BRIOUDE, France — On days at the Tour de France when the top racers decide to take it easy, that’s the signal for other riders not chasing the overall title to seize the opportunity to grab the spotlight.
On Sunday, Daryl Impey was that man.
Profiting from what amounted to a go-slow among top contenders in Stage 9 who decided to chill on the hilly trek across the Massif Central mountains, Impey made sure that he was in the breakaway group of riders who scooted away after the start in Saint-Etienne. He then beat Belgian rider Tiesj Benoot in a two-man sprint at the finish in the agricultural town of Brioude.
“It’s such a lottery trying to make the break,” Impey said. “Luck was on my side.”
Favorites for the Tour title in Paris on July 28 cruised into Brioude more than 16 minutes later, so casually that some chatted and drank from water bottles. French rider Julian Alaphilippe, who’d been cheered by roadside fans celebrating France’s Bastille Day holiday, kept the race lead and there were no changes of note in the positions of other top contenders, including defending champion Geraint Thomas. He remained in fifth place, 72 seconds behind Alaphilippe.
“It’s just amazing, the support from the public,” Alaphilippe said. “It’s a day I will never forget.”
Photo: Thibault Camus / Associated Press
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After a harrowing and exhausting Stage 8, and with tough climbs to come in the Pyrenees and, later, in the Alps, top contenders took a breather on the 105.9-mile stage of undulating hills peppered with three climbs of note.
Impey is only the second South African stage winner at the Tour — Robert Hunter also won a stage in 2007.
“Magical,” Impey said. “A beautiful day.”
Impey was part of a 14-man group — later joined by a 15th rider — that rode away shortly after the stage start. Because none of the breakaway riders was a contenders for the Tour title, Alaphilippe and other top riders allowed them to get away and build the biggest lead of any breakaway at this Tour.
The stage victory was Impey’s first in seven Tours. He also held the race lead for two days at the Tour in 2013.
The field of 172 riders that took the start in the former coal mining center of Saint-Etienne quickly was reduced to 171, when Italian rider Alessandro DeMarchi of the CCC team crashed heavily a few miles into the stage.
John Leicester is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/South-Africa-s-Daryl-Impey-wins-Stage-9-of-Tour-14095151.php.