PUY DE DOME, France — Canadian Michael Woods charged up the Puy de Dome to beat Matteo Jorgenson to a breakaway victory on stage nine of the Tour de France as Tadej Pogacar clawed back a few more seconds on race leader Jonas Vingegaard.
Woods took almost two minutes out of Jorgenson on the steep gradients of the dormant volcano, making its first appearance in the Tour for 35 years, rounding the American with 450 metres left to take his first career Tour de France stage at the age of 36.
The two were part of a 14-strong group who had gone clear early on the 182.5km stage from Saint Leonard de Noblat, hitting the final climb with an advantage of more than 15 minutes on the peloton.
By the time the main contenders crossed the line, some nine minutes after Woods, Pogacar had put in an attack inside the last 1,500 metres to claw back eight seconds on Vingegaard, whose advantage in yellow is down to 17 seconds going into Monday’s rest day.
British duo Simon Yates and Tom Pidcock were the next riders home, with Yates recovering a little over the losses caused by a late crash on Saturday, and Pidcock putting in an encouraging ride that lifted him to seventh overall as he tests himself in the general classification.
Jai Hindley is in third place, 2 minutes, 40 seconds off the pace.
Vingegaard and Pogacar’s confrontation Sunday on the steepest part of the climb up to the Puy de Dome was not as dramatic as the duel between Anquetil and Poulidor back in 1964, when the two French rivals engaged in a “mano a mano” for the ages.
But amid silence reigning in the thin air – the road leading up to the top of the mountain is so narrow that fans had not been allowed access – the two teamed up for another epic moment, again in a class of their own, with Pogacar in the role of the attacker.
After another great collective effort from Vingegaard´s Jumbo-Visma teammates in the final ramp that destroyed the field, Pogacar launched his attack with 1.5 kilometers left and accelerated again on the steepest gradients.
Vingegaard lost ground but did not panic and managed to limit the deficit to eight seconds to retain the yellow jersey.
“It’s not a victory, but it’s a small victory, so I’m super happy,” said Pogacar, a two-time Tour champion.
Pogacar was the strongest rider up the 13.3-kilometreascent, with a speed of 23.7 kph (14.7 mph), considerably faster than Woods´ winning average of 19.8 kph (12.3 mph).
Vingegaard admitted Pogacar’s superiority on the day, but insisted the profile of the Alpine stages still to come better suit his style.
“It would have been nicer to gain than lose time on Tadej Pogacar, but as I said before, I came to the Tour knowing that the first week suited me less than what´s to come, so to be in the yellow jersey at the end of the first week satisfies me,” he said.
Woods has no ambition in the general classification and was part of the early breakaway that formed early.
He managed to catch American Matteo Jorgenson just 500 meters from the summit after his rival jumped away from the leading group with less than 50 kilometers left.
Woods then dropped Jorgenson at ease and reached the summit of the Puy de Dome, a volcanic crater in the Massif Central region of south-central France that last hosted a stage 35 years ago.
“I´m 36 years old, turning 37 this year, I´m not getting any younger,” said Woods, who also owns two stage wins at the Spanish Vuelta. “To win a Tour de France stage was my ultimate goal and I could see the window closing.”
Frenchman Pierre Latour finished the 182.5-kilometre (113-mile) stage in second place, with Matej Mohoric of Slovenia completing the podium. Jorgenson ended up fourth.
The ninth stage started in Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, where Poulidor, the grandfather of one-day race specialist Mathieu van der Poel, lived much of his life.