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Tour de France 2018: John Degenkolb wins Stage 9 on the cobbles of Roubaix

Jack Elton-Walters
15 Jul 2018

What a day at the 2018 Tour de France as the race took on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) won Stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France after escaping with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), who followed him over the line in second and third respectively.

Under the flamme rouge, the trio began to play cat and mouse, knowing their advantage over the chasers was plenty. Degenkolb sprinted first, the others couldn't come past and the stage was his.

The result increases Van Averamet's overall lead in the yellow jersey, although he'll be hard pushed to keep it once the race hits the mountains after Monday's rest day.

The race was a fantastic spectacle for fans but will have taken its toll on every rider who took part. Crashes and mechanicals were many, and the bumps sustained and the energy expended in chases will tell later in the race.

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was on the wrong side of a lot of bad luck and will be glad of an easy cafe ride with his mates tomorrow before the race hits his more suited terrain.

Stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France: A big day on the cobbles

This was always going to be a big stage at the 2018 Tour de France with crashes and mechanicals expected. The big news early in the stage was the crash that ended Richie Porte's race.

The BMC Racing leader went down before the start of the cobbles and was forced to abandon the race with what looked like a collarbone injury.

Bardet was another GC hopeful with bad luck earlier in the stage, although not as serious as Porte's.

The great French hope suffered mechanicals on the early secteurs of pave. After wheel and bikes changes, he was back in the peloton soon enough thanks to hardwork from his team, for which he thanked his domestiques.

The first three of the 15 secteurs were new to most riders, but from 12 down to one the farm tracks were those from the season's best race, Paris-Roubaix.

On the early lengths of cobbles, the race speed increased into the start but was then fairly controlled until the tarmac returned.

However as the race went on, splits, crashes and splits caused by crashes began to occur in the main peloton as it was strung out then bunched up and then strung out again across the famous cobbles.

Something of a selection, including potential stage winners and GC contenders, was made on secteur 12 as it headed for secteur 11 with around 68km left to race, as the aftermath of another crash was felt throughout the bunch.

Behind, riders such as Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) were left to ride together and hope to bridge back to their rivals.

The effect of the cobbles was best shown on the wide tarmac roads between each secteur, when groups of varying sizes could be seen dotted down the route.

As the cobbles took their toll, some riders rode in the gutter at the side of the ride furthering the argument that all secteurs should have barriers for their length at Paris-Roubaix and during stages such as this.

On secteur 9, with 49.2km to the finish line, yellow jersey Van Avermaet hit the accelerator hard and began to ride away from him rivals.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had looked composed in the group of favourites but slipped back as Van Averamaet's attack strung things out.

Meanwhile, Bardet suffered yet another puncture and took a wheel from a teammate. Team Sky Michal Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, along with others, all got back on terms with GVA as Bardet commenced another chase.

The group of favourites - for the stage and the race - swelled as more riders got back up towards the front of the race. Froome was the next big name to hit the deck as he was taken down by a crashing a teammate.

He did not look particularly comfortable as other riders passed him on the cobbled but he was able to keep in touch.

With 44.1km to go, on a length of tarmac, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was the next to attack and he was chased by Sagan and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), before others came back to them.

Gilbert's teammate Fernando Gaviria went next and the peloton watched him go up the road.

Thomas was left isolated in this group while his squad sat up to wait for Froome, a move with wider implications for the Tour de France as a whole, not just Stage 9.

As well as Valverde, the other two of Movistar's three joint leaders - Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa - were present in the second group on the road. The first group was a breakaway whose advantage was tumbling.

Kwiatkowski went down on a dusty corner while Astana were hammering it on the front and keeping the reduced peloton in oine long line.

Gilbert went again on the cobbles with 34.8km to race, while the green jersey of Sagan caught and passed him. Gilbert was soon out of sight, perhaps needing some assistance.

Landa was the next rider to hit the deck as he went down hard while taking a drink between secteurs. A touch of wheels and he was on the tarmac, his jersey ripped.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) tested the legs of his rivals and caused a temporary split in his group. BMC Racing had it covered as Van Avermaet was still looking good for the stage win and/or an extension of his overall lead in the race.

Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) attacked from the depleted breakaway around 22.5km from the end of the stage as he pushed on in the hope of a solo win. Just 24 seconds ahead of the favourites, it looked unlikely that he'd stay away.

Reinhart Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) caught Gaudin and sat on his wheel across secteur 3.

Landa and Uran were embedded in a chase group trying to catch up with the yellow jersey group. All the while, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) caught the leading pair and sat behind them under the 20km to go banner, but the bunch caught up and so ended the day's breakaway.

Sep Vanmarcke could have been a contender for the stage but he faithfully took up his domestique duties to help pace his EF-Drapac leader Uran back towards the pointy end of the race after a mechanical.

Lampaert pushed on next with two previous winners of Roubaix following him, Van Avermaet and Degenkolb soon became a lead trio with a noticeable gap.

Sagan led the chase with Gilbert, Stuyven and Thomas the kep names on his wheel. Gilbert let Sagan use up a it of energy before coming round him to chase down the leaders.

Gaviria, his arms hanging over the front of his bars, steadily rode off the front of his group towards the leaders. A move that could backfire if he served as a bridge for rivals to reach his teammate ahead.

Attacks, counter-attacks and reactions as the pace ebbed and flowed. Bardet and Froome spent a little while following each other around with an A list of riders following and watching them.

Quintana's ride was impressive for its consistency as he stayed near the front and away from the many crashes and incidents befalling most other riders.

With 10km to go, the lead trio held an advantage of 35 seconds and the impetus was lacking in the chase.

The final secteur, Willems to Hem, had its gutter blocked by barriers and fans, keeping the riders on the cobbles. The chase group hit the cobbles seemingly resigned to the stage win going to one of the three riders ahead of them.

That was until Lotto-Soudal took up the chase, shadowed by Sagan. Andre Greipel took it up himself while behind Bardet had what was at least his fourth puncture of the day, and was left demoralised by the slow wheel change.

Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), who went down hard the day before, put in an attack but was soon neutralised. Froome had a dig ut sat up when no one would come through.

Bardet was swept up by the Landa group, in which he sat to minimise his losses. Bardet and Landa pushed on and, amazingly, only shelled seven seconds the the Froome group.