It was not the expected major shakedown, but the riders’ faces told a story of suffering as most of the main Tour de France favourites stayed in contention after a much-feared stage nine Sunday.
The 156.5-km route from Arras featured 21.7km of cobbled sections, in which the climbers had to grind their way to the finish.
There were scares and crashes, but defending champion Chris Froome, his lieutenant Geraint Thomas as well as Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, twice runner-up Nairo Quintana, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali all escaped unhurt.
Only Australian Richie Porte crashed out after 10km and last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran lost one minute 28 seconds on the favourites’ group after hitting the ground.
“It’s a big relief to get through that stage, the guys did a great job keeping me and Geraint safe, chapeau to them. I’m looking forward to the rest day tomorrow,” said Froome, who finished 27 seconds behind stage winner John Degenkolb.
“The GC [general classification] guys got through. Richie crashed out before the first section, it’s never nice to see a rival go like that.”
The four-times champion crashed on a cobbled section but on the side of the road and he was quickly back in the main bunch.
“[My teammate] Gianni [Moscon] went down in front of me and I just went over the top,” Froome said.
“It was a stressful day, I’m just grateful we got through. I had a bit of a tumble but I got back and finished with most of the GC guys.”
Overall, Froome lies eighth, one minute 42 seconds behind Belgian Greg van Avermaet, who is expected to lose his yellow jersey on Tuesday when the peloton hits the mountains, and six seconds ahead of Nibali.
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Belgian Classics star Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) will fight until the last to hold on to the yellow jersey in the Tour de France in order to honour the jersey. Van Avermaet rode the cobbles to Roubaix with ease in stage nine, but many thought that he would lose the lead in the first...