Bob Jungels attacked with 65km to go and soloed to stage nine victory at the Tour de France on Sunday, seeing off a spirited chased from Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
The AG2R Citroën rider took his first WorldTour win for four years in the process, marking his comeback from his issues with arterial endofibrosis over the last two years, a rare condition that reduces blood flow to the legs.
The Luxembourger took off from his breakaway companions on the Col de la Croix, and could not be caught despite the best efforts of Pinot. In the end, the Frenchman was overtaken by Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) and Carlos Verona (Movistar), who finished on the podium behind Jungels. Pinot has the consolation of the combativity prize.
Meanwhile, yellow jersey wearer Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and his closest challenger Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) managed to put an extra three seconds into their chasers on the GC, a bonus ahead of the second rest day.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) remains in green, Pogačar in white, although this will be worn by Tom Pidock (Ineos Grenadiers), while the climber's classification is now led by Simon Geschke (Cofidis).
The biggest loser of the day was Dani Martínez, with the Ineos Grenadiers rider losing 15 minutes to his GC rivals.
HOW IT HAPPENED
There was a big battle for the breakaway on stage nine, with multiple riders attempting to get in early moves. A couple of early crashes brought pain, with Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) involved. The former was visibly cut up, although with a torn jersey and several abrasions, continued on looking to get back to the peloton.
Once the race reached the first climb of the day, the pace set by Ineos Grenadiers and Dylan van Baarle proved to be too much for some. Marc Hirschi and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) were both distanced, leaving Tadej Pogačar two men down for later in the day.
When the breakaway eventually stuck, it was made up of several notable names. Strong climbers like Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Easypost) were present. Other notable riders that made up the group were Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Geschke (Cofidis) and Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën).
The lead group soon had a gap of more than two minutes. As temperatures soared, many riders began to suffer including Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën), continuing his disappointing Tour so far by dropping back from the group of favourites.
With 77 kilometres left to race, the race descended into the valley before ascending up to the Col de la Croix, which was the first of two category one climbs on the menu in the stage finale. With 64 kilometres to go, moves started to happen in the breakaway as the strongest tried to push on. Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) and Simon Geschke (Cofidis) appeared to be the strongest. The furious pace being set by the man from Luxembourg eventually proved to be too much for Geschke who was left behind.
At this point there were 42 kilometres left to race. Bob Jungels continued to build a gap over the remnants of the breakaway and in the valley road extended it; he was at this point one minute in front of the chasing group and 2-20 from the peloton. 35km to go and Jungels was fully committed, snatching a bidon from the AG2R team car in a desperate attempt to push on and stay hydrated. Meanwhile, his teammate O’Connor was sadly more than eight minutes behind the remnants of the UAE Team Emirates led peloton.
In scorching temperatures, keeping cool was the number one priority for the riders, with many seen emptying ice packs and bottles over themselves. Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) was the first GC rider to slide away from the peloton as UAE set a challenging pace.
Only 11 riders were left in the chasing group behind Bob Jungels, with the AG2R man having to dig deep to keep his advantage from them. Van Aert was dropped from the chasing pack and armed with plenty of fresh bidons, was soon back in the peloton to help his teammates.
Suddenly, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) let fly with a violent attack and was soon off in pursuit of Bob Jungels. At this point the chasing group had fractured, leaving only Carlos Verona (Movistar), Geschke (Cofidis), Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost) present.
Pinot was a man on a mission, and had soon cut the gap to Jungels right down to within 30 seconds. Bob Jungels had managed to head off a flying Pinot with 10km to go, as he reached the summit of the Pas de Morgins. The chasers had distanced Uran and Geschke, leaving the two Spanish riders to fight it out for what was looking to be third place.
After a daredevil descent, Jungels was first onto the final push to the line and the gap to Pinot was beginning to grow again. Four kilometres to go and Pinot was beginning to lose heart as he was rounded by both Verona and Castroviejo.
Under the flamme rouge, and Jungels had time to celebrate. The Luxembourger managed to turn a disastrous day for his team into a good one, as he crossed the line with his arms aloft to take an impressive victory from the breakaway. Castroviejo swept up second place with Verona third, leaving Pinot to settle for fourth place.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022 STAGE NINE: AIGLE TO CHâTEL (183 KILOMETRES) RESULTS
1. Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citreon, in 04-46-39
2. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers, at 22s
3. Carlos Verona (Spa) Movistar, at 26s
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) (Groupama-FDJ), at 40s
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 49s
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 49s
7. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 52s
8. Adam Yates (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea Samsic, all same time.
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE NINE
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 28-56-16
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 39s
3. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-17
4. Adam Yates (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-25
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-38
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 1-39
7. Tom Pidcock (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-46
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 1-50
9. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 1-55
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic, at 2-13
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