CHÂTEL LES PORTES DU SOLEIL, France — A solo attack by Bob Jungels gave him his first Tour de France stage victory on the first Alpine finish of this year’s race, while two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar retained the leader’s yellow jersey after the ninth stage on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Jungels, who rides for the AG2R Citroën Team, set off on his own with almost 65 kilometers (40 miles) remaining of the mountainous 193-kilometer (120-mile) route from Aigle in Switzerland to the ski resort of Châtel les Portes du Soleil.
The Luxembourg native had time to sit up and stretch out his arms before punching the air in delight as he crossed the line 22 seconds ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo and 26 ahead of Carlos Verona.
The victory crowns a comeback for Jungels following a year to forget. He struggled with back problems and then a head injury suffered in a crash at the beginning of last season and then missed the Tour and the Summer Olympics after undergoing surgery.
“It’s hard to say what I feel right now. I’m just overwhelmed to be honest. This is huge, this is what I came here for,” Jungels said. “After a couple of years struggling, a very tough last year with surgeries and everything, also to take the victory this way, it’s my style of racing, my style of taking the victory.
“So I’m super happy, I saw the shape was getting better day by day but to do something like this… I knew I had to try it from far because on the last climb it wasn’t possible to ride away from the favorites.”
Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard sprinted to the line to gain three seconds over their rivals for the overall lead. The Slovenian remained 39 seconds ahead of Vingegaard but increased his advantage to 1:17 over 2018 winner Geraint Thomas.
“The team is really, really strong, they showed each of them that they just keep getting stronger,” said Pogačar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates. “Today, the last couple of days also proved that we can control this race. So I’m super happy and proud.”
Jungels, Castroviejo and Verona had been part of a large breakaway that formed shortly after the first of four categorized climbs of the day.
Jungels attacked near the top of the penultimate climb, the top category Col des Mosses, and was followed by Simon Geschke. The pair reached the summit together with a gap of 25 seconds over the chasing group.
But Jungels was quicker on the descent and managed to drop his rival. He had built a lead of nearly two minutes over the chasing group and more than three minutes over the peloton at the start of the final climb, the category one Pas de Morgins.
Cheered on by raucous fans lining the roads, French rider Thibaut Pinot attacked and came within sight of Jungels but ended up missing out on a podium place.
Monday is a rest day. Tuesday’s 10th stage has four categorized climbs on the 148.1-kilometer (92-mile) route from Morzine Les Portes Du Soleil to Megève.
The race ends on July 24 in Paris.
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