After an off day in the mountains Saturday, Durango’s Sepp Kuss was back in his starring role as a support rider in the mountains Sunday at the Tour de France.
And Team Jumbo-Visma made the most of the opportunity in the Pyrenees, as Primoz Roglic used time bonuses and a second-place finish on Stage 9 to overtake Adam Yates for the leader’s yellow jersey.
“It was a fast and difficult stage,” Roglic said in a Junmbo-Visma news release. “Everyone was extremely motivated to go for the yellow jersey. The guys did a great job all day long. It is a beautiful jersey to have. I feel very happy. Everyone dreams of having it in their hands. It also means appreciation to the whole team. We must continue to do our best. Hopefully, I still have the jersey around my shoulders in Paris. After this tough stage, we have deserved a rest day.”
A day earlier, Kuss dropped back after a tough day Friday riding at the front on a flat stage in heavy crosswinds. After a night of recovery Saturday, he was back in fine form Sunday, taking big pulls on the tough climbs and showing his elite form on the four climbs.
He finished 21st on the stage, 3:12 behind the winning time of Tadej Pogacar. Kuss moved up to 26th in the overall standings, 29:55 behind the new leader, Roglic.
Roglic now owns a 21-second lead on defending champion Egan Bernal. Jumbo-Visma’s Tom Dumoulin is 14th, 3:22 down. Dumoulin was thrust into support-rider duties Saturday, putting his own yellow-jersey quest behind.
“We worked hard to get the jersey,” Dumoulin said of Sunday’s effort. “Today was a good time to do it. It was a big fight, but we showed how strong we are. I was already feeling better than yesterday. Moreover, I am happy to have had a part in the conquest of Primoz’s yellow. I am confident that we can hold this position.”
The finish of Stage 9 came down to a sprint, which Pogacar claimed to further get back into the race after mistakes cost him nearly 90 seconds on Friday.
For a long time Saturday, the star of the stage was Switzerland’s Marc Hirschi, who staged a solo attack for 56 miles of the 95-mile route.
Hirschi, a former under-23 road race world champion, got away from the peloton in the first major ascent in high mountains then resisted the favorites’ chase until he was caught with two kilometers left.
Hirschi launched a sprint to the finish line but was not fast enough, as Pogacar prevailed to win the stage ahead of Roglic. Hirschi finished third in the town of Laruns.
The 22-year-old Hirschi crossed first at the summit of the Cold de la Hourcere with a lead of 1:35 and went all out on the slippery roads of the technical and perilous downhill that followed. Pedaling while crouched on top of his bike frame and taking aggressive lines through the turns, Hirschi increased his lead and tackled the ascent of the final climb, the Col de Marie Blanque, with a four-minute lead over the chasing group of main contenders.
As the battle between the top riders came alive in the monster climb, Hirschi saw his lead vanish in the thin air.
In the end, the day belonged to Roglic and Jumbo-Visma, who will now try to defend the yellow jersey for two more brutal weeks in France.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.