Michael Woods triumphs on gruelling Puy de Dôme as Pogačar reduces deficit – Tour de France

Tour de France 2023

Stage 9

Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) seized a heartwrenching victory on the Puy de Dôme on stage 9 of the Tour de France, chasing down Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar) in the final 400m of the summit finish after a 50km solo attack – while in the GC competition, Tadej Pogačar gained eight seconds on overall race leader Jonas Vingegaard.

Michael Woods was part of the original 14-man break which broke clear only a few kilometres into the stage, but spent the majority of the day in the main chasing group behind a series of successive splinter breakaways that seemed certain to take the stage victory.

Jorgenson, by contrast, attacked solo 50km from the finish, despite suffering an insect sting in the latter part of the race, and managed to ride clear of the aggressive breakaway group in a brave long solo move.

However, the summit finish of the Puy de Dôme was just a few hundred metres too long for the Movistar rider, and Woods was followed by Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) in second place, while Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) also snuck onto the podium just ahead of Jorgenson – overtaking him within the final 50m of the savagely steep final gradients.

Amongst the main contenders, more than 10 minutes behind the stage winners, the real battle for the Tour de France was underway while Woods’ was deep in celebration. Some 1.4km from the finish, Pogačar made a powerful attack distancing all the GC contenders, with only Vingegaard managing to keep touch with the Slovenian.

With 500m to go, Pogačar kicked a second time and managed to establish a gap over the yellow jersey, which he maintained on the 14% inclines of the final few hundred metres – finishing the stage eight seconds ahead of Vingegaard.

The impressive defensive effort from the Dane was enough to defend his yellow jersey but saw him lose vital seconds in his narrow 25-second lead over Pogačar at the start of the stage.

Behind them, Jai Hindley found himself unable to keep pace with the main GC contenders and slipped off the pace of the Yates brothers, Tom Pidcock and Carlos Rodríguez – retaining his third place but now nearly three minutes off the yellow jersey.

Behind them, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet finished together but both saw further drops in their GC standings.

Michael Woods passes Matteo Jorgenson on his way to stage 9 glory.

“I’m still having a pinch myself moment,” Michael Woods said after the race finished. “I can’t believe I did it. I’m really proud of myself, I’m really proud of my team. It’s really special.”

I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to suffer, and just looking up the road and trying to make time back on Jorgenson.

“I’m 36 years old, 37 this year. I’m not getting any younger. I’ve always talked about winning a stage of the Tour de France, and I’ve finally achieved it.”

“I wish I could say it was all planned,” Woods said. “I wanted to be with Jorgenson out front, it was just the way the cards played. It’s really challenging when I knew I was probably the most marked man in that group and I ended up not playing my cards super right, but I just had to be patient.

“And then when I got to 4km to go, I didn’t think about winning I was just thinking about doing a time trial to the top. Then however hard I went it didn’t matter the result, just I’d be proud of myself and my hardest was able to bring back Jorgenson, so that’s nice.”

Woods paid tribute to the significance of the Puy de Dôme in cycling history, “What an iconic climb, really beautiful,” he said. “I hope we get to return here in years to come.”

Matteo Jorgenson also spoke after the finish about his painful finale. “I ended up getting solo. So from there, I went all in and yeah, in the end, you just have to hope behind they blow up – because a minute at the bottom of that climb wasn’t quite enough.”

“The radio didn’t work the whole climb,” Jorgenson revealed. “So the only time got was the moto. And yeah, he was telling me a minute, and 40 seconds and 35… 35 was the last one I got with, I don’t know, 1km to go. And I started to feel empty with one km to go and then before I knew it, Mike was there and passing me. And yeah, it was a surprise but there was absolutely nothing I could do.”

The Tour set off from Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat to blazing sunshine and stifling temperatures, surrounded by cycling folklore. Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat was fittingly the hometown of Raymond Poulidor, whose battle with Jacques Anquetil on the Puy de Dôme in 1964 remains a highlight in the history of the Tour de France.

It was far from the only piece of cycling history on today’s route, as the summit finish of the Puy de Dôme has seen legendary winners such as Fausto Coppi, Federico Bahamontes, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocaña, Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk.

King of the mountain leader Neilson Powless hydrates while in the breakaway.

Riding out of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, the neutralisation had barely lifted before attacks began to fly. Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), perhaps predictably, was one of the early disrupters.

Barely 5km had passed when a blockage in the main peloton allowed a group of around ten riders, including Campanaerts to establish a gap. While the peloton was unhappy with such a large group, and teams such as Lidl-Trek proved particularly sore at missing the move, the breakaway was large enough to push away and establish a gap of around one minute.

The peloton rode on aggressively, with attacks coming from Wout van Aert, Fred Wright, Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal, amongst others, but none were able to bridge across to the lead group or bring the peloton back to it.

The margin remained around one minute for over 20km, with big names continuing to vie for a spot in the break, but eventually, the efforts petered out, and the group of 14 rode clear and expanded their gap to over eight minutes with 140km remaining.

The successful break contained a host of strong riders, including the polka dot jersey, and was comprised of Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), Clément Berthet (AG2R-Citroën), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech), Guillame Boivan (Israel-Premier Tech), David de a Cruz (Astana Qazaqstan), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan). Jonas Abrhamsen (Uno-X), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X), Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies).

Working hard to protect his lead in the climbers’ classification, Nielsen Powless swept up KOM points on Côte de Felletin and Côte de Pontcharraud, as the breakaway’s advantage swelled to just short of 11 minutes within the first 100km.

As the Côte de Pontaumur approached with 56km remaining, with over 12 minutes in hand, Lutsenko began to beat an aggressive tempo at the front of the break as the group became more animated and competitive. Campenaerts and Mohorič seized the opportunity to break clear in pursuit of the summit of Côte de Pontaumur.

