Pogacar retains Tour de France lead while O’Connor wins ninth stage

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar kept a close eye on his challengers as he retained the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey after stage ninth, a 144.9km mountain journey from Cluses in the northern Alps on Sunday.

Australian Ben O’Connor of the AG2R-Citroen team won the stage from the leading group, ahead of Italians Matteo Cataneo and Sonny Colbrelli.

Slovenian Pogacar, who claimed the yellow jersey on Saturday, was in control all day, reacting to a late attack by Richard Carapaz, his main rival for the general classification, from Ecuador, on the final climb to the Alpine resort of Tignes (21 km against 5 .6%). ) to stay at the top of the rankings.

With his first Tour stage win, O’Connor climbed to second overall, two minutes and a second off the pace, with Colombian Rigoberto Uran in third, 5:18 behind Pogacar.

After a crash-strewn start to the Tour, last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic left the race, not recovering from injuries sustained in a third stage tumbling. An exhausted Mathieu van der Poel, who wore the yellow jersey during the week, also retired for his bid to win Olympic gold in the mountain bike event.

Belgian Wout van Aert, who started the day in second overall, broke mid-stage on the Col du Pre and finished more than half an hour behind O’Connor when he dropped out of the fight.

His Jumbo-Visma team, which was lining up to help two-time Vuelta champion Roglic to the title, now drives ahead of Norway’s Jonas Vingegaard, who is fourth in the overall standings and 5:32 behind Pogacar, one second ahead of Carapaz .

O’Connor, 25, went solo with 17.5km to go and in the final 10km Ineos Grenadiers picked up the pace in the group of favorites to mount Carapaz’s attack.

Carapaz took off with four kilometers to go, but the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion was countered by Pogacar, who eventually finished 32 seconds ahead of the Ecuadorian.

“I ended up making a small attack to keep things under control,” Pogacar told a news conference.

“They (Ineos Grenadier’s team from Caparaz) made it a bit more difficult, but I had good legs to attack.

“Yesterday was one of the best days of my career and I was more in survival mode today, although I was in good shape.”

Monday is the first rest day of the race.

Frenchman Arnaud Demare, who was aiming for victories in the sprint finish of the Tour, finished the day outside the time limit meaning he is out of the race.

(REUTERS)

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