24-year-old Simon Yates has extended his lead in the best young rider competition at the Tour de France to almost three minutes after a brutal and dramatic stage nine today.
On a day that produced a lot of talking points including heavy crashes and untimely mechanicals and attacks, Yates remained calm to avoid trouble and finish in 11th place, one-minute 15seconds behind stage winner Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) and race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).
The British climber now sits in seventh overall, two-minutes and two-seconds behind Froome, but has extended his lead to Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) in the white jersey competition to two-minutes 58seconds.
“It was an extremely hard day,” Yates said of the seven-climb, three hors category, stage. “I went super deep, as deep as possible and I finished empty. I gave it everything.”
“I was a bit worried on the final climb because I wasn’t feeling good but the other young guys were already dropped and also in difficulty so I just rode my maximum to the top and also to the finish. Now, I’m just looking forward to the rest day.”
After nine days of racing, including the last two mountain stages, ORICA-SCOTT sport director Matt White summarised the team’s position heading into the first rest day.
“It’s been a pretty nervous start as it always is,” White said. “As we saw today, half the battle of the Tour de France is to survive the first half of the race.”
“There are a few guys packing their bags and going home already. We have survived the first half of the race, we have been limiting losses and conserving energy on the flat stages but on key stages like today, we’re making a really good impression.
“Simon is seventh on GC and a clear leader in the white jersey and we still have a lot of climbing to come. We’re very content, we came here for the white jersey and we plan to fight for it all the way to Paris.”
How it happened:
With seven climbs, including three hors category, today’s stage 9 was primed to split the peloton right across the 181km stretch of roads.
A large group of 40 riders formed on the first climb, with Michael Albasini there for ORICA-SCOTT.
A few climbs later and the break and peloton were both in pieces with Albasini in the second group on the road and Yates, Esteban Chaves and Roman Kreuziger in the group with the yellow jersey of Froome.
The sharpest slopes of the Grand Colombier proved too much from Chaves who lost touch whilst Kreuziger hung on almost to its peak before regrouping with his leader in Yates on the descent.
The pair tucked into the favourites group as Team Sky pushed the pace in the valley ahead of the final climb. When they reached the bottom of the final ascent the gap to the front of the race, now just two riders, was under three minutes.
Kreuziger completed his final duties for Yates at the bottom before dropping off to leave the Brit to battle with the favourites in the final 35km.
As many riders lost touch, Yates also slipped off the back before joining a chase group of other climbers to limit the damage.
Ahead, a bad crash took out Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) used his descending skills to create a gap on his rivals and reach the front of the race.
A regrouping of an elite group of six riders fought it out for the stage victory won by Uran, before the Yates chase group crossed the line just over a minute behind.
Tour de France – Stage 9 Results
1. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) 5:07:22
2.Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) ST
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky) ST
11. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +1:15
Tour de France – General Classification after stage 9:
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 38:26:28
2. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) +0:18
3. Romain Bardet (AG2R) +0:51
7. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +2:02