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Tour de France: Turgis pips Pidcock on gravel as Evenepoel accuses Vingegaard
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Tour de France: Turgis pips Pidcock on gravel as Evenepoel accuses Vingegaard

Ineos’ Tom Pidcock came within a hair’s breadth of taking his second win in the Tour de France on a dramatic gravel stage nine over the white roads of the Aube, when he was left frustrated by the French sprinter Anthony Turgis of Total Energies.

It was his team’s first Tour stage win since 2017. “I’ve won at all ­levels but was missing a World Tour win,” 30-year-old Turgis said. “But winning at the Tour de France – it’s the holy grail.”

A disappointed Pidcock had shown his rough road skills by joining the day’s breakaway and moving clear in a group of eight, following a long pursuit with Ben Healy. On a day of sunshine and dust clouds, a weary Pidcock described the 14 sectors of gravel, with some understatement, as “hard.”

In fact, some sections proved harder than others, with many in the peloton reduced to carrying their bikes and jogging up the steep opening metres of section two of the “chemins blancs”, at Baroville.

Pidcock certainly had the skills to cope with the gravel, but the ­Yorkshire rider, who won two World Cup mountain bike events ­immediately before the start of this Tour, was left banging his handlebars in frustration as he proved unable to power past the Frenchman in the sprint to the line in Troyes.

“This morning, I was less than 57 kilos,” he said, “so when you’re averaging 280 watts for four and a half hours, it’s quite a lot.”

Turgis’ success was the third French win in nine stages. Pidcock, winner of the stage to Alpe d’Huez in the 2022 Tour, was hoping to bring Ineos Grenadiers their first victory in this year’s race. But in an increasingly complicated scenario, he had to monitor all of his rivals, including Jasper Stuyven, who had soloed clear of the breakaway on the run-in to Troyes.

“When I’m in a group like that I never show how I’m really feeling,” Pidcock said. “I don’t respond straight away to attacks. But I knew that Stuyven was going to be the strongest one, if he went.”

Pidcock, a past winner of Strade Bianche, the Italian one-day Classic raced over Tuscan gravel tracks, had been in his element in the lumpy ­terrain of the first half of the course, but as the breakaway closed on Troyes and a sprint became the most likely outcome, his chances of ­success grew slimmer.

“When Stuyven went, I was on the front and I was hoping the guys would respond from behind,” he said. “It’s always difficult to try and let that play out, but you’ve got to understand that everyone else in that group is there to win.”

While Pidcock rued his missed opportunity, the race leader, Tadej Pogacar, was in aggressive mood, first chasing down a powerful attack on the steep gravel of the Côte de Val Frion from his closest rival, Remco ­Evenepoel and then breaking clear on his own moments later. The ­Slovenian was reeled in by Jonas Vingegaard’s Visma Lease-a-bike teammate, Matteo Jorgenson, who then waited for the defending champion to join him. It was a stressful day for the Dane, who, as well as trying to contain Pogacar, also had to swap bikes with his teammate Jan Tratnik and finished the stage with a slow puncture.

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“I’m very relieved I made it to the finish without losing any time,” Vingegaard said. “Only two punctures, so yeah – I think I owe all my teammates a big thank you today. I owe them big time.”

Pogacar, who retained his overall lead going into the first rest day, described the stage as a “fun day,” but added: “I wasn’t expecting the gravel to be so gravelly. It was one of the most difficult days of the Tour, but I felt good.”

Evenepoel’s attack, 48 hours after winning the Tour’s first time trial on Friday, was a demonstration of power that nearly backfired when he found himself struggling to keep up with Pogacar and Vingegaard in the latter stages. And afterwards he criticised Vingegaard for neutralising the attacks by himself and Pogacar’s attacks by responding then refusing to contribute to the breakaways.

“It’s a pity that some didn’t work in the group,” Evenepoel said, “as we could have gained a significant margin, of minutes even, over the others.

“I think Tadej and I were not happy because maybe the podium for the tour could have been decided today. You have to accept race tactics, race situations, but sometimes you also need the balls to race, and unfortunately maybe Jonas didn’t have them today.”

Source: theguardian.com