he made use of the final flat section to get an advantage of almost a minute. From there he did what he does best as he went into time trial mode and no one managed to bring him back.

 

While Dumoulin soloed to victory, the GC battle was on and it had already lost an important protagonist and an injured Contador had abandoned with 10km to go. Especially, Richie Porte and Daniel Martin were relentless in the attacks but no one could get clear. Chris Froome was riding unusually defensively as he only attacked twice and as he couldn’t get rid of Nairo Quintana – who didn’t make a single attack – Froome, Quintana, Adam Yates, Martin and Porte arrived together, with the latter two just losing two seconds in the sprint.

 

The action happened on the final 10km climb. Dumoulin hit the ascent with an advantage of 50 seconds over a chase group of Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Jesus Herrada, Winner Anacona (Movistar), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Diego Rosa (Astana) and Mathias Frank (IAM) and 9 minutes over the peloton which was led by Mikel Landa (Sky). The Dutchman had gone into TT mode and continued to increase his advantage which forced Costa and Pinot to react. The pair took off in pursuit but a surge by Majka brought most of the group back together. However, Rosa, Frank and Herrada had been left behind.

 

Costa attacked again and this time no one reacted. It took some time before Pinot and Majka started to collaborate and that ended the day for Bennett. Anacona and Navarro had to dig deep just to hang on but when Majka made an attack they had to give up too. Moments later, Pinot suddenly cracked and Majka went into TT mode, quickly bridging the gap to Costa.

 

Landa led the peloton onto the climb and then his Sky teammate Wout Poels took over. He made the peloton explode to pieces and in less than one kilometre, he had whittled the group down to less than 20 riders, with riders like Wilco Kelderman, Daniel Moreno, Damiano Caruso and Frank Schleck losing contact.

 

Poels swung off and left it to Mikel Nieve to continue the hard pace just as Dumoulin entered the final 5km with a 40-second advantage over Costa and Majka. Anacona and Pinot were further back but they were not getting any closer.

 

Pierre Rolland was the next to get dropped from the peloton which was now down to just Nieve, Froome, Henao, Thomas, Quintana, Valverde, Nibali, Aru, Kreuizger, Bardet, Mollema, Porte, van Garderen, Barguil, Rodriguez, Meintjes, Martin and Yates. Nieve swung off and then Thomas took over. Meanwhile, Dumoulin maintained a 40-second advantage over the two chasers who were not getting closer.

 

As torrential rain started to fall, Henao launched the first attack but Martin quickly shut it down with the rest of the field on his wheel. However, the Colombian hit out again immediately and this time no one responded.

 

Porte made it across to Henao before Froome launched his first attack. However, Quintana stayed glued to his wheel and when he sat up again, Martin and Porte rejoined them. Meanwhile, Aru and Barguil were dropped and Nibali had to wait for his captain.

 

Porte set the pace but a strong Yates brought the main group back together. Martin was the next to try and again only Froome, Quintana and Porte could follow.

 

Martin was relentless but couldn’t get clear and instead Bardet rejoined the main group. The Irishman and Porte attacked again but Froome shut everything down.

 

A small slowdown allowed Yates and later also Mollema and Rodriguez to regain contact. Meintjes, Valverde, Henao, van Garderen and Kreuziger finally also made it back just before Mollema made a failed attack.

 

While the battle for the GC was on, Dumoulin continued in TT mode and passed the flamme rouge with a 40-second advantage over Costa and Majka. He held his advantage and had plenty of time to celebrate his first Tour stage victory. Costa easily beat Majka in the sprint for second while Navarro made a late comeback to take fourth followed by Anacona and a disappointed Pinot.

 

The battle for the GC continued when Porte made his next big attack. Only Froome, Quintana and Mollema could match him and then the Dutchman made a failed move. Further back, Valverde and Kreuziger were distanced.

 

Porte kept attacking but it was impossible for him to get clear. Instead, it was Martin who created a selection when he accelerated again, with just Froome, Quintana and Porte ebing able to follow.

