John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) won the dramatic 9th stage of the Tour de France, beating Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Yves Lampaert (Quickstep-Floors) in a 3-man sprint to the line in Roubaix.
All the hype and expectation built up around today’s cobbled stage of the Tour de France certainly did not disappoint with so many thrills and spills, it was difficult to keep track of proceedings at points. It took only 5 kilometers of the 156km stage before the first key moment of the stage, when one of the pre-race favourites, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) crashed out of the race.
The crash occurred when riders were attacking off the front of the peloton to form the break of the day, one of those riders was our South African, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Initially it was 5 riders that got the jump and Janse van Rensburg was in a 2nd chasing group of 5 riders. They were able to make the junction and form a strong 10-rider lead group as the race made its way to the first of 15 cobbled sectors.
The leaders reached the first cobbled sector with around a 3-minute lead and that would be about as large of a gap that they would get all stage. The peloton was keeping the pace high as teams constantly tried to keep moving their leaders forward ahead of the sectors. As expected, crashes and punctures characterized the race with the peloton constantly fracturing and then regrouping as riders chased back.
We eventually came to a point, with around 40km to go, where Janse van Rensburg’s breakaway was leading a small yellow jersey leaders group, which Edvald Boasson Hagen was also part of. The 2nd main group followed around a minute back and was also greatly reduced but our African Team managed to have Mark Cavendish, Serge Pauwels, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Julien Vermote all present in that group.
With the yellow jersey group closing in, Janse van Rensburg took the race into his hands and attacked the break, riding clear with just one other rider. The duo then pushed on, with our South African showing incredible strength to drive the break all the way to the 19km to go point, where they were then reeled back in.
It was then game on for the small front group of stage and GC favourites. On the penultimate cobble sector, Lampaert attacked and was followed by Van Avermaet and Degenkolb. With a battered and bruised group behind, they were able to open the gap to 50″ with 10km to go, and that was enough to ensure they’d decide the stage.
Behind, Janse van Rensburg gave his final bit of energy reserves up for Boasson Hagen but our Norwegian would be sprinting for 7th place, after 4 riders clipped off the front of their group in the closing kilometers. Degenkolb took an emotional victory while our Norwegian came home in 9th place for our African Team.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was nice to be sitting in the front when we had Reinardt up the road. I could just focus on keeping towards the front of the group and out of trouble. Closer to the end the winning break went and I was bit behind so I was hoping someone else would be able to bring it back but that did not happen. We’ll continue to keep trying but it was not a bad day for the team today with Reinie up the road, he did a really good ride. It was pity there was a head wind today otherwise he might have made it a lot closer to the finish.