Anthony Turgis triumphs on breathless stage 9 – Tour de France

Tour de France 2024

Stage 9

Anthony Turgis (Total Energies) claimed the biggest win of his career on stage nine of the Tour de France, pipping Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) from the breakaway at the end of a breathless day of racing over the gravel roads around Troyes.

Turgis was part of the first main breakaway that formed after a frantic opening hour, with Pidcock joining ahead of the second of 14 gravel sectors and the group combining to hold off a peloton where the yellow jersey favourites traded numerous blows but somehow broke even.

Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek) stole a march with an attack ahead of the final sector and took a 10-second lead into the final few kilometres before things suddenly came back together under the flamme rouge for a sprint from seven. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), and Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) opened their efforts from range, but Turgis came surging through the middle. Pidcock, a former winner of Strade Bianche who possesses a fierce sprint, appeared stuck in the wheels and left it too late to nip out, bashing his handlebars in frustration as he watched Turgis celebrate.

Gee took the final spot on the podium, while the green jersey Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) and world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) came home in a chasing group that formed with six sectors remaining but never made it across to the leaders. Race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished in the main reduced peloton, 1:46 down on the winner, as the GC favourites settled for a draw despite an aggressive day of racing.

“It’s mad,” said a beaming Turgis. “I believed in myself. When I go to a race it’s to try and win. I’ve won at all levels but was missing a WorldTour win, but winning at the Tour de France… it’s the holy grail. To win a stage here is incredible. It’s incredible.”

‘Incredible’ was one way to describe the stage as a whole, with the so-called ‘chemins blancs’ (gravel tracks) of this wine-making region producing some of the most thrilling racing you’re likely to see outside of the Classics. There were 32.2 kilometres of the rough stuff, spread over 14 sectors, and if anything it was the earlier, more difficult sectors, that saw the most drama.

Riders traverse the testing gravel roads.

We had Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) split off on the second sector and forced into a long chase with well over 100km remaining. We had a mechanical for Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) on the third sector, and we had Pogačar launching his first attack just after the fourth sector, sparking panic in the bunch for a brief period.

We then had, in what was the most dramatic moment of the whole day, Pogačar, Vingegaard, and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) going away in a three-up move on the fifth sector. Vingegaard, much to the annoyance of his companions, refused to contribute and the move went nowhere, but there were still 75km to run and chaos in the ranks.

Vingegaard’s ride was one of the day’s big stories, not least because he did most of it aboard a teammate’s bike, unable to find time for a bike change under the pressure applied from Pogačar and Evenepoel. Vingegaard, who came to the Tour with question marks over his form and aptitude for a Classics-flavoured stage such as this, rose admirably to the occasion. But he was very much on the defensive. Even when presented with opportunities to hurt the likes of Roglič and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers), he declined, maintaining his ‘follow Pogačar’ brief.

And so when the yellow jersey launched his big bid for glory across the 11th and 12th sectors, Vingegaard and his teammate Matteo Jorgenson hauled their way across but ignored the elbow flicks and allowed the rest of the contenders to re-enter the fray. With the breakaway well up the road, the GC riders settled down after that and a peloton of 50 ticked off the closing sectors in calmer fashion.

Gee’s breakaway effort saw him climb to ninth overall but somehow, once the dust had settled on the chemins blancs, there had been no significant changes to the overall standings. Given the fears over the potential influence of misfortune in that regard, it was a day of vindication for those who believe that gravel does indeed belong in Grand Tours.

The 199km stage started out in frenetic fashion, with a non-stop barrage of attacks in an opening hour that covered 50km. It wasn’t until the approach to the first sector that the day’s breakaway formed, with 10 riders heading up the road: Turgis, Gee, Stuyven, Lutsenko, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny), Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Elmar Reinders (Jayco-AlUla), and the Movistar duo of Javier Romo and Oier Lazkano.

Pogačar attacked but was unable to shake his GC rivals.

Counter attacks came on the subsequent climb of the Côte de Bergères, with Pidcock and Healy the only ones succeeding in getting across, but not without a gruelling chase and Powless having to drop back to finish the job.

