Tour de France 2018: John Degenkolb wins in Roubaix after day of carnage on the cobbles
John Degenkolb outsprinted the maillot jaune Greg Van Avermaet to win a dramatic and crash-strewn Stage 9 of the Tour de France.
The German puncheur had been knocking on the door of a result in the past week, with solid showings in the more traditional sprint stages, but this – the much-vaunted ‘Roubaix stage’ – played to his strengths completely. With 500m to go, Van Avermaet (BMC) and Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) were clearly looking to Degenkolb to lead out the sprint, but even with the positional advantage neither was fast enough to outstrip the 2015 Paris-Roubaix champion.
Second place in the sprint and the associated time bonuses extend Van Avermaet's lead in the yellow jersey, with most of the general classification positions remaining unchanged in relation to one another. The Belgian is not expected to defend his jersey once the race hits the mountains on Tuesday.
It was a punishing day for the peloton, with crashes on seemingly every secteur of cobbles. The most impactful of them all however came before the race had set a single tyre on the pavé. Richie Porte (BMC), much fancied for the overall competition this year, tumbling out of the race after a pile-up just minutes into the stage. The Tasmanian was visibly emotional at having his race cut short so cruelly.
From then, it was an endless succession of crashes and desperate chase backs, with team leaders Chris Froome (Team Sky), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) all hitting the deck at some point. Romain Bardet (AG2R) had a particularly torrid time of things, repeatedly having to change bikes, wait for new wheels after punctures and generally exert a huge amount of energy just to stay in contention. He eventually finished in the pack, but will rue having used up such a huge amount of effort to do so.
EF Education First-Drapac, p/b Cannondale's Rigoberto Uran was the day's biggest loser, conceding 1'55" to Degenkolb and 1'28 to his GC rivals after a couple of crashes. The work of his team mates, particularly cobbled-specialists Taylor Phinney and Sep Vanmarcke, proving not to be quite enough to keep him in touch. Uran faces an uphill battle to regain time and will be looking to put this stage firmly behind him.
The day's break consisted of ten riders, with attacks flying from the moment the flag dropped. L. Calmejane, J. Cousin & D. Gaudin (Direct Energie), O. Fraile (Astana), C. Haga (Sunweb), R. Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), A. Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo), O. Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ), T. De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), N. Edet (Cofidis) were the brave esapists. Janse Van Rensburg and Gaudin were the last to be caught, sharing a congratulatory handshake at 19km to go.
Apart from his crash, Chris Froome largely stayed clear of trouble – as did team-mate Geraint Thomas, who looked more comfortable than most on the brutal French pavé.
Porte was not the only rider to withdraw after the early crash, with key Movistar domestique, Jose Joaquin Rojas, also abandoning the race. Tony Martin (Katusha Alpecin) did not start the stage after a crash yesterday proved to have left him with two fractured vertebrae.
Tomorrow the Tour takes a rest day, the first of this year's edition, before three incredibly tough days in the Alps. Join us at 12pm on Tuesday on Eurosport 1.
Words by Tom Owen