TDF Stage 9-Attack, Attack, Attack

7 Jul

Stage 9 was filled with excitement and great racing. Jonathon Vaughters said that Garmin-Sharp’s riders would cause chaos in the peloton and they delivered on that promise today. Their reward for their attacking style was the stage win for Dan Martin.

There were fireworks from the beginning of Stage 9. Saxo-Tinkoff and Movistar worked together at the front; setting a high tempo they isolated GC leader Chris Froome on the first Category 1 climb as his lieutenants (including the second placed Richie Porte) dropped by the way side.

Between the attacking tactics of the Garmin-Sharp riders and the Spanish armada formed by Saxo and Movistar Sky didn’t know what hit them.

All the strength and control Sky exhibited yesterday was non-existent today. Needless to say I was happy about that as were most Tour fans I would guess.

The yellow jersey was already isolated and it was early in the stage. Movistar and Saxo had Froome right where they wanted him – all alone – while Movistar leader Alejandro Valverde still had 3 of his lieutenants and Saxo-Tinkoff leader Alberto Contador had 2 of his.

As you would imagine there were a number of attacks off the front before things settled down somewhat into a 4 man break including Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal. Rolland picked up enough points to take back the polka-dot jersey from Froome. Other chase groups formed then faded, getting swallowed up or dropped by the main group with the yellow jersey and most of the favorites. Froome’s teammates were never able to catch back up.

Valverde and two teammates attacked the yellow jersey group, only Froome gave chase, easily catching them. Valverde and company and Froome came together before the start of the 2nd Category 1 climb, Col de Peyresourde. Next up was the Col de Azat, the 2nd to last climb of Stage 9.

In my mind it was do or die for Valverde/Movistar and Contador/Saxo. They had Froome just where they wanted him – solo – and Movistar particularly had the manpower to hurt him. Regardless, they didn’t attack, instead they rode tempo, and not surprisingly Froome was more than happy to sit back while Saxo and Movistar took turns at the front.

They had a shot and they didn’t take it. By the time Movistar did attack (with Quintana) it was late, on the last climb and easier for Froome to fight off than it would have been on the Azet.

It was a missed opportunity and one they may not get again. Instead of riding tempo, Movistar should have attacked Froome repeatedly, forcing Froome to give chase and thus wearing him down until he couldn’t follow any longer.

Apparently Valverde/Movistar was happy to drop Porte and move Valverde into the #2 spot rather than to go for the top spot and yellow jersey. With an individual time-trial on Wednesday Froome will surely increased his hold on yellow over Valverde. Don’t say you didn’t have a chance to take time Movistar.

Garmin-Sharp on the other hand played every card they had. They saved their last best card, Dan Martin, for a final move. After the attacks by Quintana had played themselves out and Froome had apparently saved the yellow Martin attacked, with only Fuglsang following. They quickly opened up a gap on the main group as they worked together heading for the finish.

Martin played it perfectly, sitting on Fulgsang’s wheel until just the right moment when he attacked and took the stage win. A thrilling finish to an exciting stage.

There’s a rest day tomorrow (yeah!) and then the Tour heads north for a sprint stage.

Stage profile

More fireworks next Sunday when the Tour goes to Mont Ventoux. Team Sky will have one less rider protecting their hold on yellow; Vasili Kiryienka was the only rider to not make the time cut. Sky had a bad day, could have been a really bad day, but it no doubt was a wakeup call.

Makes me smile.


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