The gap rose to 2:30 as they hit the second sector, where Roglič was caught out in a split under pressure from Visma, and was forced to expend teammates and his own energy in a panicked chase, albeit 120km out. The following sector saw Vingegaard puncture, with the two-time Tour winner hopping quickly onto the bike of Jan Tratnik and chasing back to the front. He was still on his teammate’s smaller bike when Pogačar launched his first attack on an innocuous descent following the fourth sector. Evenepoel was quickly across, while Vingegaard sent teammates to mark, in what was a brief, bizarre, and dramatic early moment in the race.

There was more to come. The fifth sector was the hardest, measuring 4.2km with a steep climb in the middle, where Evenepoel lit things up with a huge attack. Pogačar bided his time but soon responded, with Vingegaard tracking his every move. The pair made it to Evenepoel, and the trio in turn made it up to the breakaway, in one of the most dramatic and potentially pivotal moments of the Tour so far. The excitement was drained, however, by Vingegaard’s perhaps sensible reluctance to collaborate.

The presence of the three leading GC riders was a cue for the breakaway to attack each other. At first five went clear, with Turgis part of a three-man chase that formed the final move of eight with 58km to go.

On the seventh sector Evenepoel ran into difficulty on a rocky bend, but dragged his way back by the end of the sector. Visma were setting a strong pace through Wout van Aert on the gravel but not forcing things on the tarmac. A nasty crash for Alexander Vlasov (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) saw the Russian pass a concussion test and go on to finish with the favourites.

After the eighth sector, the bunch had calmed to the point where fresh attacks came, with Matthews, Girmay and Van der Poel forming a seven-man chasing group that looked dangerous but would never manage to close in on the frontrunners.

With the next four sectors coming thick and fast, UAE traded turns with Visma and then set up Pogačar’s big attack on the 11th sector. Visma’s Jorgenson and Christophe Laporte followed before realising that Vingegaard was distanced, with Laporte dropping back and propelling him across to Jorgenson. That pair joined forces as Pogačar went clear again on the 12th sector, and they steadily reeled him back in. Behind, Evenepoel launched a strong response, finding two of Pogačar’s teammates – Juan Ayuso and Joao Almeida – for company as Roglič and Rodríguez once again lost ground.

When Vingegaard reached Pogačar in the company of Jorgenson, it seemed they might be tempted into working together, but ‘no’ came the call from the Visma car, and soon the stragglers re-joined to form a group of 20 that swelled to 50 as things calmed right down on the final two sectors.

Turgis celebrates as he crosses the line.

From there, it was down to a battle from the break, and it was the day’s winner Turgis who launched the first big attack on the penultimate sector, though Stuyven would counter on the tarmac and take a solo lead through the final sector. He maintained a nine-second gap for much of the run-in, but faded in the final 2km as there was just enough cohesion in the chase to bring it back for a sprint inside the final kilometre.

Turgis prevailed, Pidcock bashed his bars, and the majority of the peloton breathed a sigh of relief and exhaustion, Monday’s rest day well and truly earned.

Tomorrow sees the riders take a well deserved rest before climbing back into the saddle on Tuesday. Stage 10 sees the Tour travel from Orléans to Saint-Amand-Montrond. The route amounts to 187.3 kilometres and does not exceed an elevation gain of 1,000 metres, so it’s fair to say the 10th stage is flat.

Orléans, which is situated on the Loire, hosted Le Tour on twelve occasions. The last stage start happened in 2001. The race went to Evry, where Erik Zabel sprinted to victory.

That was 23 years ago and another sprint finish is a likely option at the end of the stage to Saint-Amand-Monrond. The route is virtually flat. Echelons are really the only way to thwart a bunch sprint, just like in 2013. That stage was won by Mark Cavendish, who powered to victory, might he fancy his chances of adding to his record?

The 10th stage stage runs predominantly south. Just after Issoudun, with some 60 kilometres remaining, the route turns southeast and enters exposed terrain. Echelons could be lurking here.

The first three riders across the line gain time bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds.

Stage 9 result:

General Classification:

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