Bob Jungels holds off Thibaut Pinot charge to claim first career Tour de France stage win
Bob Jungels clung on to win stage nine of the Tour de France in Chatel as a breakaway was allowed its fun on Sunday.
Jungels went solo off the penultimate categorised climb of the 193-kilometre stage from Aigle to the Portes du Soleil ski station, still with some 64km to go, and held off a spirited late attack from Thibaut Pinot.
The Frenchman, who chose a day spent almost entirely in Switzerland to try to deliver a first home success of this Tour, closed a gap that had stood at around two minutes with a little more than 20km to go and got to within 20 seconds.
But Jungels, who had built his advantage by tackling the descent of the Col de la Croix at speeds nearing 100km an hour, extended his gap on the descent to the short uncategorised climb to the finish to claim his first career Tour stage.
Pinot was caught by Jonathan Castroviejo and Carlos Verona at the end to finish in fourth, just ahead of Tadej Pogacar who tried to outsprint Jonas Vingegaard to extend his advantage in yellow – unable to shake the Dane but managing to pick up three seconds on third-placed Geraint Thomas in the process.
Vingegaard remains 39 seconds down in second place overall, with Thomas now 77 seconds in arrears.
Victory for Jungels came after the Luxembourger tested positive for Covid-19 in the week before the Tour began, although the 29-year-old was allowed to race after doctors deemed he was not contagious to others.
More than that, this was a first race win since the 2020 Luxembourg nationals for the AG2R Citroen rider, whose has battled a number of injuries in recent seasons.
“It’s hard to say how I feel right now,” Jungels said. “I’m just overwhelmed. This is huge, this is what I came here for. I know what this means, also for the team, after a couple of years struggling, it was very tough last year with the surgeries.”
It was more frustration for Pinot, the Frenchman who had insult added to injury on Saturday when he was wiped out by a rival team’s helper in a feed zone as he tried to recover from a crash.
They had been part of a 21-man breakaway which included stage eight winner Wout Van Aert in the points leader’s green jersey as well as Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who was second overall in 2017 and who began the day three minutes and 24 seconds off yellow.
That forced Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates squad to put some work into controlling the day, but stage honours were not on Pogacar’s mind this time.
“We did the pace that we liked, and we went like this to the finish,” the Slovenian said. “The team is really, really strong and they showed each of them that they just keep getting stronger and showed we can control this race even with seven guys.”
Thomas’ Ineos team-mate Adam Yates remains in fourth, one minute and 25 seconds down with Tour debutant Tom Pidcock seventh at one minute 46, although Dani Martinez struggled on the first proper mountains of this Tour and slipped out of the top 10.
The Tour now moves into a rest day on Monday when Covid-19 could again dominate the agenda.
Guillaume Martin, who had been 14th overall, on Sunday morning became the third rider to to leave the race due to a positive test since the start, following Geoffrey Bouchard and Pogacar’s team-mate Vegard Stake Laengen, while other teams have lost staff members.
All riders will undergo tests on Sunday night with their results due on Monday, with staff members to be tested on the rest day.
“In our team we really take care with hygiene and everything so I hope there will not be many positives,” Pogacar added. “We keep our fingers crossed the whole bunch stays together.”