 

Yates managed to rejoin the quartet as Martin kept riding on the front until Froome launched his second attack. Quintana and Porte didn’t give him an inch and then Porte made a counterattack. However, they stayed together and instead Yates and Martin made it back as they entered the final kilometre. Mollema, Bardet, Henao, van Garderen and Meintjes formed the next group.

 

Porte set a brutal pace in the finale which was too much for Martin who lost a few seconds. However, it was Yates who launched the sprint and that cost the Australian two seconds in the finale as the Orica youngster led Froome and Quintana across the line to take 10th. Henao won the sprint from the next group which had dropped van Garderen in the finale. The big loser was Aru who was paced to the finish by Nibali, losing exactly a minute to the Froome group.

 

Froome of course retained his lead and now has a 16-second advantage over Yates while Martin is 19 seconds behind in third and Quintana fourth at 23 seconds. He can now enjoy a well-deserved rest day before he returns to action in stage 10 which is much flatter. There’s a big climb right from the start – Port d’Envalira is the highest point of the race – but the final 170km are either descending or flat. However, there’s a category 3 climb just 7km from the finish and this could deny the sprinters the chance as it did in 2010 when Alexandre Vinokourov made a late attack here to win his final Tour stage.

 

The first big mountaintop finish

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, there was no room for recovery as the final Pyrenean stage was the hardest of the triptych. The 184.5km between the Spanish city of Vielha Val d’Aran and the famous ski resort at Andorra Arcalis kicked off with a brutal start as the riders hit the category 1 Port de la Bonaigua after just 5km of racing. A long flat section then led to the category 1 Port del Canto before the riders got to the final 70km which were almost all uphill. Along the way the peloton tackled two very steep climbs and then finished it off on the final HC climb which averaged 7.2% over 10.1km.

 

The 197 riders were all there when they gathered for the start under a hot and sunny sky and there were some nervous faces as they rolled through the neutral zone. The attacking started as soon as the flag was dropped and it was former Arcalis winner Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) who opened the battle. Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Cyril Gautier (Ag2r), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Argon 18), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Marcus Burghardt (BMC) were all active but they couldn’t get clear immediately.

 

An aggressive start

The best climbers were waiting for the climb to start and so Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) got a small gap. Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) and Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) joined him and hen a very big group with the likes of Winner Anacona (Movistar), Stef Clement (IAM), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Navarro, Jerome Cousin (Cofidis) and Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data) made it across.

 

Saga, Feillu, Cousin, Sanchez and Berhane briefly surged clear from that group but they soon gathered again. Cousin tried a solo move and when he hit the climb, he had been joined by Sanchez and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal).

 

Contador attacks

On the lower slopes, they were caught by a big 35-rider group and so 38 riders had gathered on the front. Majka, Pinot, Plaza, Bakelants, Voeckler, Grivko, Sanchez, Cousin, Van Baarle, Costa, Bono, Navarro, Clement, Pantano, Sagan, De Gendt, Anacona, Ion Izaggirre, Vuillermoz, Benedetti, Herrada, Craddock, Edet, Stetina and Frank were all part of the action and then a septet with the likes of Konrad, Dumoulin, Pozzovivo, Grmay and Slagter also made it across. Sky were pleased with the situation and allowed the gap growe while setting a steady pace.

 

When the gap had gone out to a minute, Robert Kiserlovski and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) attacked and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Sergio Henao (Sky) both followed. Surprisingly, Sky didn’t really chase and as Vasil Kiryienka set the pace, they let the quartet ride away.

 

Valverde accelerates

While De Gendt took off in a solo move, Kiserlovski swung off and left it to Contador to close the final but of the gap with Valverde on Henao on his wheel. They passed Sepulveda, Cousin, Gautier and Bono who were dropped from the big group, before they made the junction with the rear end of the group which had exploded to pieces.

 

Pinot, Kangert, Gallopin, Anacona, Bennett and Edet joined De Gendt but later it was again a huge group that gathered. Valverde attacked from the second big group and with Contador on his wheel, they tried to make it across to the leaders. This time there was no response from Henao.

