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The GC battle at the 2020 Tour de France has focused on a handful of players after Sunday’s punishing stage 9 in the Pyrénées, which featured the ascent of the steep Col du Marie Blanque.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) finally ceded yellow to Primož Roglič, while behind a handful of top favorites reshuffled their respective places in the overall.
Tadej Pogačar was again the big winner — he won the stage and clawed himself back up the standings. Yates and others lost time.
So, how did the rest of the GC favorites fare? Let’s break it down:
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
The good news: Egan Bernal seems to be getting stronger as this Tour de France rolls along, and on Sunday he looked to be the best he’s been throughout the race. Bernal finished alongside Roglič, Mikel Landa, and Tadej Pogačar in the front group of GC favorites and bumped up to second-place overall, 21 seconds down on Roglič. More importantly, Bernal was feisty today and even launched an attack of his own near the summit of the Col du Marie Blanque, and the move made the other guys work. Also, Bernal bridged across to the attacking Tadej Pogačar on the climb, seemingly with ease. So, while Bernal didn’t win the stage, Bernal fans should be extremely pleased with his ride, because their guy is now throwing punches alongside the other heavyweights.
The bad news: Eh, no real bad news today. Bernal obviously doesn’t have the flat-out power of Roglič or Pogačar on the steeps or the flats, but he doesn’t need that type of power to win on the Col de la Loze on stage 17.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
The good news: Wow — Roglič is smart, confident, patient, and extremely strong. He is the new leader of the Tour de France after making the top group of GC riders on the Marie Blanque, gobbling up bonus seconds at the summit, and then sprinting for second place on the stage. He leads Bernal by 21 seconds and seems to be in the driver’s seat for the Tour. Roglič rode a really smart race today. He prioritized time on GC over the stage win, and his decision to pull the GC group until the final meters before the sprint likely cost him the stage win. But hey, his work banged another nail into the coffin of a few GC hopefuls. Roglič never seemed to be in trouble on the Marie Blanque. He bridged to Pogačar with ease, and then followed wheels, only putting in an effort near the summit as he sprinted for the time bonuses. And he avoided near calamity after he and Pogačar touched wheels at the top. His Jumbo-Visma squad was very impressive in controlling the pace up the final climb, and Tom Dumoulin once again shredded the peloton in an act of self-sacrifice that shows he’s all-in for Roglič.
The bad news: No real bad news, other than that Bernal seems to be getting stronger with every stage. Sure, Roglič was isolated when the big blows began to fly, but that’s expected.
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)
The good news: Quintana was good but not great on the Marie Blanque, and wasn’t able to ride with Bernal, Roglič, Landa, and Pogačar. He finished in the second group of GC stars, 11 seconds down. It’s not a disaster by any means, but losing 11 seconds isn’t great either. I wonder if Quintana couldn’t go, or he simply chose not to counter when Pogačar kicked things off on the Marie Blanque. His slight hesitation — was it a calculated move thinking that the group would come back together on the descent? No matter the thinking here, Quintana didn’t go, and thus, he lost time. He now sits in 5th place overall, 32 seconds back.
The bad news: A day after attacking on the Col de Peyresourde, Quintana looked tired. Losing 11 seconds is hardly a disaster. But, had Quintana made that elite group with Bernal and Pogačar, it would have been a big message to the GC contenders and the cycling world at large that Nairo Quintana is among the best climbers in the race.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
The good news: Adam Yates fought admirably, and I cannot emphasize how impressive he rode over the past two stages. He just didn’t have it on the Col de Marie Blanque, and he surrendered the jersey after putting up a good fight. He finished in the third group of contenders, 54 seconds down, and slipped from first to eighth place overall. Still, holding the yellow jersey for four stages should be seen as a career achievement for Yates.
The bad news: Yates was dropped pretty early on the Col de Marie Blanque. Kudos to him for chasing on to the group with some GC riders and their superdomestiques. But alas, the yellow jersey dream is over for Adam Yates.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates)
The good news: Pogačar continues to be full of beans! He is the most aggressive GC rider in the race, and you could make a decent argument that he’s perhaps the strongest. Pogačar’s attacks on the Marie Blanque kicked off the GC battle, and he accelerated again and again on the climb to shed the lesser riders. He made the front group alongside Bernal and Roglič, and then had the strength to muscle out the stage victory (and 10-second time bonus). He leapfrogged two spots on GC today and now sits in 7th place overall, 44 seconds down.
