Daryl Impey of Mitchelton-SCOTT has won stage 9 of the Tour de France.  Impey out-sprinted Tiesj Benoot of Lotto Soudal to take the win with Jan Tratnik of Bahrain Merida completing the podium; on a day where George Bennett went on the offensive.

Stage 9 of the Tour de France was the next opportunity for the breakaway riders to upset matters.  The stage was again a very rolling one, with an early category 1 climb and two category 3 climbs featuring on the way to the finish.  

True to form an early breakaway established at the front of the race after an initial 1-man move of Nils Politt of Katusha-Alpecin.  Sadly while the action on the front was taking off, Alessandro De Marchi suffered a horrendous crash on the back of the race, taking him out of the Tour de France just under 10km into the stage.  

George Bennett rode an aggressive final climb, but still holds 4th overall, photo Sirotti

Eventually after a number of willing candidates for a breakaway a move was finally able to go clear before the 150km to go point, with a group of 15 riders going up the road.  Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data, Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo, Daryl Impey of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Tiesj Benoot of Lotto Soudal, Tony Martin of Jumbo-Visma, Nicholas Roche of Team Sunweb, Jesús Herrada of Cofidis, Anthony Delaplace of Arkea Samsic, Simon Clarke of EF Education First, Lukas Postlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe, Oliver Naesen of AG2R La Mondiale, Jan Tratnik and Iván García Cortina of Bahrain Merida, Romain Sicard of Total Direct Energie and Marc Soler of Movistar made the move and quickly gained a healthy 5 minute advantage that just kept growing.

Benoot led the way across the first KOM, causing a bit of a split as he did so.  As the break continued, and lone rider Rui Costa tried hard to bridge across to the break, Deceuninck-Quick Step continued to tap away a patient pace on the front of the peloton; not concerned by the break gaining a lead in excess of 10 minutes.  Costa was a bit of a problem for the breakaway, with his ability to threaten the rest of the break possibly the reason that the break weren’t all that eager to sit up and let him catch up.  After pressing on in pursuit for almost to 105km to go Costa finally began to see the gap opening up to the break; and he sat up and surrendered.

With 100km to go the break’s lead was around 10.20mins with Deceuninck-Quick Step comfortable with the situation.  With a break so sizeable it was inevitable that attacks would begin to fly from those not holding out too much hope in their sprint capabilities.  Jan Tratnik and Simon Clarke were the first to go with 63km remaining.  It was the sign that allegiances were or would be over.

The next attacks didn’t come until 44km to go where Lukas Pöstlberger went solo, to then be pursued by Cortina, Stuyven and Benoot went on the offensive.  The trio gained a little more daylight this time and their move finally spelled the end of the day at the front for Boasson Hagen.  As the chasers finally began to organise themselves in pursuit of the lone Austrian the gap was sitting at almost 11 minutes and a split had occurred in the break, with Sicard, Martin, Boasson Hagen and Delaplace falling behind slightly.

After initially looking like he might be caught quickly though, Pöstlberger extended his lead to almost 40 seconds with 31km to go as the rest of the break united again in pursuit.  Eventually a pursuit group formed, breaking away from the rest with Benoot, Impey, Tratnik, Soler, Stuyven, Roche going after the BORA-Hansgrohe rider.  With 20km to go the chasers had 23 seconds to make up and they were closing.  It was on the climb of the Cote de Saint-Just that the catch was finally made with 15.2km remaining.

Not content to sit up and wait Benoot moved to the front, but it was an attack from Nicolas Roche that triggered further animation as Stuyven went in immediate pursuit of the Irishman.  After looking vulnerable Benoot shook the rest of the break off of his wheel as he caught up with Roche; and the two pressed on with 1.7km to go to the top of the climb.  Behind them Oliver Naesen, Jasper Stuyven and Daryl Impey had them in their sights with Tratnik in no man’s land between them.

Julian Alaphilippe survived another day in the yellow jersey, photo Sirotti

Impey was the strongest of the chasers though, dropping the others and catching Benoot and Roche with 300m to go.  Having made the catch the South African drilled the leading group in an effort to shake things up a little.  The trio had a potentially race-winning gap, but Roche’s days were numbered and he finally cracked with just over 8km to go; leaving Benoot out in front.  

Meanwhile the action in the peloton sprung to life as AG2R La Mondiale attacked courtesy of Tony Gallopin and Romain Bardet.  They were pursued by George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma and Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo.  It was a valiant move to gain time, but it afforded Bennett an opportunity to potentially take the yellow jersey from Alaphilippe.

But it was not Deceuninck-Quick Step who were in control of the peloton now, it was Ineos.  They didn’t see the Bennett, Porte, Bardet trio as a move that they could allow to go free and in spite of the intensity from Bardet the catch was made with 5.7km to go.  Ahead of them with 5km to go Benoot and Impey had 17 seconds in hand.

With 4km to go the gap from Tiesj Benoot and Daryl Impey had reduced slightly to 13 seconds; but looked promising.  It was looking like Impey was putting in the lion’s share of the work.  Benoot came through though to support the move and keep clear of Stuyven, Roche, Soler, Naesen and Tratnik.  With 2km to go the gap was 17 seconds and the pair were sharing the load reasonably well but it was Impey who was looking likely to lead out as they went under 1km to go.

Daryl Impey on the podium after winning his first Tour de France stage, photo Sirotti

With 500m to go Benoot still had second wheel as Impey began to look around, hugging the right hand side.  With 200m to go Benoot struck but Impey came through comfortably to take the stage with Tratnik taking third place a few seconds later.

Steadily the remnants of the break filtered through the finish line as Team Ineos led the way towards the line with 9km left to race.  The intensity had gone out of the main field though, with George Bennett sat on the back of the bunch in what finally turned into a processional finish.

Sure enough the peloton sat up and cruised to the finish, crossing the line 16.25mins behind Impey.  With no threats to the overall standings, however, there was no change to anything until 28th place in the overall standings.  Bennett remained 4th at 1.10mins.

Tom Scully of EF Education First finished safely in the grupetto alongside the likes of Alexander Kristoff, Dylan Groenewegen and Caleb Ewan.  He may get an opportunity to shine in the stage 13 individual time trial in four stages’ time.

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