Sometimes I wonder why I bother to watch the Weather Channel. After all, as I packed my gear for Sunday’s 9th stage of the Tour de France, which I watched from the back of a motorcycle, there was absolutely no mention of rain in the forecast. Fortunately I didn’t listen to the report, and I brought my rain gear anyway. The Pyrénées are like that. Only a day after a picturesque and pastoral day in these lush mountains, dense fog and misting rains transformed Sunday’s stage into one crazy day on the Tour.
Sunday’s stage from Pau to Laruns didn’t tackle any mythic climbs like l’Aubisque or the Tourmalet. But sometimes little-known climbs can prove more problematic, and today’s climbs provided plenty of surprises. The remote Col de la Hourcère boasted an average grade of nearly nine percent, as Swiss climber Marc Hirschi blasted off the front on a long solo effort.
As a dense fog settled into the final three kilometers of the climb, the descent became even more complicated, as temperatures dropped significantly and cyclists could barely see the rider in front of them.
The pack splintered.
And then on the final climb up the Col de la Marie-Blanque another kind of chaos erupted as the Tour’s top contenders took of their gloves and started throwing some of the heaviest punches in this year’s Tour.
Jumbo-Visma accelerated early, and once again American Sepp Kuss could be seen driving the pace at the front with his teammates to position their Slovenian leader Primož Roglič.
And it was another Slovenian, Tadej Pogačar, who exploded the field with a strong attack less than four kilometers from the finish. Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet, Guillaume Martin and the yellow jersey Adam Yates, were just some of the principal victims. Only defending Tour champion Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa and Roglič could follow, powering over the summit and catching Hirschi just two kilometers from the line.
It was Pogačar who did much of the attacking yesterday as well, but today he had more success, to become the youngest Tour de France stage winner in the 21st century.