Tour de France Leader Fends Off Attacks in Epic Day of Racing
The ninth stage of the Tour de France ended Sunday with favorite Chris Froome holding on to the yellow jersey through a grueling five-mountain, 168.5-km (104.7-mile) climb in the Pyrenees.
His first day as Tour leader was a difficult one, as his Sky teammates fell further behind, leaving him isolated and under attack from rival Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff teams. Even Froome’s lieutenant, the Australian Richie Porte, dropped out of the leader’s peloton on the second climb and never fully recovered, finishing the stage 17 minutes and 59 seconds behind the stage winner, and dropping to 33rd in the general rankings.
“That was one of the hardest days I've ever had on a bike,” Froome said. “I'm really happy with how I came through today.”
Losing the support of his teammates puts Froome in a vulnerable position in the tenth stage, when the Tour moves to a relatively flat section of Brittany after a rest day. The Briton nevertheless holds a comfortable 1:25 lead in the Tour over the second-ranked rider, Alejandro Valverde.
Dan Martin, an Irishman riding for Garmin-Sharp, was Sunday’s stage winner. Martin and Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark bolted away from the main peloton on the final climb and raced ahead of the pack for a dramatic one-on-one finish. With only 250 meters to go, Martin sprinted ahead for the first Tour stage win of his career.
“I was confident in the final stretch because I know I have some speed,” Martin said. “I knew I had to be ahead in the last two corners and, when I saw that I was, I knew I could win.”
“Luckily I had the legs to finish the job,” he added.
Two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador, considered by many to be Froome’s main rival for the yellow jersey, finished the day in sixth place in the general rankings, 1:51 behind the leader.
Slovakian rider Peter Sagan still holds the green jersey for total points by a wide margin despite a day of difficult climbs, during which he abandoned the idea of sprinting for points, he said.