As expected, stage 9 of the Tour of Spain ended with a massive sprint on Thursday. Sam Bennett first crossed the line as the winner but he then got disqualified for a head-butt in the finale. Therefore, Pascal Ackermann won by forfeit. As for David Gaudu, he finished safely in the peloton after receiving another great support from all his teammates throughout the day.

Apart from Madrid’s one, the ninth stage of La Vuelta leading the riders on Thursday to Aguila de Campoo appeared to be the flattest of his 2020 edition. As a consequence, the sprinters were expected after “just” 157 kilometers of racing today. It all got even easier for them when a breakaway of only two riders took shape early in the stage. Aritz Bagües (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Juan Felipe Osorio (Burgos BH) were immediately controlled, although the gap went up to five minutes at some point. “It was a pretty quiet day at the start,” said Anthony Roux. The stage could have taken a different turn in the flat roads of Burgos, but everything remained quite calm. “Ultimately, there was no risk of echelons as we could have imagined at the start,” added the former French champion. “It seemed that there wasn’t any team willing to go for it anyway. We just kept a decent tempo and we always stayed in a good position with the guys in front”. “The terrain was suitable for echelons but the wind was not strong enough today,” said Franck Pineau. “Still, the guys were extremely serious, motivated and focused, especially alongside David, to avoid any trouble”.

“It is better to anticipate than to have regrets later”, Anthony Roux

In the wake of Anthony Roux, the Groupama-FDJ team kept escorting David Gaudu the right way in the last third of the race, “when the peloton got more nervous,” explained Franck Pineau. “The sports directors appointed me as road captain and that makes me happy,” said Anthony. “This is one of the first times I have this role and I care about doing my job well. I try to motivate the guys and to be there for the team. Today there was a very narrow, small bridge, three meters wide, about twenty kilometers from the finish. It was important to be in a good position at that time, you never know what can happen next and if crashes can split the bunch. Eventually, nothing happened, but it was good to be there anyway. It is better to anticipate than to have regrets later”. As the day’s breakaway got caught with twenty kilometers to go, the peloton stayed quite compact until the final five kilometers, when the sprint preparation really picked up.

“The guys did a very good job, especially in the final to avoid crashes because there were some pretty dangerous spots,” added Franck Pineau. “The key was to ride in front and they shared the roles perfectly. They were irreproachable from that point of view and David was able to remain in the top 10 of the peloton until the last three kilometers. It was really great.” The French leader finished the stage in 26th position in the time of Pascal Ackermann, who was declared a winner after Sam Bennett got disqualified for being too aggressive in a lively finale. “It could have been a lot more complicated today, but poor wind strength made the day quite calm,” concluded Franck Pineau. “Overall, the guys were able to recover a bit throughout the stage.” This slight dose of relaxation will probably be useful on Friday, in a hard going stage that will end with a very short climb in Suances.

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