The bad news: I’ll repeat my ‘bad news’ from Saturday. BAH! That 1:21 Pogačar lost on Friday now seems like such disaster. Had he stayed with the peloton that day, he would be on the shortest list for the yellow jersey.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Crédits)
The good news: Martin made the second GC group on the road after briefly looking like he was dropped for good on the Marie Blanque. Yes, he lost 11 seconds to Bernal and Roglič, but he did what he needed to do to limit his losses and retain his spot as France’s best hope for a podium finish at the Tour de France. He held onto his third-place on GC, and is now 28 seconds behind Roglič in the standings. Not bad for a guy who spend quarantine literally hanging out with donkeys.
The bad news: Small weaknesses at this point in the Tour de France could be a sign that Martin is cracking. He was the only rider on the proverbial podium to crack on the climb, and he now appears to be squarely in the sights of Tadej Pogačar for the final podium position. Would you want to be in the sights of Pogačar? No — that would be terrifying.
Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)
The good news: Dumoulin again flexed his big Dutch legs and shredded the GC group on the marquee climb of the day, and his efforts put everybody into the red zone before the GC battle. He’s established himself as probably the strongest domestique in the race.
The bad news: This fact was established on Saturday, but Dumoulin is unquestionably a worker bee now. But hey, he’s the best worker bee in the peloton, and that’s nothing to laugh at. He now sits in 14th place, 3:22 down, and he will likely continue to slip down the ranks as the race goes along.
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)
The good news: Buchmann’s run at the Tour de France podium went poof on Sunday on the lower slopes of the Marie Blanque. He was dropped pretty early in the climb — so early, in fact, that he had plenty of Bora-Hansgrohe teammates to pace him the rest of the way.
The bad news: Buchmann lost 4:12 and slipped seven positions to eighteenth place, 5:45 down. It’s a bummer for him and for Bora-Hansgrohe, since the German team has continually promoted its GC/German ambitions on the same level as its ambitions with Peter Sagan. In fact, this year’s squad was built squarely around Buchmann and not Sagan. Should Peter the Great be upset with this fact? Perhaps. He could definitely use another rouleur to help him in those bunch sprints. But hey, it’s Peter Sagan, nothing seems to get him down for too long.
Riche Porte (Trek-Segafredo)
The good news: Porte finished in the second group of GC riders on the bunch, 11 seconds behind the front four. He moved up two spots on classification to eleventh-place overall, and now seems destined to rise the ranks even further as the race goes along. Also, Porte really did seem to be the fourth- or fifth-best climber in the race on the Marie Blanque.
The bad news: Porte was SO close to making the front group on the Marie Blanque, and he actually did for much of the climb. Only at the very peak was he distanced after an acceleration by Pogačar. He’s right there. Also, that 1:21 hole from stage 7 really hurts now. If you were to erase that deficit, Porte would be tied for 5th with Quintana.
Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling)
The good news: Urán is very much still in the fight for the podium. He finished in the second group of GC stars and now sits in sixth place, tied with Quintana at 32 seconds down. He never appeared to be in trouble on the Marie Blanque, and climbed at his own pace alongside Quintana, Romain Bardet, and Guillaume Martin.
The bad news: Again, I can’t see any bad news here for Rigoberto Urán. While he’s not on the same level as Bernal or Roglič, he’s having a great ride.
Miguel Ángel López (Team Astana)
The good news: López was an unfortunate loser of the battle on the Marie Blanque. His Astana team rode very well, and at one point the blue train amassed near the front to bring López up into the battle. But after that, things just didn’t go according to plan.
The bad news: López didn’t have the legs for the battle, and he couldn’t even make the second group of favorites on the road. He finished in the Adam Yates group, 54 seconds down. His GC ambitions are far from over, but on Sunday he just didn’t appear to be among the strongest climbers in the bunch. And that is surprising, since the steep Col de Marie Blanque seems to fit his strengths as a rider.
Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)
The good news: Bardet finished in the second group on the road, 11 seconds down. He remains in fourth place overall, 30 seconds down and nipping at the heels of his countryman Guillaume Martin in the important if highly unofficial Best French Rider standings. Bardet rode a smart and controlled climb on the Marie Blanque, and helped marshal the chase that kept the gap to Bernal and Roglič from exploding on the descent and run-in to the finish.
The bad news: Bardet lost time and seems to be a few watts shy of Bernal, Roglič, and Pogačar on the biggest climbs. But hey, a top-five finish should be seen as a major success for him.
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)
The good news: Landa was a big, big winner of Sunday’s stage. He made the front group of climbers on the Marie Blanque alongside Bernal, Roglič, and Pogačar, and just never seemed to be in any trouble on the ascent. He bumped up two spots in the overall standings to 10th place. Should he continue to climb with such ease, a top-five finish is a possibility.
The bad news: Echoing Porte, Landa has a 1:21 hole to dig himself out of from stage 7. Bah, that was such a setback.