 

Contador is dropped

Valverde and Contador sprinted past Caruso and Grivko and then made it across to the front group.  Herrada and Anacona went straight to the front and immediately tried to increase the advantage. That was costly for Contador and Sagan who were dropped.

 

Sky decided that it was time to close the gap and as Wout Poels took over from Kiryienka, the peloton exploded to pieces. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) was the first big GC rider to get dropped and found himself in a group with the likes of Daniel Moreno, Frank Schleck and Mikel Landa.

 

Pinot wins the KOM sprint

Contador and Sagan found themselves in a group with Pozzovivo, Edet, Plaza and Izagirre but the light went out for the Spaniard. Together with Pozzovivo and Plaza, he was brought back by the Sky machine which had also picked up teammate Henao.

 

Herrada and Anacona went full gas to keep the gap at a minute before De Gendt, Pinot and Majka sprinted for the KOM points. The Pole had no response and it was a huge sprint between Pinot and De Gendt, with the Frenchman coming out on top. Nieve passed Poels to lead the peloton across the line one minute later. The Rolland group crested the summit 50 seconds later. Meanwhile, Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) abandoned.

 

Sky wait for their domestiques

Nieve led the peloton safely down the descent while the Sagan group made it across to the leaders. Hence, Anacona, Herrada, Valverde, Sanchez, Rosa, Sagan, Majka, Bennett, Vuillermoz, Clement, Frank, Coppel, Berhane, Dumoulin, Pinot, Costa, Grmay, De Gendt, Gallopin, Navarro and Edet had gathered in front and as Herrada and Anacona went full gas, the gap grew to more than 2 minutes.

 

Sky slowed down to allow some of their domestiques – and Rolland – to get back and that was a wise decision. Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe hit the front in the valley and even though Anacona, Herrada, Clement and Coppel sacrificed their leaders in the front group, the two strong Brits had reduced the gap to 1.25 with 140km to go.

 

Valverde sits up

When the gap had dropped to 45 seconds, there was a lot of discussion in the breakaway and as everybody wanted to get rid of Valverde, De Gendt attacked. Pinot joined him and while they rode away, Valverde decide to wait for the peloton.

 

When the Spaniard was back in the fold, Sky slowed down and that prompted Pinot and De Gendt decided to wait for the rest of the group. The 20-rider front group worked well together to extend their advantage while the slow pace allowed the gruppetto to rejoin the peloton.

 

Contador abandons

The front group hit the Puerto del Canto with an advantage of 4.20 and Sky still showed no interest in bringing the break back. Most of the sprinters could hang on as Rowe and Stannard allowed the gap to grow and even Marcel Kittel was riding in the front end. Nonetheless, Mark Cavendish and Bernhaid Eisel (Dimension Data) were dropped and quickly lost a minute.

 

Contador kept dropping back to the team car and it became apparent that his withdrawal was imminent. Halfway up the climb, it was over as the Spaniard stepped into the team car.

 

De Gendt wins the sprint

With 100km to go, the gap had gone out to more than six minutes but the front group wasn’t working well together. Pinot and Majka briefly tried to attack but the group stayed together.

 

De Gendt and Pinot sprinted for the KOM points and this time it was De Gendt coming out on top. Majka didn’t even try and just rolled across the line in third.

 

Sky slow down

Rowe and Stannard led the peloton over the top seven minutes behind the leaders and then the Brits upped the pace. In just a few kilometres, they reduced the gap to 6.15 and so indicated that Froome wanted to win the stage. Meanwhile, Cedric Pineau (FDJ) became the fourth rider to abandon.

 

Rowe and Stannard kept the gap at six minutes for a while but when they flat roads, they slowed down again. That allowed Cavendish to rejoin the bunch and the gap to go out to 8 minutes as they entered the final 60km.

