Pau > Laruns

If stage eight was the Pyrenean hors d’oeurve, then our second venture through the range on stage nine proved to be a sumptuous main course.

It definitely isn’t July either. With fog on the Col de la Hourcère and falling leaves on the Col de Marie Blanque, there are plenty of firsts to note at this extraordinary edition of the Tour de France.

The first real test of the day was the Col de la Hourcère. It was the first time the mountain has been raced in earnest in the Tour, as its only previous passage was on day 16 of the 1995 Tour, a stage neutralised following the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli.

Launching what turned out to be a strong early entrant for ‘ride of the Tour’, Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi rode off the front with 89 kilometres still to race.

Behind, Team Jumbo Visma set a relentless pace for their leader Primož Roglič. With all his lieutenants used, the Slovenian snapped on to the attack of countryman Tadej Pogačar who’s move could only be followed by the peloton’s very best.

Hirschi held off his pursuers for as long as possible, gripping on to his bike computer for a more aerodynamic position, but it was not to be. Hirschi was caught 1.4 kilometres from the line and although he made a valiant effort, was beaten in the sprint to the line by Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič.

Mikel Landa of Team Bahrain McLaren was comfortable on the climbs thanks to the stewardship of Damiano Caruso. The 30-year-old was able to follow the big move of the day over the Col de Marie Blanque and held on to finish fifth. Caruso is proving to be the strongest of the big GC leaders’ lieutenants, while Landa’s efforts move him into the top ten on GC. They will surely be looking forward to the Massif Central.

Cycling can be a cruel sport but stage 9 of the 2020 Tour de France will be remembered as the day Marc Hirschi dared to dream.

Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.