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Tour de France 2019: Daryl Impey takes Stage 9 while Alaphilippe hangs on to the yellow jersey

Pete Muir
14 Jul 2019

The South African gives Mitchelton-Scott a much-needed win on Bastille Day

After a long day in the break, South African national champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) outsprinted Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) to give Mitchelton-Scott their first Tour de France stage win in three years.

The pair had been in a break of around 15 riders since early in the race, but managed to escape from their fellow breakaway riders on the final climb. With a downhill run-in, Benoot was unable to shake his rival, who proved to be easily the stronger sprinter at the line.

Bahrain-Merida’s Jan Tratnik came in third to take the final spot on the podium. The main peloton had a comparatively relaxing day, rolling home more than 15 minutes later.

On Bastille Day, France’s Julian Alaphilippe did his nation proud by holding on to the yellow jersey, while none of the GC contenders could secure any advantage, meaning they maintained their relative positions on the leader board.

In the holiday spirit

Stage 9 of the 2019 Tour de France was always going to be celebratory affair. On Bastille Day, the French fans lined the 170.5km stage from Saint-Étienne to Brioude in the hilly region of east-central France to the west of the Alps.

They had plenty to cheers about. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–QuickStep) was in yellow, while his compatriot Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was riding high in the battle for the GC after a dramatic effort on the previous stage.

Similar to Stage 8, today’s stage offered a rolling parcours with barely a flat metre of tarmac for the entire route.

It included three categorised climbs: a Cat 1 at 36km; a Cat 3 at 106km; and another Cat 3 at 157km, followed by a 13km downhill dash to the line.

As such, it was a day perfect for a breakaway specialist such as Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), although he would almost certainly be exhausted from his remarkable solo win on Stage 8 (apparently pushing out an average of 311 watts for over five hours).

Favourites before the stage included fast men such as Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC). Some put their money on Romain Bardet, who was born in Brioude and might want to do something special on France’s national day.

Even before the stage started, teams were jostling in the neutralised zone to be in a good position to compete to be in the break.

As the pack cruised through the streets of Saint-Étienne, Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) hit a curb and went down hard, eventually being carried away on a stretcher (fortunately, it turned out, not seriously injured) before the flag to start the race had even been waved.

When the race hit kilometre zero, the battle for the break began. With so many teams wanting to be in the breakaway, the first 15km were a series of attacks and returns, as the peloton looked to control the numbers and quality of riders it would allow to go up the road.

Eventually a group of 14 formed, including Impey, Benoot, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Clarke (EF Education First) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Of them, the highest on GC was Roche at over 23 minutes, so no real threat to the yellow jersey. Back in the bunch, Alaphilippe looked happy and relaxed – like he was out for a Sunday club run.

Marc Soler (Movistar) attempted to bridge to the breakaway but, with a stage win in the offing, no riders in break were in a mood to hang around, and the Spaniard found himself in no man’s land for 30km.

Fortunately for him, by the first categorised climb, the breakaway had established a 5min 30sec gap to the bunch, and the riders could afford to take it easy on the super-steep slopes of the Mur d’Aurec – including 1km at 19% – which gave Soler the chance to join them to make it 15 in the break.

By the top of the climb, the break was over 7min ahead, and looking like it would go all the way.

Meanwhile, Portugese former World Champion Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) was in his own personal hell attempting to bridge to the break. Having been alone for around 40km, he got within 20 seconds of the riders in front, only to watch them pull away again.

No one in the break wanted a rider as dangerous as Costa to join them, and he was eventually forced to give up the chase and return slowly to the bunch in a sulk.

With the peloton in full holiday mood, by the time the race reached the 100km-to-go mark, the break had established a significant gap of 10min 30sec, and the race settled down to enjoy the holiday atmosphere.

All remained calm until 45km to go, when Pöstlberger punched his way out of the lead group, forcing the others to chase and fracturing the breakaway pack.

While the other 14 riders struggled to organise themselves into an effective chasing unit, Pöstlberger managed to pull out a lead of 45sec.

With around 20km left to the finish, the chasing group split up, with seven riders closing the gap on Pöstlberger, and the likes of Martin and Boasson Hagen being dropped.

On the final climb of the day, the group of seven – including Roche, Impey and Benoot – caught and passed Pöstlberger.  Roche attacked, Benoot and Impey followed, and the three crossed the summit together to begin the descent to the finish line.

Over 14mins further back, the peloton finally started to race, with Deceuninck-QuickStep upping the pace to protect the yellow jersey of Alaphilippe, and Ineos looking after the interests of Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.

With 8.3km to go Benoot attacked, shadowed by Impey, leaving Roche struggling to follow their wheels.

At the same moment, local boy Bardet delighted the crowd by flying out of the front of the peloton. He was followed by Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), but their attack was quickly neutralised by the Ineos machine.

As Roche slipped back to the chasing remnants of the breakaway group, Impey and Benoot pulled out a lead of 17secs by the 2km-to-go mark.

They managed to keep the chasers at bay, and in the final sprint Impey proved to be the stronger sprinter to take the stage win at a canter.