Anthony Turgis denies Tom Pidcock to take Tour de France stage-nine victory

Anthony Turgis denied Tom Pidcock victory on the line in Troyes at the end of a dusty, chaotic stage nine of the Tour de France on the gravel roads of Champagne country.

Turgis and Pidcock were in a group of riders who spent virtually all of the 199km stage in a breakaway and it came down to a reduced sprint, with Pidcock slamming his handlebars in frustration after coming within metres of a second career Tour stage.

Behind, race leader Tadej Pogacar tested the mettle of his general classification rivals several times on the 14 gravel sections which characterised the day, with Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic all having issues at different times.

France Cycling Tour de France
Tadej Pogacar, wearing the yellow jersey, tried a number of attacks on the dusty gravel sectors (Bernard Papon/AP)

But by the end there were no time gaps between the main contenders as they crossed the line a little under two minutes after Turgis.

The inclusion of a stage featuring some 32 kilometres of gravel sectors – full of jeopardy for those targeting yellow – caused great controversy in the build-up to the Tour but there was no doubting the entertainment value.

An almighty battle to get into the breakaway led to a rapid pace from the off and things rarely settled down for the next four-and-a-half hours.

Pidcock missed the initial split but hooked up with Irishman Ben Healy to make the bridge after the first gravel sector, making it a 12-strong group out in front.

Their advantage grew to two-and-a-half minutes early on but then soon tumbled as Roglic lost ground behind splits at the back of the main peloton in the early gravel sectors, prompting Pogacar to attack in a bid to put his fellow Slovenian into trouble.

A mechanical issue forced Vingegaard to take the bike of his team-mate Jan Tratnik, and such was the pace that he would never be able to change back before the finish.

Pogacar and Evenepoel continued to try attacks over the last 100km, and at one point they joined the breakaway group.

But every time they had gone forward Vingegaard was able to respond without being willing to contribute himself, effectively neutralising the moves. The main contenders dropped back, allowing Roglic to recover, and leaving the rest of the breakaway to contest the stage.

Jasper Stuyven tried a late attack but was caught inside the final kilometre before Turgis won the sprint.

Pidcock has prospered on the gravel roads of Strade Bianche before but admitted this stage had been a real test.

France Cycling Tour de France
It was a first career Tour stage win for Anthony Turgis (Molly Darlington/PA)

“This morning I was less than 57 kilos so when you’re average 280 watts for four-and-a-half hours, it’s quite a lot,” the Yorkshireman said.

“It was kind of an ideal scenario for me. I knew Stuyven would be the strongest one if he went. I was hoping that the guys would respond from behind and it’s always difficult to let that play out, but you’ve always got to understand that everyone in that group is also there to win.”

Going into Monday’s rest day, Pogacar leads overall by 33 seconds from Evenepoel, with Vingegaard third at one minute 15 seconds, and Roglic fourth a further 21 seconds back.

“I was not expecting the gravel to be so (rough),” Pogacar said. “There was a lot of rock and it was difficult to ride on…

“I was watching Remco and he was watching me so we went together, but it was a fun day.”

Before the start of the stage, there was a moment of silence at the start line in memory of Andre Drege, the Norwegian cyclist who died aged 25 after a crash at the Tour of Austria on Saturday.