Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) took an electric solo victory in Châtel on stage 9 of the 2022 Tour de France, holding off a relentless chase from Thibaut Pinot (Groupama–FDJ) who finished in fourth place, with Ineos’ Jonathan Castroviejo taking second place and Carlos Verona (Movistar) rounding off the podium in third.
Pinot was Jungels’ biggest threat of the day when he tried to bridge to the lone attacker on the stage’s major first-category climb of Pas de Morgins, the summit of which fell 10km ahead of the finish.
In a stunning game of cat and mouse, Pinot sat roughly 30 seconds behind Jungels leading into the summit - crossing just 24 second behind Jungels, but Pinot could not make use of the descent to bridge back to the rider from Luxembourg.
On the final ascent of Châtel les Portes du Soleil, Pinot continued to sit a narrow 30 seconds behind the AG2R Citroën rider, but was overwhelmed by chasers Castroviejo and Verona, who ebbed away at his 20-second margin. The duo sprinted past him in the final 500m of the ascent.
As minor consolation, Pinot snagged the polka dot climbers’ jersey for his efforts through the summit of Pas de Morgins.
Jungels spent a long day by himself out front, having made his solo attack just over 60km from the finish, and he continued solo for the majority of the stage’s jagged final third - save for a brief few kilometres where Simon Geschke (Cofidis) bridged to him over Col de la Croix, before Jungels dropped the German rider.
Behind the top finishers, yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished in fifth place alongside key rival Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). The two were only 9 seconds behind Pinot while also putting a 3-second gap into Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in seventh, who finished amongst the other major GC players.
“It's hard to say what I feel right now. I'm just overwhelmed,” said Jungels after the stage finish. “This is huge, this is what I came here for. I know this means a lot for the team.”
Jungels also spoke about his challenging few years, after suffering with arterial endofibrosis, and a series of incidents with crashes.
“After a couple of years struggling, a very tough last year with surgeries, also to take the victory this way - it's my style of racing, my style of taking the victories - so I’m just super happy,” he said.
Speaking about his chase with Pinot, Jungles said, “It reminded me a lot of my victory from Liège, it was the same with Jelle Vanendert that day, he came back.“I knew that if I was going to make it over the top on the flat and the downhill I knew I could make up some time. I just kept my rhythm… The last kilometres were endless. I'm just grateful.”
How it unfolded
The second day of racing in Switzerland was a far more mountainous affair with the climbers and stage hunters happy to finally be heading into the Alps after a tough week of racing in Denmark and northern France.
The sun was shining in Aigle and UCI President David Lappartient was on hand as the stage visited the UCI offices and World Cycling Centre velodrome before the long loop east of Lake Geneva.
COVID-19 continued to cast a shadow over the race, with the UCI ruling that Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) could not continue after he tested positive on Sunday morning. He was the third rider forced out of the race, with other cases amongst team staff. Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-EasyPost) also did not start, leaving 165 riders in the race.
The peloton split as soon as the flag dropped and the stage blasted along the shores of Lake Geneva.
Mattia Cattaneo (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) was one of the first to attack after also being in the break on Saturday. Others soon joined him as groups formed and were caught.
A crash slowed the bunch, with Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) left with lots of road rash and holes in his jersey. Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën Team) was also suffering due to his muscle problem and struggling out the back of the peloton.
The Cote de Bellevue climb began after 30km and helped the breakaway of the day finally go away, with Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) moving first in a clear tactical move from the British team and taking the sole KOM point available at the top.
UAE Team Emirates responded with Brandon McNulty, as Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) also came across a little later to target the intermediate sprint points. The peloton let them go, blocking the road as they climbed, and suddenly a 21-rider attack was clear.
In the move were McNulty, Castroviejo, Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost), Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Luis León Sánchez (Bahrain Victorious), Carlos Verona (Movistar), Patrick Konrad, Nils Politt (both Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Geschke, Ion Izagirre (both Cofidis), Kobe Gossens (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Guy Niv, Hugo Houle (both Israel-PremierTech), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels - KTM), Benoît Cosnefroy, Bob Jungels (both AG2R Citroën) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies).
