Rigoberto Uran won a crash-filled stage of the Tour de France in dramatic fashion on Sunday. The Colombian, riding with only two gears due to a late race mechanical issue, won a six-up sprint in Chambéry. To add to the drama, the race jury required finish line photos to declare Uran the winner ahead of Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb).
The stage nine victory is Uran’s first Tour de France stage win and his first victory in Cannondale-Drapac #GreenArgyle.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Uran. “I didn’t think it was true. I was actually leaving for anti-doping control when they told me I had won. It’s a huge surprise for me.
“When there was the crash of Richie Porte and Dan Martin, Martin hit my gear and broke it,” Uran added. “I did the whole descent with a broken gear, and I was thinking that I had to find a way to save the day.”
Save the day he did. The descent off Mont du Chat concluded with around 14-kilometers still to race. Uran’s derailleur hanger was bent, and his shifting was broken when he paid a visit to the Mavic neutral support car where Mavic mechanic Max Ruphy put the chain in the biggest gear, the 11. Uran was left with two gear options: 53/11 and 39/11
“When we knew we had the problem with the rear derailleur, first we made the decision to go to the line with the bike like that,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius. “He could have stopped within the last three kilometres and changed his bike and gotten the same time, but we wanted to win.
“Without the ability to change gears, he needed a long sprint,” Wegelius added. “We told him to go for a long one. We gave him the information about where to be. He did great.”
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) opened the sprint at 350 meters. First Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) burst past Fuglsang. Then Uran jumped in front of them both. Meters before the finish, Barguil pulled alongside Uran. The Dutchman celebrated across the line.
“I saw the TV pictures, saw Barguil raise his hand,” said Wegelius. “Then literally seconds later came the text message from Tissot timing with the Tour results. We get those every day, and it said Uran had won. I believed it, but Andreas [Klier] wasn’t so sure. We just kind of sat there quietly for a few moments. It was intense.”
“It’s the Tour de France. It’s the biggest race in the world. To win here is a huge accomplishment,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “This means a tremendous amount to our entire organization. I couldn’t be prouder of this team at every level. The staff and the riders deserve this. I’m so happy for them. For us.”
Before the descent, the crashes, the mechanical issues and the winning sprint, there were seven climbs, including three hors categorie mountains, to master. Uran conserved in the peloton as his teammates went on the attack. Dylan van Baarle and Pierre Rolland made up a large breakaway group that escaped on the category two climb that began from kilometer zero.
Rolland and Van Baarle lost pace with the leaders over the hors category Col de la Biche. By this point, the peloton had been halved and was seven minutes behind the leaders.
The descent off Col de la Biche further split the breakaway, further thinned the field and saw several key riders crash on the wet pavement. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) exited the race with a broken collarbone.
Up and over the Grand Colombier, only five riders from the original 40 front-runners remained ahead of the peloton. Uran looked comfortable, as comfortable as anyone can possibly look up the Colombier, as the lone Canondale-Drapac representative in a 15-strong yellow jersey group.
The stage was only halfway done.
The race settled into a semi-truce on the gentle roads between the Colombier and Mont du Chat – the only relatively uneventful portion of the 181-kilometer stage – which allowed both the leading group and the yellow jersey group to swell in size.
Uran hit the base of Mont du Chat with two teammates in Rolland and Andrew Talansky. Attacks from the yellow jersey group quickly dispatched those that had lost contact earlier. Barguil, from the early breakaway, reached the summit 25-seconds ahead of the first chase of seven: Porte, Martin, Bardet, Fuglsang, Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (Astana).
Porte crashed heavily on the Mont du Chat descent, bouncing from one side of the road to the other and taking out Martin in the process. Martin bumped into Uran, who managed to stay upright.
Martin was able to scramble back on his bike. Porte was stretchered off the road and into an ambulance.
Bardet risked all in pursuit of Barguil and was rewarded with the catch as the descent ended. The Frenchman didn’t linger long and dropped Barguil on the flat run-in to the finish. Uran, Froome, Aru and Fuglsang caught Barguil with six kilometers remaining and Bardet at the two kilometer mark.
The stage was set for Uran to contend for his first Tour de France stage win.
“Any race is full of emotion,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “This one, you know, I was pumped as hell when I saw Rigo going over the top with the first few guys, and when he almost crashed, almost had his derailleur ripped off, I thought: ‘Shit. The black cat strikes again.’
“But the difference between Rigo and pretty much every other bike racer I’ve ever met in my life is Rigo never loses his cool,” said Vaughters. “And that’s why he won today. Even though he had this major mechanical, he never lost his cool for one second. I was nervous. He wasn’t. And that was all the difference in the end.”
With the stage win, Uran picked up a 10-second bonus and an eight place jump on the general classification. The 30-year-old heads into the rest day sitting in fourth place overall, 54-seconds down on Froome.
“It’s a big move up on the general classification,” said Uran. “It was a really good day for me, and there is a lot of Tour still to come.”
Uran’s win at the end of the first week of the Tour is a well-deserved victory for Cannondale-Drapac. The team in green has spent the opening stages on the attack and up the road.
“It was an awesome moment when I found out Rigo had won,” said road captain Simon Clarke. “Everyone has seen the nine stages of work that every rider on this team has put in. Rigo’s win today was a reward for all of that effort. Every day, whichever rider was meant to go into the break, committed 100% to that team plan. I was sure that if we did exactly the team plan every day it would pay off. It could have been any day. Today was the one.”