Heading into the first rest day of the 2021 Tour de France, riders had to first face another day in the Alps. Rain, cool temperatures, and brutal climbs separated them from a day off from racing.
Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citröen) took top honors on the stage, batting past Nairo Quintana, who rode into the polka dot jersey, a prize he last took in 2013.
Tadej Pogačar kept his powder dry and conserved his resources for the climbing tests to come. He also put another half minute into one of his GC rivals, for good measure.
It’s been a wild and wacky first week of the Tour, which started with numerous crashes, then saw an almost-washed up sprint supremo find his legs again, and then ending with the 2020 Tour runner-up, and the previous wearer of the yellow jersey both abandoning.
Here’s what the stars said after a rain-soaked stage 9 of the 2021 Tour de France.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): 6th, at 6:02
Pogačar did only enough work to solidify his grip on the general classification. While he won the yellow jersey, white jersey, and polka dot jersey in the 2020 edition of the Tour, and could likely do so again, his focus this year is on winning the overall.
“I felt the best on stage eight. I felt super good,” he said. “It was super good weather for me was not too cold like yesterday, as well as super content, I think yesterday was one of them, the worst day like I think for everyone. Really, really demanding with this weather and we are requesting before.”
”I’m motivated just to prove myself and to show the world what can I do and I always go into the race to try to do my best.”
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers): 7th, at 6:34
Carapaz is Ineos Grenadiers only hope for a GC podium right now, with Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, and Tao Geoghegan Hart no longer in contention having lost mountains of time in the first week of racing.
But it seems that even Carapaz cannot match the punchy power that Pogačar can deliver on the steepest climbs—a skill that made Carapaz a real threat in the 2020 Vuelta España. Carapaz looked to be standing still when the defending champion from UAE-Team Emirates hit the accelerator.
“First round finished. There are two left,” he said. “The team has been very good, we are in a very good position, in fighting for the podium, We do not lower our guard and we continue to challenge.”
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 160th, at 35:49
Cavendish celebrated making the stage 9 time cut in a similar fashion to winning a stage. Every day in the mountains that the Manx Missle survives is a step closer to winning the points competition.
“To have three teammates staying with me in the gruppetto for a horrendous stage, it’s been incredible,” he said. “I’m so humbled and physically broken. This is the one stage I was afraid of. If we stop now, it will be one of the most wonderful Tour de France stages I’ll ever have had.”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 146th, at 34:13
Alaphilippe, the current world road champion who’s worn the yellow jersey for no fewer than 14 stages at the Tour, has been reduced to stage hunting and guarding Cavendish when needed.
“It’s no surprise, I never announced that I was coming with the ambition to make the general classification,” he said. “I didn’t think the gaps would be that big after the Alps ”
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ): OTL, at 37:15
Démare looked to be one of the remaining sprinters who could disrobe Cavendish of the green jersey.
Like Cav, the French sprinter struggled mightily in the mountains. However, unlike the Brit, Démare was Over the Time Limit when he crossed the line, and was excluded from the remainder of this year’s Tour.
“I have no regrets, I gave my best during the day,” he said. “Since the crash, I am here, but not at 100 percent. On the Tour, it has a cost. Many people are sadder than I am. I’m not sad. I gave it my best shot, there’s nothing more I can do.”