Tour de France 2017
Uran, the resurgent Cannondale-Drapac team leader, shrugged off an untimely mechanical problem in the closing moments of the stage to pip plucky Frenchman Warren Barguil of Team Sunweb in a thrilling photo finish at Chambery.
Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky) took third place in a nail-biting six-way sprint to extend his lead in the overall standings to 18 seconds over the Italian Fabio Aru, but at a cost: team-mate Geraint Thomas, who started the day in second place, was forced out the Tour with an expected broken collarbone after a nasty fall on one of a handful of treacherous descents in an action-packed 181.5km stage through the Jura mountains.
Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Astana duo Aru and Jakob Fuglsangcompleted the top six before a chasing group including Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) came home one minute 15 seconds down.
Part of that Quintana group was a bloodied and bruised Dan Martin of Quick-Step Floors, who was involved in a horrific earlier crash that ended the Tour hopes of Richie Porte of BMC.
Riding in a select group of race favourites in pursuit of lone leader Barguil, the Australian left the road on the inside of a tight bend on the final descent of the Mont du Chat. Porte was thrown from his bike before skittling into Martin and then slamming into a wall.
Porte was taken to hospital in a neck brace after suffering concussion and multiple cuts. Remarkably, Ireland’s Martin was able to get back on his bike and – after a second incident – ride back and join forces with Quintana.
Quintana and Spanish veteran Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) had both been dropped by the favourites on the seventh and final climb of the day following a series of attacks from Froome and Porte on the Mont du Chat – making its first appearance on the race since 1974.
While Quintana fought back to limit his losses alongside the likes of Martin and British youngster Simon Yates – the white jersey from Orica-Scott – Contador struggled en route to finishing more than four minutes down on Froome.
Prior to the crash that ended Porte’s Tour, the Australian had endeared himself to fans – and his former Sky team-mate Froome – after Aru had launched what looked to be a decisive attack on the Mont du Chat at the same moment as the yellow jersey suffered a mechanical.
As Froome dropped back to change his bike, the Italian national champion rode clear with Quintana – until Porte and Martin urged him to take his foot off the gas. Froome soon returned to the favourites before forcing a selection with Porte as the pair exchanged a volley of accelerations.
Barguil – who had been part of a large 40-man break that formed early on during the compelling stage – crested the summit to secure the polka dot jersey. He held a 25-second gap as the yellow jersey group rode fast to the site of Porte’s race-changing crash.
In the confusion that followed, Bardet used his local knowledge of the roads to ride clear and catch his compatriot as the road levelled out in the run into Chambery.
Bardet looked destined to pick up a stage win at the home of his Ag2R-La Mondiale team’s headquarters, but it was not to be. Despite being stuck in a low gear and needing assistance from the Mavic neutral car, Uran contributed to the chase in which only Barguil – knackered from his exploits in the break – took a constant back seat.
Fuglsang, the recent winner of the Criterium du Dauphine, led out the final sprint before Uran – no longer hampered by that gearing issue – powered past. But a late – and inspired – surge from battling Barguil saw the two riders cross the line neck and neck.
Barguil, seemingly back to his best after fracturing his pelvis in the Tour of Romandie back in April, punched the air in celebration believing he had pulled off the impossible; when he was told by his Sunweb team that a maiden Tour win was his, the 26-year-old burst into tears of joy.
But once the result of the photo finish came in, Barguil had another reason to cry: Uran was adjudged to have won by a whisker, and instead it was the 30-year-old Colombian who was left to celebrate a first Tour stage win of his career.
It was a joyous and confusing end to a dramatic, calamitous, crazy and at times perilous stage – one that will long be remembered in cycling folklore, for both the right and wrong reasons.
Uran, who has never finished higher than 23rd in the Tour, climbed to fourth in the general classification, 51 seconds behind Bardet. Fuglsang completes the top five at 1:37 while Martin will be relieved to have emerged from that frightful collision with Porte just 1:44 in arrears.
If Quintana – 2:13 down in eighth place – kept his faint hopes of a first Tour crown alive, then the same cannot be said of Contador: the former double Tour champion is now more than five minutes down on Froome in the GC.
The damage from a brutal stage took its toll: Porte and Thomas were just two of around 20 riders who crashed on the wet, narrow roads of the Jura.
From the outset the withdrawals came thick and fast. Dutchman Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Italy’s Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) fell inside the opening 10km and both were forced out, the former with a fractured vertebrae less than a day after he finished runner-up in Stage 8.
Poland’s Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) also crashed in the same incident that ended Thomas’ race – and while Majka managed to ride on, he finished more than 36 minutes down to see his hopes of a high finish in Paris evaporate.
After a well-earned rest day, the Tour resumes on Tuesday with a largely flat 178km Stage 10 from Perigueux to Bergerac, which should reopen the doors to the sprinters.
One sprinter who will not be there to fight for a second win is Arnaud Demare after the French national champion – plagued by illness – was eliminated with three of his FDJ team-mates for finishing outside the time limit.
In Demare’s absence, Australia’s Michael Matthews emerges as the biggest rival for triple stage winner Marcel Kittel in the battle for green. The Sunweb sprinter was part of the Sunday’s large break and battled back after the HC duo of the Col de la Biche and Grand Colombier to win the intermediate sprint and move within 52 points of the Quick-Step Floors rider.