However, UAE Team Emirates took up the chase to defend the yellow jersey when the gap went past 3:30 and made Urán the virtual race leader.
Van Aert lead the break through the intermediate sprint after 60km and the 13.3km Col de Mosses climb soon appeared in front of them. The climb hurt the peloton more than the break, with Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Max Walscheid (Cofidis) distanced. Lotto Soudal sent back several riders to help Ewan survive the day.
Houle attacked 700 metres from the top of the Col des Mosses but was countered by Latour and then by Geschke, who took the maximum points as some in the break began to fight for the polka-dot jersey. The gap to the peloton was 3:40, with UAE Team Emirates in charge.
The Col de la Croix came quickly on the ride back to Aigle and the 8.1km climb was another battle for the KOM points.
Latour made the first attack, with Konrad on his wheel. However, Jungels wanted to play a part, too, and got away alone as others paced their effort. Near the summit Geschke cleverly jumped across and beat Jungels to the line to score more points and become the virtual KOM, ending Magnus Cort's weeklong reign in the polka dots.
The peloton was only 2:17 behind at the summit after some solid pacing by Marc Soler for Pogacar, while O'Connor was timed at over ten minutes, amongst the sprinters and the growing gruppetto.
On the descent, Jungels took huge risks and touched 100 kph to go clear alone. The Luxembourger was on a mission and chasing the stage victory. He used his time trial skills and huge power on the valley road to extend his lead on the break to 1:30 and to 2:45 on the Pogačar peloton. His AG2R team car also helped him, often coming up alongside him to protect him from the crosswind, with 30km to go.
The 15.4km Pas de Morgins soon began, with Jungels going deep to fight the gradient to try to stay away. Behind the peloton was also moving at speed and Rafał Majka and George Bennett soon took over on the front of the peloton. They also had McNulty up the road in the break.
Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) was the first GC contender to be dropped due to UAE Team Emirates' pace and the front group was soon reduced to the strongest 20.
Bennett's pace ate into the break's lead, as Van Aert was distanced from the break. Urán and others would crack soon after, while Pinot realised it was time to make his move. He started his solo pursuit of Jungels and soon reduced the 1:30 gap on the AG2R rider.
The Pas de Morgins road is wide and smooth, the gradient helping Pinot chase Jungels up the climb. The race crossed into France as Pinot closed the gap to 30 seconds but then he struggled to get closer, apparently running out of gas and climbing. Behind only Verona and Castroviejo were left from the break and were timed at 40 seconds.
UAE Team Emirates were riding in pursuit, opting to set a high pace as their best GC defence. It worked, with injured Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) dropped, as Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) also suffered. The Russian would lose another 1:16.
Pinot was cheered up the climb by the French fans as he chased Jungels but Verona and Castroviejo were also in a tense pursuit match. The peloton was at 1:50, enough to allow the break to fight for the honours.
Despite being on the attack for 50km, Jungels refused to give up. He held a 25-second gap as he reached the summit with 10km to go and scored vital KOM points. However, Geschke fought back to score 2 points at the summit to take the polka-dot jersey on the Châtel podium.
Jungels powered down the descent to the French ski resort. with Pinot struggling and desperate at 20 seconds. The final kilometres climbed up to the finish line, creating a final mountain pursuit match between Jungels and Pinot. Jungels managed to stay away and win.
Both deserved the win after their effort and their troubles in the last two years but cycling is a cruel sport and only one could win. Today it was Jungels and AG2R Citroën, leaving Pinot and Groupama-FDJ defeated and distraught.
The Frenchman was also caught by Verona and Castroviejo before the finish to only take fourth. His only slight consolation was taking the Prix de la Combativité as the fans sang his name.
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