Woods Prevails on Puy de Dome
Stage 9 of Tour de France 2023 was designed by race organizer A.S.O. as a 182.4-kilometer mountainous ride from Saint Léonard-de-Noblat to the top of the legendary Puy de Dôme volcano. Legendary French cyclist Raymond Poulidor (Pou-Pou) lived and died in Saint Léonard-de-Noblat and the Tour de France is using this opportunity to honor him.
The mythical Puy de Dome climb was last contested in the Tour de France in 1988 – a stage that was won by Denmark’s Johnny Weltz. Noteworthy previous winners on Puy de Dôme include Luis Ocana (1971, 1973), Bernard Thevenet (1971 Etoile des Espoirs), Federico Bahamontes (1959), Fausto Coppi (1952), Lucien Van Impe (1975), and Joop Zoetemelk (1976, 1978).
Puy de Dome is situated next to Clermont-Ferrand – birth town of Soudal-QuickStep’s Remi Cavagna, known as the TGV train from Clermont-Ferrand for his time trial skills.
Today’s stage was no race for time trial specialists, however, so Cavagna would have to keep his gunpowder dry and make way for the climbers in the Tour de France peloton. The stage was expected to conclude in a battle between general classification favorites such as Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). An alternative scenario would be a stage win from a long breakaway.
Action was intense from the sound of the gun. Multiple attacks were launched, and it was clear that many teams wanted to make the most of what could become a legendary Tour de France stage.
A fourteen-man group managed to establish what looked set to become the long breakaway group of the day. The riders were Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious), Clement Berthet (AG2R-Citroen), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar Team), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team), Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech), Guillaume Boivin (Israel-PremierTech), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), David de la Cruz (Astana), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), and TotalEnergies’ Mathieu Burgaudeau and Pierre Latour.
Several attempts were launched by other riders to bridge the gap to the front group. Active riders included yesterday’s stage winner Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), and Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty). All their attempts were neutralized either by the chasing peloton or competing interests between the riders.
With 150 kilometers left of today’s stage 9, the breakaway group had built a lead of five minutes. Thirty kilometers later their advantage had increased to 09:45 minutes while Jumbo-Visma were leading the main peloton.
Powless was first across the Cote de Felletin (category 4) and the Cote de Pontcharraud (category 4) and thereby gained a few valuable points for the best climber classification. He was wearing the polka-dot jersey in today’s stage as leader of the classification.
75 kilometers from the finish line the advantage of the breakaway hopefuls had increased to eleven minutes. It appeared the winner of the stage would be found among the breakaway participants.
Boivin launched an attack from the front group as the riders approached the Cote de Pontaumur (Category 3; 3.9 km; 4.8%). His attack forced Powless to spend valuable energy on chasing the Israel-PremierTech rider, while Boivin’s teammate Woods could save crucial energy for the stage finale. Despite an effortless Tour de France for most of the EF Education-EasyPost riders so far, no teammates had found the dedication and motivation to join Powless in the breakaway.
Campenaerts attacked on the Pontaumur and Mohoric countered. But Powless managed to cross the top first, while Campenaerts was second.
The action was intense in the front group and the riders fought hard to decimate the group and sort out its weaker participants. The group was split into atoms and a new front group featuring Jorgenson, Woods, Lutsenko, Gregaard and Burgaudeau formed. Once again Powless lacked the necessary support from a teammate to bridge the gap with less effort.
Jorgenson managed to form a gap in solo fashion. His lead was twenty seconds and forty-five kilometers remained. A frantic chase was launched by Campenaerts and Mohoric.
Mohoric and Burgaudeau attacked with thirty-eight kilometers left in an attempt to close the gap. Meanwhile, Jorgenson had a twenty-four second lead in front. In the main peloton, Jumbo-Visma were leading, and they were fourteen minutes behind the frontman.
De La Cruz and Powless joined the chase group. The quintet was closing in on Jorgenson. But Jorgenson again proved stronger and rebuilt his lead on the descent that was taking the riders towards the volcanic Puy de Dôme finale. Ten kilometers remained before the start of the final climb would be reached.
Jorgenson was still in the lead with two kilometers of the steep climb to the finish remaining. But Mohoric and Woods were showing great strength on the climb and Jorgenson’s lead was being peeled off as easy as peeling a lemon.
In the main peloton UAE Team Emirates had moved to the front to increase the pace and try to cause trouble for race leader Vingegaard. Pogacar was eager to use the legendary climb to reduce Vingegaard’s lead. Would Vingegaard resist Pogacar’s attack?
At the front Jorgenson’s lead had been reduced to a mere ten seconds by Woods who was riding as if he had unlimited energy. Woods passed Jorgenson whose impressive initiative during the stage was now proving worthless.
Woods crossed the line as winner of stage 9 of Tour de France 2023. Latour had delivered a strong performance in the final kilometers and managed to finish second, twenty-eight seconds behind the stage winner. Mohoric completed the stage podium. Jorgenson finished fourth, while Powless was sixth across the finish line.
Behind them the general classification favorites were entering the final part of the climb towards the finish line. Pogacar attacked with 1.6 kilometers left. Vingegaard tried to follow, but a small gap was opened. Four bike lengths separated the riders with one kilometer left.
Pogacar increased his speed. Vingegaard fought hard to keep up with the Slovenian rider but was seven seconds behind Pogacar.
Pogacar crossed the finish line eight seconds ahead of Vingegaard. Vingegaard remains general classification leader of Tour de France 2023 before the first rest day, but his lead is now reduced to seventeen seconds.
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