Tom Dumoulin won a rain-soaked stage 9 of the Tour de France after an explosive stage which saw Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador retire as news emerged that the 33-year-old had been suffering with a fever.
The third day in the Pyrenees was always going to be the most punishing yet, with the riders tackling five successive mountain passes, but it was the Andorre Arcalis climb which saw the race blown to smithereens as the GC contenders tried to flex their muscles once again.
But it was Chris Froome who held onto the Yellow Jersey as the Tour heads into the rest day.
But in the breakaway up the road it was Giant-Alpecin’s Dumoulin who stole a march on Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) to ride solo for the last 12km.
But the big news of the day was Contador’s retirement halfway through the stage; it certainly hasn’t been a great Tour for the Spaniard as two crashes in the opening week really dented his bid for the Yellow Jersey, and with news coming through that he was suffering from a fever there was only really going to be one outcome for the 33-year-old.
Explosive last climb ends the first week on a high
The day looked as though it would have two races going on at the same time; the battle for the stage win was one, and the other was the ongoing duel for the Maillot Jaune – but it was the battle for the stage win which started early as a large break got away.
It included the likes of Peter Sagan, Pinot, Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), and the eventual stage winner Dumoulin. And within the breakaway the battle for the Polka Dot jersey was also an absorbing watch as Pinot, De Gendt and Majka all were looking for precious points.
But as the race entered the last climb, everything exploded into life – the breakaway was a large group of riders but when the attacks happened it rapidly became a group of about 8; and from there Dumoulin judged his timing just right to sneak off the front to build a healthy advantage of about 25 seconds.
But about 10 minutes down the road the main peloton were hitting the climb; and many of the top teams were all in attendance; Froome had his loyal lieutenants’ by his side but it didn’t stop the attacks coming thick and fast.
Richie Porte (BMC) started off proceedings, but he was closely followed by Froome and company. Then Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) had a go. Then the Maillot Jaune holder himself had a pop, but eventually nobody of note stole any precious seconds as they all rode into the rain-soaked finish with the same time.
But in heat of battle, they did manage to drop a contender in the shape of Fabio Aru, who crack near the summit of the last climb - so all-in-all it was a good day’s work for Froome as he holds the Yellow Jersey entering into the second week of what has so far been an absorbing Tour.