 

Sagan wins the sprint

Clement took some huge turns in the front group as he was working for team leader Frank and as a consequence, the gap was nine minutes when they entered Andorra. When Sagan won the intermediate sprint with 45km to go – De Gendt accelerated to take second – it was a massive 10.20.

 

As soon as the front group hit the very steep third climb, Coppel attacked and no one reacted. However, the pace took its toll on Sagan who was distanced on the lower slopes.

 

Coppel and Grmay take off

Grmay made it across to Coppel but they didn’t get much of an advantage as Edet sacrificed himself for Navarro. However, the Ethiopian was strong and slowly the pair gained ground.

 

In the peloton, the fight for position started and it was Trek who took control with Markel Irizar. Surprisingly, Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) was dropped even before they hit the climb 9.50 behind the leaders.

 

De Gendt attacks

Edet brought the front duo back 400m from the top and De Gendt made an immediate counterattack. As no one reacted, he won the KOM sprint. Pinot tried to take an easy second place but was surprised by Rosa who sprinted past him.

 

In the peloton, Mikel Landa took over the pace-setting for Sky and he immediately made the group explode to pieces as a big gruppetto was formed. He clearly upped the pace and whittled the group down to around 50 riders. Surprisingly, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) was distanced near the top but he could rejoin the bunch on the descent.

 

10 riders gather in a front group

De Gendt continued his solo attack and reached the bottom of the penultimate climb with an advantage of 20 seconds over the chase group and 8.55 over the peloton. He pushed it out to 30 seconds but when he hit the steep section, he cracked spectacularly. He was passed by Frank, Navarro, Bennett, Majka, Pinot, Dumoulin, Anacona and who were the only survivors of the breakaway. However, Herrada and Costa both made it back.

 

Landa made the peloton explode as soon as they hit the climb, with Barguil, Ilnur Zakarin, Julian Alaphilippe and Georg Preidler being among the first riders to get dropped. Romain Sicard, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Eduardo Sepulveda were also sent out the back door.

 

Pinot wins the sprint

Costa and Dumoulin were clearly suffering in the front group and were distanced on a number of occasions, especially whe Bennett attacked twice with 2km to go. However, the 10 riders were back together as they hit the final kilometre.

 

Bennett made a final attack and then Rosa rode hard all the way to the top until Pinot came around to beat the Italian in the KOM sprint, with Bennett taking third place. Costa, Dumoulin and Navarro were dropped but the 10-rider group was back together on the descent.

 

Costa tries his hand

Landa continued to set the pace and brought Sagan back less than 2km from the top. He led the peloton over the top 8.10 behind the leaders. At this point, only Froome, Henao, Nieve, Landa, Poels, Thomas, Quintana, Valverde, Moreno, Aru, Kangert, Nibali, Kreuziger, Sagan, Bardet, Bakelants, Kelderman, Mollema, Schleck, Rolland, Porte, van Garderen, Caruso, Pauwels, Morabito, Reichenbach, Huzarski, Buchmann, Rodriguez, Meintjes, Marti and Yates had survived but Van den Broeck and Plaza made it back on the descent after they had caught Coppel.

 

Costa tried to attack twice after the descent and when he went for the second time, he briefly got clear. Rosa and Anacona gave chase but it all came back together.

 

Lots of attacks

Navarro and Majka were the next to try and the Spaniard quickly dropped his companion. However, a big acceleration from Dumoulin brought him back but the Dutchman couldn’t get clear either.

 

Herrada and Navarro were the next to escape but Dumoulin, Pinot, Frank, Bennett and Anacona quickly made it back. The pace went down and so the 10 riders again gathered in front.

 

Dumoulin makes his move

With 13km to go, Dumoulin surged clear and this time no one reacted. While the Dutchman increased his advantage, his teammates Ten Dam and Barguil rejoined the peloton which brought Edet and Gallopin back.

 

When Dumoulin had extended his advantage to 20 seconds, Costa and Bennett made a failed attack but the 9 chasers were still together when they hit the climb. They failed to bring back the strong Dutchman who soloed to his first Tour stage victory after an exciting finale.

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