In defence of his KOM points, though, Powless brought back the attack to take the final batch of climber’s points before the Puy de Dôme – in so doing he extended his lead in the competition to 40 points.

Despite receiving a notable insect sting to the head, Matteo Jorgenson proved to be the rider who was motivated enough to move clear of the breakaway – he’d soon established a 25-second lead entering the final 40km.

Tadej Pogačar attacks Jonas Vingegaard on the gruelling climb.

With the gap to the peloton over 13:30, the main GC contenders seemed satisfied to conserve their energy ahead of the battle for the yellow jersey on the slopes of Puy de Dôme.

On the uncategorised Col de la Nugère with 35km remaining, the pace of the breakaway began to sting for some of the riders. The breakaway shed a handful of riders and a chase group of four containing Powless, Mohoric, De La Cruz and Burgaudeau split from the remaining six riders, which included Michael Woods.

The chasing group, fuelled by Mohoroc’s infamously strong solo-riding ability, established a one-minute advantage over the main breakaway group over the next 5km, as Jorgenson moved into clear view only 15 seconds ahead.

Back in the main peloton, the aggressions of the breakaway saw the gap to Jorgenson grow to over 15 minutes, while Jumbo-Visma orchestrated a calm but focused tempo into the final climb.

De La Cruz faced an unfortunate chain drop with 20km remaining, leaving just three chasers pursuing Jorgenson. The Movistar rider hit the base of Puy de Dôme, with 13.3km at 7.7% ahead of him, with a one-minute advantage over the three pursuers. They in turn were 45 seconds ahead of the remnants of the main break.

Powless led the chase to Jorgenson but faced a tactical dilemma as the strongest climber amongst the chasers – eager not to deliver a free ride for Mohoric and Burgaudeau.

Powless delivered back-to-back attacks with 10km remaining but was initially unable to shed Mohoric and Burgaudeau.

Behind them, the pace in the peloton was set alight as the main contenders’ teams battled to deliver their riders to the base of the final climb safely.

The main field arrived at the base of the Puy de Dôme 15 minutes behind Jorgenson, with both Pogacar and Vingegaard conspicuous near the front of the peloton. Their lieutenants set to work to set the stage for the final ascent, as Jumbo-Visma set a pace that saw the back of the peloton shed dozens of riders. Indeed, the pace was so significant that GC contender Ben O’Connor found himself off the pace and pushed out of contention for the general classification.

Meanwhile, Jorgenson stretched out his advantage over Powless and the chasers, as he entered the crowdless final 4km and the most savage section of the climb.

Leader Jonas Vingegaard crosses the line limiting his losses to 8 seconds.

With a little over 3km remaining, though, it was Mohoric who rode clear of the other chasers, as Powless’ form seemed to crack on the summit finish, and he was soon swept up by the second chasing group on the road.

From that group, Michael Woods exploded into pursuit of Mohoric and Jorgenson, and against all odds emerged in a position to take the stage win.

Woods overtook Mohoric in the final 2km, as the Flamme Rouge was virtually in view.

In the main peloton, the GC battle for the yellow jersey began as the climbing pace led to selection left only eight riders including Vingegaard and Pogačar.

The riders enjoy a well earned rest tomorrow before climbing back in the saddle on Tuesday for stage 10 which sets off from Vulcania, an educational amusement park in Saint-Ours-les-Roches. The 167.2 kilometre route traverses the Massif Central to finish in Issoire.

The peloton traverses the Chaîne des Puys, which is the youngest volcanic assemblage in mainland France – and it’s far from flat. In fact, the route climbs from the start on a 4.8 kilometre hill at 4.7%. The route then goes down, and up again – this time for 7.8 kilometres at 5%. So we should expect an intriguing battle for the breakaway, as all the raw materials are abundantly there.

The route goes either up or down during the entire day, but only three ascents are classified KOM climbs. The Col de la Croix Saint-Robert is 6 kilometres long and averaging 6.3%, the Côte de Saint-Victor-la-Rivière throws in 3 kilometres at 5.9%, and the Côte de la Chapelle-Marcousse is the last climb of the day : 6.5 kilometres at 5.6%.

The KOM timing on the Chapelle-Marcousse will be taken just before the top summit, while the actual summit is crested with 24 kilometres remaining. The rest of the route goes virtually all downhill.

Issoire will see its sixth Tour de France stage finish, although it has been awhile since the last one. In 1983, home rider Pierre Le Bigaut won the 14th stage in the town on the confluence of the rivers Allier and Couze.

Stage 9 result:

  1. Michael Woods (CAN, Israel Premier Tech) 4:19:41
  2. Pierre Latour (FRA, TotalEnergies) +28
  3. Matej Mohoric (SLO, Bahrain – Victorious) +35
  4. Matteo Jorgensen (USA, Movistar) +35
  5. Clement Berthet (FRA, AG2R Citroën) + 55
  6. Neilson Powless (USA, EF Education-EasyPost) +1:23
  7. Alexej Lutsenko (UKR, Astana Qazaqstan Team) + 1:39
  8. Jonas Gregaard (DEN, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) +1:58
  9. Mathieu Burgaudeau (FRA, TotalEnergies) + 2:16
  10. David de la Cruz (SPA, Astana Qazaqstan Team) + 2:34

General Classification:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 38h 37’46”
  2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +17″
  3. Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) +2:40″
  4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +4:22″
  5. Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +4:39″
  6. Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +4:44″
  7. Tom Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) +5:26″
  8. David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama) +6:01″
  9. Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +6:45″
  10. Romain Bardet (FRA, Team DSM – Firmenich) +6:58″

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