41km to go: The teams of various sprinters are getting their ducks in a row near the front of the bunch ahead of the peloton. Peter Sagan is in the green jersey, seven points ahead of Ireland’s Sam Bennett. There are 20 points available for the winner of the intermediate sprint, plus another 50 for the winner of the stage.
AN EMAIL: “Pont of order,” writes Brian Holt, following my apparent misidentification of a bridge. “Viaduc de Martrou, not Pont de Ré.”
49km to go: It’s only a few kilometres to the intermediate sprint with the peloton tightly bunched at the front but strung out at the back.
56km to go: Cofidis rider Guillaume Martin makes it back to the sanctuary of the peloton.
60km to go: Cofidis leader Martin Guillaume took a spill and is currently being paced back to the bunch by several teammates.
B&B Hotels–Vital Concept rider Bryan Coquard also went down and appears to have hurt his back by landing on his race radio, as well as cutting his elbow. He took something from the race doctor for the pain in his back and in is now trying to get back in touch with the bunch.
63km to go: Twisting roads through towns and villages with plenty of street furniture are making for a very twitchy and nervous peloton. One rider, I think it’s UAE Team Emirates’ David De La Cruz looks like’s he’s just cycled through a coal cellar and several barbed wire fences. He’s covered in grime and his duds are ripped – I’m having difficulty making out his race number.
64km to go: Another crash and another 15 or 20 riders go down after one of their number clips a traffic island. None seem seriously hurt, but plenty need mechanical assistance.
70km to go: The riders have gone through the feed zone and are taking some sustenance on board. A couple at the front raise their hands to signal the presence of road furniture in the form of a couple of traffic islands ahoy!
74km to go: Nicolas Roche took a heavy fall in that most recent crash, but there’s no word yet that he’s abandoned. I can only conclude he has soldiered on until I hear otherwise.
77km to go: The peloton continues to barrel along at a fairly sedate pace to that of earlier. At the back, Trek-Segafredo rider Toms Skuijns is getting rolling repairs on some cuts he sustained in a fall. His shorts are in tatters. It looks like he’s wearing lycra chaps.
An email: “Has anybody within the organisation of the Tour de France (or any of the participants) had any thoughts on the supporters without face-masks lining the sides of the road, sometimes yelling into the cyclists faces from a foot away?” asks Simone Kamp. “It’s inexcusable and an absolute miracle that none of the cyclists has tested positive.”
It is indeed inexcusable, Simone. And selfish, and thoughtless … but that’s people for you. Plenty of riders have had lots to say about it, but nothing seems to have been done. I’m not sure what can be done.
As for it being a miracle none of the riders tested positive – call me a cynic, but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t really believe in miracles when it comes to cyclists undergoing tests of various kinds and getting negative results. I still laugh about all the abuse I used to get from Lance fanboys writing in to criticise my scepticism back in the days when he was a regular fixture in these live dispatches. I don’t think he ever failed a test either. At least, not officially.
89km to go: The peloton has reassembled and will negotiate a turn that will take them into a headwind in a kilometre or so.
92km to go: Mitchelton-Scott rider Sam Bewley abandons on his debut Tour. As I said previously, it looked to me like he might have broken his wrist. He was standing on the roadside, clutching it gingerly and roaring in a mixture of frustration and pain.
96km to go: Cofidis, Jumbo-Visma and Groupama-FDJ are riding hard at the front of the peloton, where all the main GC contenders are safely ensconced. Neilson Powless, Mads Pedersen, Nico Roche, Robert Gesink and Sam Bewley were all caught in that crash.
97km to go: Mitchelton-Scott rider Sam Bewley also looks bashed up, like he might have broken his wrist. Other medical opinions are available.
99km to go: There’s a crash in the lead bunch and about 20 riders hit the deck, the riders going down across the road like dominos. Team Sunweb’s Irish rider Nicolas Roche is one of the fallers and looks a bit shook.
100km to go: The peloton has fractured into three distinct groups, but nobody of any significance appears to have been caught out. Thibaut Pinot is in a small group off the back but won’t care too much as he’s well out of contention.
102km to go: The peloton has taken a right turn into a crosswind and was briefly strung out in single file and broken up. Deceuninck-Quick-Step are at the front, making the pace. Our two-man breakaway is about to be caught.
109km to go: The peloton is on a wide stretch of road, allowing everyone to take their chance to get to the front. On ITV, former Sky rider Pete Kennaugh describes it as a washing-machine effect, with each new set of riders getting to the front prompting those they’ve left behind to pedal even faster to try to overtake them before the road gets more narrow. The gap is in to 36 seconds.
111km to go: The peloton is going at a ferocious lick as the wind whips up a bit, with everyone desperate to be at the front.
114km to go: Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teams have been at the front of the peloton from the gun, conspicuous on the right-hand side of the road in their yellow and black jerseys. The gap is 1min 06sec.
Name that breakaway: “Kung and Schar – a sublime deep house duo responsible for a slew of classic releases on Strictly Rhythm much favoured by Lil Louie Vega back in the day,” writes Chris Collinson.
