Long-awaited Tour win for Mitchelton-Scott thanks to Daryl Impey
As the 15-rider breakaway rode clear of the peloton on stage nine, those risking a day out front will have been bolstered by the opportunity to fight for the stage.
An attritional final 5okm saw a bold but fruitless attack from Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger and a fair effort from Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) who dreamt of his first Tour de France stage victory.
But as the undulating parcours claimed its victims, only Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) were left standing, and despite Benoot’s previous outstanding performances, the odds fell in favour of the more experienced and faster finishing Impey.
Firing past the Belgian without too much concern, Impey rode to his first Tour de France victory on his seventh visit to the race, aged 34.
The South African national champion had a glowing start to the season, winning a stage and the overall at the Tour Down Under in January then taking both the time trial and road race titles in his home championships.
Impey’s win after a testing day in the break also marks the end of a three-year drought for Australian outfit Mitchelton-Scott at the Tour, and will ease the pressure on general classification hopeful Adam Yates, which may make the Brit even more dangerous.
The win is by far the biggest of Impey’s career and will count as a considerable thanks for his efforts supporting the Yates brothers in their pursuit of GC success at the Tour.
Tiesj Benoot narrowly misses double victory for Lotto-Soudal
Lotto-Soudal’s rising Belgian star has surprisingly only taken one professional win in his career and it was a big one, riding a solo victory in the 2018 Strade Bianche plastered in mud and dust after racing in awful conditions.
The 25-year-old came within mere metres of claiming a second glory, this time on stage nine of the Tour de France 2019, proving himself the best climber in the day’s breakaway.
But unfortunately for Benoot, Daryl Impey was strong enough to match him on the climbs and was too fast to be carried to the line.
Despite a valiant effort at the kick from Benoot he was forced to settle for a runner-up spot, as Impey denied a second consecutive breakaway stage win for Lotto-Soudal.
Rumours suggest that Benoot will be off to Team Ineos next season as his Lotto-Soudal contract expires at the end of the year, suggesting his potential has not gone unnoticed in the WorldTour.
No homecoming fireworks for Romain Bardet on Bastille Day
Stage nine of the Tour de France marked a momentous day for the hosts, falling on both French national holiday Bastille Day and finishing in the hometown of their darling Romain Bardet.
While many expected something spectacular from the Ag2r La Mondiale rider, who has consistently lost time in the opening week of the Tour, fans and even Bardet himself may be disappointed by the reality.
The 28-year-old from Brioude rode away from the favourites on the day’s final climb, the Cöte de Saint-Just, assisted by a team-mate, but the ‘attack’ lasted a matter of moments as Team Ineos comfortably closed him down.
Bardet has had a disastrous Tour so far, losing bags of time in the team time trial and La Planche des Belles Filles, now sitting in 23rd overall more than two minutes down on his countryman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
While the stage nine parcours was ill-suited to a slender climber like Bardet, the expected flourish never materialised.
Should we expect something more notable from Bardet on the high mountains to come?
Brutal end to the first week neutralises GC battle
As the stage victory played out 16 minutes up the road, Bardet’s short-lived effort on the final climb was the only moment of action in the GC group.
After Team Ineos shut down the great French hope, the impetus among the favourites dropped off rapidly as they cruised to the finish at a fairly sedate pace after a week of brutal racing.
The opening week of this Tour de France has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable in recent years, as days of relentless climbing have sparked GC action in unexpected places while hard-fought breakaways have defied the odds to stay away.
But all that first-week racing has taken its toll, as the general classification favourites and habitual stage winners welcomed a more relaxed day, allowing a large and overall unthreatening breakaway escape and fight for the day.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step had the relatively simple task of keeping the break within around 20 minutes to hold the yellow jersey, while most teams looking for opportunities sent riders up the road.
With a sprint day on stage 10 followed by a rest day on Tuesday (July 16), the GC favourites will be recharging their batteries to come out swinging in the Pyrenees in week two.
Julian Alaphilippe gifted chance to celebrate French national holiday in yellow
A rollercoaster opening week for Deceuninck – Quick-Step closes out as an undeniable success.
After missing out on the first sprint chance with Elia Viviani, the Belgian team returned to winning ways thanks to Julian Alaphilippe who took a thrilling stage three and moved into the race lead.
Viviani then took his first Tour victory the following day, making the first week a huge success even by Quick-Step’s stratospheric standards.
But the drama continued, as Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey by just six seconds on stage six to Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), only to steal it back once more two days later.
Arguably the star rider of 2019, Alaphilippe was allowed to basque in the yellow on stage nine, with no-one really threatening his race lead on Bastille Day.
The 27-year-old should be secure in the lead until at least the stage 13 time trial, as the race now levels out after a thrilling opening week.