A solo attack by Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels has earned him his first Tour de France stage victory on the first Alpine finish of this year’s race, as champion Tadej Pogačar retained the leader’s yellow jersey after the ninth stage.
- Luxembourg rider Bob Jungels has made his breakaway count, defying the field on stage nine of the Tour de France
- Tadej Pogačar leads Jonas Vingegaard by 39 seconds on general classification for the leader’s yellow jersey
- Nick Schultz is the leading Australian in 39th place, as Ben O’Connor, in 86th place, continues to struggle
The 29-year-old Jungels, of AG2R Citroen, set off on his own with almost 65 kilometres remaining of the mountainous 193km trek from Aigle in Switzerland to the ski resort of Chatel les Portes du Soleil on Sunday.
Jungels had time to sit up and stretch out his arms before punching the air in delight as he crossed the line 22 seconds ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo and 26 seconds ahead of Carlos Verona.
It was another brutal day for Australia’s leading hope, Ben O’Connor, who, despite a torn glute, just battled on gamely, despite struggling off the back early on.
He eventually finished 27-and-a-half minutes down, and has now slumped to 86th overall.
Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Nick Schultz is now the leading Australian on the Tour, lying in 39th overall after a 21st place finish on Sunday.
Jungels’s victory crowns a comeback after a year to forget. He struggled with back problems and then a head injury suffered in a crash at the beginning of last season, before missing the Tour and the Summer Olympics after surgery.
“It’s hard to say what I feel right now. I’m just overwhelmed to be honest. This is huge. This is what I came here for,” Jungels said.
“After a couple of years struggling, a very tough last year with surgeries and everything, also to take the victory this way, it’s my style of racing, my style of taking the victory.”
Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard sprinted to the line, to gain three seconds over their rivals for the overall lead.
The Slovenian, Pogačar, remained 39 seconds ahead of his Danish rival but increased his advantage to one minute 17 seconds over 2018 winner Geraint Thomas.
“The team is really, really strong. They showed each of them that they just keep getting stronger,” said Pogačar, of UAE Team Emirates.
“Today, the last couple of days also proved that we can control this race. So I’m super happy and proud.”
Jungels, Castroviejo and Verona had been part of a large breakaway that formed shortly after the first of four categorised climbs of the day.
Near the top of the penultimate climb, the top category Col des Mosses, Jungels attacked and was followed by Simon Geschke.
The pair reached the summit together, with a gap of 25 seconds over the chasing group.
But Jungels was quicker on the descent and managed to drop his rival. He had built a lead of nearly two minutes over the chasing group and more than three minutes over the peloton at the start of the final climb, the category one Pas de Morgins.
Cheered on by raucous fans lining the roads, French rider Thibaut Pinot attacked and came within sight of Jungels but ended up missing out on a podium place.
Monday is a rest day, before Tuesday’s 10th stage has four categorised climbs on the 148.1km route from Morzine Les Portes Du Soleil to Megeve.