A day with many KoM points on offer saw contenders contest breakaway spots, while in the GC battle teams were blowing up riders as Le Puy-en-Velay approached.
Warren Barguil was at the head of affairs again today, as 4 categorised climbs gave him an opportunity to solidify his lead even further. He hit full gas right as the flag was waved, and brought a breakaway of 9 with him. Van Baarle, Kiserlovski, Tony martin, Grmay, Caruso, Pauwels, Burghardt, Seiberg and Angel Luis Mate joined Barguil up the front for the day – but the peloton wasn’t content with this break. However, the break was too strong, and eventually the peloton gave up chase 10 kilometers in.
On the first climb – the Montee de Naves d’Aubrac – Barguil set the pace of the group, and blew it to pieces. Sieberg, Martin and Burghardt were dropped early on, and only Caruso and Pauwels could follows Barguil’s surge. He kept the pace high so no one could challenge him for the points, and managed to get a full 10 points on the top of the climb. After the climb, the break rejoined, but back in the peloton, the race was splitting. Riders with intentions to contest the Intermediate sprint and go for a stage win had broken away – including De Gendt, Matthews, Mollema, Gallopin, Roglic, Calmejane and Roche.
As the Cote de Vieurals approached, the 23 strong break from the peloton were bridging to the 5 at the front, while the gap to the peloton continued to increase. Barguil couldn’t care about the groups coming together, and just set a high tempo to take 2 points on the top of the climb. Pauwels took the scraps on Barguil’s wheel. However, after the climb, the chasing group was getting closer and closer, and after 60 kilometers the groups finally came together 36km before the intermediate sprint.
Speaking of that sprint into Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, it was a 3 way sprint between Matthews, De Gendt and Bakelants. Geschke worked for Matthews in the leadup to the sprint, and gave him a strong launchpad over De Gendt and Bakelants. He was able to hold them off all the way to the line, and took another 20 points over Kittel, the gap in the Green Jersey starting to dwindle. The gap to the peloton kept rising after the sprint too, and the race was split between a battle for the win in the 28 man break and the GC battle 9 minutes back. Tony Martin launched a solo attack with 66km to go, and really pushed the break hard through the undulating roads. With 52km to go, he had a lead of around a minute over the break, which extended to 1’30” as he started the Col de Peyra Taillade.
As Martin started the Col de Peyra Taillade, the peloton 9’30” back was being split by AG2R. They put all their team on the front to work for Bardet, and managed to put Froome behind the split. As Chris Froome made his way back to the Bardet Group though, he had a mechanical. Kiriyienka, Henao and Nieve dropped back to help Froome who was 50” behind. He dropped them on the climb and Landa dropped back to pace him the rest of the way. Even with a high tempo being set at the front, he managed to rejoin the group halfway up the Col de Peyra Taillade.
Back in the break, Barguil managed to jump clear of the break to try and chase Martin down and get some more points. He brought Roglic, Pauwels and Gallopin with him, and the 4 caught Martin with 3km to go. However, that was only half the job for the Frenchman, and he kept the pace high, broke away, and took 10 points on the climb. Roglic took the best of the rest points 10” back, but the break ended up coming back together after being blown apart. On the descent after the Col de Peyra Taillade, Bauke Mollema launched a solo attack from the 9 strong front group, and gained a 40” lead by the time of the Cote de St-Vidal
On the Cat 4 climb, Mollema’s lead was cut by a chasing Barguil and Roglic, both attacking from the front 9. They were joined by Ulissi and Gallopin, but Mollema still took the single point on the top of the climb. He had a 15 second lead with the 4 chasing behind him, but there was no cohesion in the group behind. With the kilometres ticking down, the gap stayed stable at around 10 seconds. Eventually, the chasing group gave up and started setting up their sprint for second. This gave Mollema time to post up and celebrate his self-described “best victory of his career.”
Back in the chasing peloton, Adam Yates went solo with around 13km to go, but was marked by Landa and eventually dragged back in. Louis Meintjes also went solo momentarily but was again chased down. However, Dan Martin attacked with around 9km to go, and managed to catch the riders from the break. He enlisted the help of Thomas De Gendt as the Lotto Soudal rider worked for his Quickstep rival to gain time on Chris Froome. Coming into the line, Dan Martin sprinted for time over Froome. In the group behind, Froome was trying to create a gap in the group while minimising his time losses.
Matthews also sprinted for some minor points on the line, but didn’t get any. However, his intermediate win reduced his gap in the Green Jersey battle to under 100 points with the mountains to come. Between the mountains though, there is a rest day and one more flat stage to come, where the battle for the Green will be on.