TDF 2024; Stage 9: Frenchman Turgis Conquers Gravel


Anthony Turgis (Total Energies) won the battle of the dirt and dust in Troyes on Sunday after a highly challenging afternoon of racing over the ‘chemins blancs’.

This demanding stage included 32km of gravel roads, broken up into demanding segments which Turgis rode brilliantly with his breakaway companions, then at the end just winning a sprint to the line ahead of Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech).

It is a first win for Turgis who is only 30, and TotalEnergies since 2017, with the previous victory for Jean-Rene Bernaudeau’s men dating back to 8th July of that year, when Lilian Calmejane won at Station des Rousses.

“I knew Jasper Stuyven was going to attack in the finale. I wanted the others to take me as far as possible,” said Turgis after the stage. “It was a question of who played it the smartest. But it’s super hard to be in the lead in the Tour de France. This victory is great for the team. We came for a stage victory and we got it.”

Sadly Jasper Stuvyen (Lidl-Trek), who had stayed away in front was caught less than 1 km from the finish and overcome by the breakaway group who immediately formed a sprint to the finish. One could almost sense a collective sigh of disappointment by all TDF viewers that he could not make it to the finish.

The Frenchman who made his country proud today also sports a full dark beard and robust head of hair, a rare occurrence at the normally closely cropped Tour de France, and may soon become a favorite of the ladies (and men) with his handsome good looks. He washed his face and hair of the gravel dust in front of rolling cameras today, perhaps much to the delight of many viewers.

The main GC favorites all finished together again, meaning that Yellow Jersey Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) is still in control overall, with no changes at the head of the general classification on the ninth day of the Tour.

Still, true to form, Pogacar tried several attacks on Stage 9–especially on the gravel sections–but was followed by his rivals, so he goes into Monday’s rest day 33” ahead of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and 1’15” in front of Jonas Vingegaard (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) in the GC rankings. It was a sight for many eyes to see the riders rolling in covered with a fine patina of white dust.

“It was pretty fun racing,”  said Pogacar after the stage. ” There was lots of sand and dust all over the place, so it was impossible to get a clear picture of the race and you just had to ride on instinct and power. I had great legs, which is great news as this was one of the hardest stages of this Tour de France.” He tested his rivals throughout the gravel sections, but admitted to Peacock TV interviewers that he did not think the gravel stage is appropriate for the Tour de France.

Vingegaard, who managed to stick with Pogacar had a mechanical and a team rider Jan Tratnik with an almost identical fit gave up his bike for the GC star midway through the fracas. It was a gesture one could only love from a cycling point of view.

The Details
173 riders took the start in Troyes at 1.15pm (French time) knowing that a challenge waited for them on a looping 199 km route, which would take in 14 sectors of ‘white roads’ extending to 32km of gravel sectors in total, before concluding again in Troyes. After several early attacks Romain Gregoire (Groupama-FDJ), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Jarrad Drizners (Lotto-dstny), Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and French champion Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) formed a breakaway which had established a 25″ advantage at km 20.

Onto the gravel
That first breakaway was soon caught and a new leading group of ten riders formed before the first gravel sector of Bligny à Bergères (km 47.3 – 2km) was reached. Powless and Gee were in that group, along with Elmar Reinders (Jayco-AlUla), Jasper Stuvyen (Lidl-Trek), Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-dstny), Oier Lazkano, Javier Romo (Movistar Team), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) and Anthony Turgis (Total Energies). They built a 45” advantage over the peloton at the end of the first gravel sector.

The breakaway grows
After the Côte de Bergères (Cat 4, km 51.7) Axel Zingle (Cofidis) and Alex Aranburu (Movistar Team) joined the front group, before Powless dropped back to try and help his teammate Ben Healy, along with Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) to make it into the lead group. Powless’ work paid off as he brought Healy and Pidcock into the front group at km 66, just before the second gravel sector of Chemin de Baroville (1.2km). Primoz Roglic was dropped on the Baroville gravel road by a group led by Visma-Lease a Bike, which also included Yellow Jersey Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step). Roglic exited gravel sector 13 behind by 30”, but a powerful response from the Slovenian from Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe brought around 30 riders back to the Pogacar group, which Visma-Lease a Bike continued to lead at the intermediate sprint marker at Fontette (IS, km 83.5). The breakaway had a 1’30” gap over the main group at Fontette, with Total Energies rider Turgis leading the escapees at the intermediate sprint.

Pogacar and Evenepoel marked by Vingegaard
Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) would experience a first moment of stress on the Hautes Forêts gravel sector (km 96.8 – 1.5km), when he suffered a mechanical problem that forced him to change bikes with his teammate Jan Tratnik to avoid being dropped from a group in which UAE Team Emirates set the pace. It would be at the exit of sector 11, Polisy to Celles-sur-Ource (km 105.2 – 3.4km) that Pogacar would launch an attack for the first time, with Evenepoel and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) responding, to counter his move. At the top of the Côte de Chacenay (Cat. 4, km 121.2), in sector 10 from Loches-sur-Ource to Chacenay (km 118.6 – 4.2km), it was Evenepoel who became the attacker. He was joined by Pogacar – who collaborated – and Vingegaard who refused to do so. The three immediately hunted down the breakaway, which had lost Powless, Lazkano and Vermeersch. However, the three favourites would soon sit up, to be caught by a group in which Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe worked to prevent any further damage for Roglic.

The peloton helps the breakaway
The activity of the top three overall allowed Pidcock, Stuvyen, Healy, Gee and Lutsenko to pull away past the rest of the breakaway and establish a new group at the front. However, Turgis, Romo and Aranburu managed to join up with them again at the head of the race on the arrival to Thieffrain à Magnant (km 140.8 – 3.9km). The complete calm in the peloton allowed the breakaway to gain traction and a group of seven riders counter attacked at km 156. They were Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty), Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Rui Costa (EF Education-EasyPost), Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech), Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X).

Stuyven came close
As the race reached Ru de Paradis (km 165.7 – 1.2km), the leading eight had a gap of 1’05” over their seven pursuers and 2’10” over the peloton. On this sector, Pogacar tried another attack that was muffled  by Visma thanks to Christophe Laporte and Matteo Jorgenson, who were supporting Vingegaard. The fight for GC gains would ultimately end in a stalemate. In the battle for the stage win the group of Girmay and Van der Poel were unable to join the leaders of the race and Stuyven attacked 11 km from the finish line to open up a gap of ten seconds. His fellow breakaway riders denied him victory by catching him inside the last km, with Turgis finally proving the strongest man at the finish.

Because of his aggressive riding with the break, Girmay now has a substantial lead in the Green Jersey.