In a phenomenal day for Team Sunweb, Warren Barguil takes over the lead in the mountains classification as Michael Matthews mops up extra points in the sprint competition.
The action at the ninth stage of the Tour de France was feisty from the gun, with attacks going forward from kilometre zero. As soon as riders hit the slopes of Côte des Neyrolles a breakaway was already starting to form. The group swelled to just under 40 riders and Team Sunweb were well represented in the group with Nikias Ardnt, Warren Barguil, Laurens ten Dam, Simon Geschke and Michael Matthews. A tremendous effort from Team Sunweb, who spent the early stages of the day putting in a mountain of effort at the front of the break, meant the group could extend their lead to just over six minutes. Both Warren and Michael remained tucked inside the peloton, Warren on the hunt for KOM points and Michael preparing to take maximum points at the intermediate sprint.
The front of the race was down to just two riders on the approach to Grand Colombier and an acceleration from Barguil saw him take maximum points at the summit. Meanwhile, in between the breakaway and the peloton, Michael was inside a chasing group. The group managed to reach the leaders in time for the intermediate sprint, with Simon also joining the head of proceedings. A lead-out from Simon meant that Michael could accelerate away from the group to take the maximum 20 points on offer. After a job well done Michael dropped back to the peloton, with Simon following shortly after.
Following a regrouping at the head of proceedings, Warren found himself solo on the ascent of Chat du Mont. The Frenchman crested the summit in pole position to secure the lead in the mountains classification. However, Warren’s race wasn’t over and he continued to fight to the finish. After spending 176 kilometres in the breakaway Warren was still clinging on to the yellow jersey group in the final kilometre. Warren unleashed all he had for the sprint, and in an incredibly close photo finish took second place. Warren’s efforts were also awarded with the most combative rider of the day.
“Today was an amazing day for myself and the team,” explained Barguil after the finish. “We had five guys in the break which was brilliant. After Michael won the intermediate sprint the guys went full for my chances on day success and that gave me the confidence that I needed to climb at my best. On the Mont du Chat I did everything I could to make it to the top first and I was really happy to be able to do that. Of course it’s disappointing to not take the stage win, but this is the sport and we will continue to fight on.”
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) added: “We went on the attack with several of our goals in mind. The team did a perfect job having five guys in the break and with Warren feeling good we decided to gather king of the mountain points. We also had the plan to take some sprint points with Michael. It was a perfect scenario and Michael and Simon both came into the front group just in time for the sprint. After this, our focused returned to Warren. He was able to collect more mountains points and then do a really good, close sprint. We can be proud of the whole team and how they rode. Of course a stage victory would have been nice, but the team performed outstandingly and it was a great team effort.”
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