The gravel stage 9 peloton at the 2024 Tour de France.

Fans delight as teams mop brows after surviving Tour’s gravel spectacular

Those with something to lose didn't cherish a stage that will live long in the memory.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 07.07.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images & Cor Vos
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That was a cracker, wasn’t it?

If a spirit of gravel existed for a few hours as the Tour de France provided quite the Sunday livener on a sunny afternoon in Troyes, the riders and teams of the peloton were making apotropaic marks above the gangways of their buses, or borrowing a string of garlic bulbs from any poorly stereotyped French fancy dresser-upper lurking around in the aftermath in order to try and ward off the white roads that great entertainment for the viewer and arguably undue stress for the competitors.

That’s at least the view from the teams, by which we mean almost everyone who had something to protect, rather than gain, on the Tour’s gravel stage.

“I still don’t like it in the Grand Tour,” Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Rolf Aldag said after a stage 8 spent worrying Primož Roglič could lose time after slipping off the back and fighting back on early in the race.

“[I would have] loved it also to watch it but unfortunately I’m not in the VIP seat, I’m a part of it,” Aldag continued, “and there are big investments in the teams, you know you want to leave nothing to pure luck or something. If Remco slips off at the sector … 8, or whatever, and breaks his collarbone then would he still enjoy watching it? So it did not happen besides Aleks Vlasov who crashed really hard. That could have happened in every other stage as well …”

Dust rises during stage 9 of the 2024 Tour de France.

The German DS would rather a continued separation of church and state when it comes to the three-week climber slugfest of the the Grand Tours and the one-day spectacles of Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix. Simon Yates agreed before the start, saying he thought this was supposed to be “road racing.”

“Therefore I think leave it to the experts,” Aldag offered. “Do that race in the future. Why not? These experts [specialists] do Paris-Roubaix, Strade Bianche. I still believe in the Grand Tour, I see them as critical. I have to say for the spectators, what Tadej is doing there, how Visma-Lease a Bike was reacting, it’s pretty impressive. There’s no doubt it’s entertaining so I can see why people love it.”

For Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike), a rider who is unlikely to ever gain time in these stages, and is likely still occasionally haunted by those Tour de France Roubaix antics of 2022, he has been consistent in not wanting these sorts of curveballs to act as potential speed bumps to his yellow jersey campaigns.

“I’m just happy to make it through safely and I won’t hide that I don’t think this belongs in the Tour de France,” he reiterated. “One thing is how the race is but when you do Strade Bianche, you know it before but of course I know it before here … it’s just [an] unnecessary risk to take.”

Christophe Laporte leads Jonas Vingegaard with Pogačar lurking just behind during stage 9.

One man who looked more than happy out there, literally leaving everyone else in his dust, was Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

“It was just that I like to ride on the gravel, I guess,” the yellow jersey said. “It’s in my nature, I think. Also, it’s way better to ride in the front than in the back so I tried a couple of times to make a gap, but with the headwind, it was pretty, pretty shit, so …”

We like a wrinkle, whether it be cobbles or gravel roads. More, please!

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