Primoz Roglic makes a little history as he takes over yellow jersey

Tadej Pogacar takes stage 9 to complete a perfect day for Slovenia

 Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar of Team UAE Emirates  (left) Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic of  Team Jumbo in action during stage  9  of the Tour de France between Pau and Laruns. Photograph:  Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar of Team UAE Emirates (left) Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo in action during stage 9 of the Tour de France between Pau and Laruns. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

 

There were some who reckoned the Tour de France may not even make it as far as its first rest day and others who must feel perfectly glad of it now. After nine stages, four different race leaders and one particularly big day for Slovenia, the race to Paris still feels like it’s only just getting started.

Before Sunday’s stage 9 finish at Laruns in the southwest Pyrenees, no rider from Slovenia, the semi-Balkan nation of just under two million people, had ever won the leader’s yellow jersey, and it now sits nicely on the back of Primoz Roglic from Team Jumbo-Visma, who finished second to his compatriot Tadej Pogacar, the 21-year-old from UAE Team Emirates taking a first stage win of his young career.

“It’s beautiful,” Roglic said of his first yellow. “Everyone dreams about it, when you start being a rider, to wear it. I thought I would also win today but chapeau for Tadej. Something can always be better but it’s not every day that you get the yellow jersey.”

After losing time on the Col de Marie Blanque, the last big climb on the 154km from Pau before the final drop into Laruns, Britain’s Adam Yates conceded his race lead by finishing 54 seconds behind, the Mitchelton-Scott rider now dropping to eighth overall, while defending champion Egan Bernal from Ineos Grenadiers moved ominously into second, just 21 seconds behind Roglic.

“I did my best,” said Yates. “I knew coming into the race I wasn’t 100 per cent, but I gave everything I could to hang on. I think we can be proud of what we did. I’ll freshen up now, have a rest day and then go after some stages.”

That re-arranging of the general classification wasn’t mirrored in the race for the green jersey, as neither Sam Bennett nor Peter Sagan made any further ground on Saturday’s stage 8, where the Irish rider did claw back two points at the intermediate sprint. Rarely have they counted for so little or so much, but as a statement at least, Bennett beating Sagan under the green banner which came 42.5km into the first of two back-to-back mountain stages in the Pyrenees was unquestionably one of intent.

That was just a minor footnote to Saturdays’ stage 8 winner Nans Peters, the first French rider to capture a stage in this year’s race, who arrived 47 seconds in front after the final descent off the Col de Peyresourde into Loudenvielle – only it won’t have gone unnoticed by Sagan or his team Bora-hansgrohe.

Sunday’s stage 9, the 154km from Pau to Laruns, featured several more climbs including the Col de la Hourcère, 80km from the finish, where young Swiss rider Marc Hirschi from Team Sunweb made an impressive break away, only to be caught by a quartet of riders 1.65km from the line. He did kick impressively again and took third Pogacar and Roglic in the final metres, with Bernal and Mikel Landa also finishing in the same time.

It was here in Laruns that Roglic further declared his potential as a possible Tour contender, winning the stage in 2018, having also won a stage in the 2017 race.

Bennett finished in the last group, 29:47 behind in 153rd place, with Nicolas Roche six places ahead in 147th. Dan Martin did make one very early effort to get away and still enjoyed probably his best stage in the race so far, finishing in 30th, 5:47 behind, and now moves up to 62nd overall, 1:05:48 behind. Roche drops back to 73rd, with Bennett back in 148th.

For Bennett, the two mountain stages were always unlikely to shake up the race for the green jersey but he made the most of them nonetheless. After conceding 21 points to the Slovak rider on Friday’s stage 7, missing the breakaway that afforded Sagan the extra points, Bennett made certain he finished in front this time on Saturday’s stage 8.

By the time of intermediate sprint at Sengouagnet, after 42.5km, 13 riders had already broken away, including Peters, with Jérôme Cousin leading them through. Although Sagan launched the first sprint from the peloton, Bennett got past him to take the two points in 14th, while Sagan finished out of the points completely.

Neither rider were in contention for the intermediate sprint which came 99km into Sunday’s stage, already beyond two of the first climbs, although Wout van Aert from Jumbo-Visma did claim seven points, and now sits on 111, while Bennett of Deceuninck-Quick Step now trails Sagan by only seven, 138 to 131.

As the riders transfer to the French northwest coast for the first rest day on Monday, Bennett and Sagan are likely to go to war again on Tuesday’s stage 10, from Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré, one of the last properly flat stages before the finish in Paris just under two weeks later.

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