“One of my worst days on a bike“. A few moments after crossing the finish line in Tignes, Sunday July 4, Nacer Bouhanni summed up the general opinion of a peloton exhausted by the elements on the road to the Alpine resort.”I had already spent a day in the snow on the Giro, but now I’m really tired. Intensity level, it was hellish“added the Arkea-Samsic sprinter.
The rain, almost uninterrupted all day long, the temperatures flirting with six degrees at the top of Cormet de Roselend, the wind and the mist froze the bodies and bruised the minds of the riders of the Tour de France on the 144.9 kilometers of this 9th stage between Cluses and Tignes.
We knew it before the start: the weather conditions were going to be catastrophic. From the real start at 1:10 p.m. to the arrival of winner Ben O’Connor at 5:37 p.m., the asphalt roads have never given up their mirror of water. A soggy road surface which, fortunately, had the merit of not causing massive falls within the peloton as in the leading group. A small miracle.
Clearly, the climb to Tignes does not suit the Grande Boucle. In 2019, a hailstorm and mudslides before the ascent led the organizers to stop the stage before reaching the resort. The future winner Egan Bernal then stole the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe. This Sunday, no such incredible scenario but rather similar scenes of suffering resurfaced.
In the ascent of the Col du Pré (12.6 kilometers at 7.7%), the third of the five on the program, the image of a frozen Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) having trouble moving forward necessarily marked the spirits. Forced to mark time behind the yellow jersey peloton, he was not the only one to be in difficulty. During this 9th stage, three riders gave up: Jasper de Buyst (Lotto-Soudal), Nans Peters (AG2R Citroën) and Tim Merlier (Alpecin Fenix). Mathieu van der Poel had retired before the start, undoubtedly anxious to avoid a difficult exit in the incessant rain.
Further proof of these dire conditions, the Tour caravanners, who precede the peloton’s procession, spent most of the stage inside the vehicles, well sheltered from the bitter cold. The runners, for their part, waited for the final ramps towards Tignes (21 kilometers at 5.6%) to gradually discover themselves, abandoning jackets and gloves, the only ramparts against unfavorable mercury.
Because there is the real temperature and that felt, with the rain and the wind. And the latter hit the men on the bike head-on. The scenes of runners having difficulty eating, opening the packaging of their energy bars, also testified to a difficult day.
“My legs were paralyzed, I finished as best I could”Julian Alaphilippe
Deceuninck Quick Step
Finally, it was enough to take a look at the cold-swollen faces on arrival at Tignes to realize the efforts made. Author of a beautiful 4th place this Sunday, the Cofidis rider Guillaume Martin was one of the first to react: “I am really cold, I have a hard time getting dressed. Clearly, I suffered from the cold today”, he explained. Shortly after, it was Julian Alaphilipe, his eyelids swollen from the cold, who explained his ordeal. “It was super hard, I didn’t think so much. It was six degrees at the top of Cormet de Roselend, I had to stop to change my clothes. My legs were paralyzed, I ended up like I could”.
Among the sprinters, even in the gruppetto it was difficult to reach the finish. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) cried, thanking his teammates for accompanying him to the end and on time. But behind the gruppetto, seven riders were not so lucky, including Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ). If they overcame the appalling conditions of the day, they ran into unforgiving delays and therefore left the route of the Tour de France.
Even Tadej Pogacar (UAE), firmly attached to his place of leader in the general after a new banderilla towards Tignes, is waiting for better days: “The yellow jersey keeps me warm, fortunately because it is really cold. I especially hope that the weather will be nice tomorrow. (Monday) for the day off “.