Ben O’Connor, 25, claimed his first win at the Tour de France in his first participation at the end of another rain soaked stage in the Alps. He got rid of his Colombian breakaway companions to become the 14th Australian stage winner for a total of 35 victories since Phil Anderson in 1982. The AG2R-Citroën rider virtually had the yellow jersey on the road but Tadej Pogacar responded to a late attack by Richard Carapaz to remain in the lead of the overall classification ahead of the first rest day.
An offensive race under the rain
175 riders took the start of stage 9 under the rain in Cluses at 13.10. Non-starters: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroën) was the first attacker at km 2. Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal) was next at km 6, soon rejoined by Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step). They were overhauled at the top of côte de Domancy by Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) who continued solo before being rejoined by Dan Martin (Israel-Start Up-Nation) at km 20. At km 24, another duo was formed at the front by Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis), soon reinforced by Sergio Higuita (EF) and Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies). Six riders took the lead before the intermediate sprint at Praz-sur-Arly (km 32.7) where Colbrelli preceded Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Chris Juul-Jensen (BikeExchange). A front group of 43 riders was formed at km 35 with an advantage of 2’ over the yellow jersey peloton.
Quintana on the hunt for the polka dot jersey
Up to the col des Saisies, Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), Michael Woods (Israel SUN) and Omar Fraile (Astana) rode away. As they got brought back, Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) went solo 6km before the summit. Quintana caught up with him right on the line of 1st category KOM and continued solo in the downhill. A group of 5 leaders was formed before the ascent to col du Pré, the first hors-category climb of the 2021 Tour de France, with 75km to go: Quintana, Woods, Higuita, Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën) and Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange). Quintana rode away solo 2km before the summit. Higuita and O’Connor successively rejoined the new leader of the KOM classification. The leading trio made the difference at Cormet de Roselend (km 93.3) where O’Connor was virtually in the lead of the overall classification.
Pogacar still the strongest of the favourites
O’Connor couldn’t hold the pace of the two Colombians in the tricky downhill of Cormet de Roselend. He came across in the valley after Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Quintana went hungerflat with 22km to go, leaving Higuita and O’Connor riding for the stage victory while UAE Team Emirates upped the tempo to defend the yellow jersey. O’Connor went solo with 17.5km to go. In the last 10km, Ineos Grenadiers set the pace of the group in which Pogacar remained without any domestique. 4km before the end, Carapaz attacked but Pogacar responded and showed once again that he’s by far the strongest of the favourites. The Colombians suffered badly in the final climb and O’Connor won was a big gap (more than 5’) over Cattaneo and Colbrelli.