ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Rigoberto Urán very nearly made it into the Alps as one of the few Tour de France contenders to avoid major time losses in the opening road stages — but stage 9 to Roubaix wouldn’t let him off that easy.
The EF Education First-Drapac leader crashed on a stretch of cobbles around 30 kilometers from the finish. He ultimately came home 1:55 down on stage winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), and 1:28 behind the main selection of GC riders that contained most of his rivals.
“My bike got hit from the back, and I had to change the bike. We did the best we could,” he said.
Urán was one of numerous GC favorites to run into trouble on the day. BMC’s Richie Porte was an early casualty and the worst off of the big names, crashing and abandoning the Tour before stage 9 reached the first cobbled sector. Sky’s Chris Froome and Movistar’s Mikel Landa also went down in crashes. Ag2r’s Romain Bardet, meanwhile, ran into mechanical issues multiple times during the afternoon.
Outside of Porte, however, Urán was the biggest loser of the day among the GC hopefuls. Froome was back in the peloton shortly after his crash. Bardet and Landa did both lose seven seconds due to a small late split, but they avoided catastrophe by rejoining the pack following sustained chase efforts.
Urán, on the other hand, spent the final 45 minutes in pursuit without closing down the gap, although not for lack of effort from him or his team.
Aware of the dangers it posed to the GC hopefuls — particularly the pint-sized climber-types — EF put significant effort into preparing for stage 9 and selected a team with a number of pavé powerhouses to help shepherd Urán through the day. That came in handy when the 31-year-old Colombian found himself off the back and staring at a sizable gap up to his rivals.
Familiar classics specialists Sep Vanmarcke, Taylor Phinney, and Tom Scully were soon at his side to form a team time trial squad on the cobbles.
“It was just all hands on deck to try to get him back and limit the time loss,” Scully said.
“Everyone was riding on [the limit]. That’s all we can do, just ride as hard as you can to get back at the front and hope to make it back there.”
Unlike the chasing Ag2r-Movistar group, the EF delegation was unable to put much of a dent in the gap to the other GC favorites in the early goings of the pursuit. As the kilometers ticked down towards the finish line in Roubaix, the classics stars began to gear up for the stage battle, injecting more pace at the front. Before long it became clear that Urán and Co. weren’t making up the necessary ground.
That said, the well-organized team effort did help keep Urán’s time loss at just under a minute and a half. A crash on the cobbles could just as easily have knocked Urán out of the race; instead, he comes away from stage 9 having lost about as much time as he did in the team time trial, which should be worth at least some consolation for EF (to go with the added bonus of Lawson Craddock managing to finish another stage of the race).
Heading into the first rest day of the Tour de France, Urán currently finds himself 2:53 down on yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), but significantly closer to the legitimate GC threats. He sits 1:11 behind Froome, Landa, and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and just three seconds behind compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
On the balance, considering the terrain of the first stretch of Tour stages and the chaos produced in the finales of nearly every day of the race so far, Urán isn’t in awful shape as the Tour makes its way towards the mountains.
As such, the three-time grand tour runner-up found himself in good spirits when speaking to the media Sunday. After showering off the Roubaix dust and having some road rash attended to by the team doctor, Urán came back off the team bus to greet a throng of Colombian fans that had been chanting his name for half an hour.
“Another Tour de France starts now,” he said. “We have both the Alps and the Pyrenees ahead of us. There’s a long way to go. The important thing is to recover and start fresh.”