117km to go: A very tight rein indeed. The gap is now under a minute. The average speed for the first hour of the race was 49km per hour. The reason? The teams of GC riders are all eager to stay at the front just in case of winds that might splinter the peloton.
124km to go: Messrs Kung and Schar are being kept on a tight rein by the peloton, who are just 1min 26sec behind them.
133km to go: Today’s stage isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems. While the wind blowing in from the Atlantic could wreak minor or major havoc if it’s whipped up, the peloton will be passing through several small towns and villages today that aren’t particularly well equipped for the Tour.
Focus and concentration will be required as there’ll be lots of narrow streets boasting roundabouts and other street furniture to negotiate.
135km to go: The stage is flatter than a pint of lager that’s been left out in the sun for three days, the wind is low, the temperature is a warm 24 degrees celsius and the average speed of the riders is 52km per hour. The gap between our two-man breakaway and the bunch is 1min 45sec.
149km to go: Kung and Schar are still together, having opened a gap of 1min 41sec over the bunch.
More on Christian Prudhomme’s positive covid-19 test: While the race director is obliged under French law to self-isolate for seven days, so is anyone who has come into contact with him in recent days.
While Prudhomme wasn’t in the official Tour bubble, despite his duties as official daily starter, he is a great PR man who is never slow when it comes to shaking hands and chatting to people. One of those who has definitely been in contact with him in recent days is the French prime minister, Jean Castex, who spent all day Saturday in a car with Prudhomme.
An early attack: Two Swiss riders, Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Schar (CCC) have peeled off the front of the bunch and opened a gap of 1min 02sec as they cross the Oleron Bridge, which is nearly three kilometres long.
Another withdrawal: NTT rider Domenico Pozzovivo has not started today’s stage, having failed to recover sufficiently from injuries he suffered in the chaotic opening stage of this year’s race.
“I didn’t want to leave the Tour without seeing if my body could recover during the course of the race but the pain every day has been incredible,” he said. “Added to that the risk of crashing again and causing even greater harm is simply too great. I’m going to focus now on recovering as quickly as possible and then look towards my next goal which will be hopefully the Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve tried to give my absolute best and have had incredible support from my team here for which I want to thank everyone involved. I wish them all the very best for the rest of the race.”
Well, you can’t say he didn’t give himself every chance. Pozzovivo becomes the 11th rider to leave this year’s Tour for one reason or another, leaving 165 in the field.
The weather: It’s 24 degrees celsius with barely a breeze in Ile d’Oleron. Wit much of today’s stage being along the coast, cross-winds could wreak havoc should they materialise. I attended a fairly similar stage that finished in Zeeland in the Netherlands in 2015, where the wind caused all kinds of problems for the riders on only their second day of that year’s race.
The riders roll-out: And will travel around seven kilometres from Château d’OIéron before being given the signal to start racing. In the absence of Christian Prudhomme, who will now have to self-isolate for seven days after testing positive for Covid-19, Francois Lemarchand will take his place in the lead car.
These Tour Covid-19 tests: After an initial declaration that nobody had tested positive, it’s since been revealed that four teams have had a member of their backroom staff leave the Tour bubble. Race director Christian Prudhomme is also being widely reported to have tested positive. The riders are due to roll out for today’s stage in about 20 minutes.
But what about the race director?
There are unconfirmed whisperings from France that race director Christian Prudhomme is not at the start this morning because he has tested positive for Covid-19. Reports suggest he is being re-tested. Should he test positive again, somebody else will need to do the important job of emerging from the sun-roof of the official Tour Skoda to wave a flag and signal to the riders to start racing.
Race director Christian Prudhomme’s thoughts on today’s stage: Two islands linked by a stage of the Tour, that’s already a first for the peloton that will find it hard to make it bunched to Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
The stage will be marked by the Vauban buildings in Royan, Rochefort or La Rochelle, but also by a course mainly set by the sea… and the crossing of marshlands swept by wind.
The top 10 on General Classification
Primoz Roglic has the yellow jersey and a 21-second lead, but only 2min 31sec separate the top 13 riders in a very tight affair.
Stage nine recap
Adam Yates lost his grip on the yellow jersey as Slovenian cyclists swept the board in the second of the Pyrenean stages in this year’s Tour de France, writes Jeremy Whittle.
All teams clear to ride after Covid-19 tests
Team managers had a nervous wait until 9am this morning before checking their email inboxes for the results of the Covid-19 tests they, their riders and support staff underwent during yesterday’s rest day. A French government diktat any team that returned two positives from its riders or support would be chucked off the Tour.
In a joint ASO-UCI statement, it was revealed that no riders had tested positive for Covid-19 but one staff member from each of Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale, Ineos and Mitchelton Scott have tested positive and left the race bubble. A technical service provider has also tested positive and left the race.
Stage 10: Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré (170km)
From William Fotheringham’s stage-by-stage guide: A transfer up the Atlantic coast for the flattest stage of the race. Bound to be a sprint finish so one for the likes of Bennett or Ewan or Viviani, but the question is whether the wind blows strongly off the sea in which case the race is likely to split and the outcome is anyone’s guess.