TIGNES, France, July 4 (Reuters) – Defending champion Tadej Pogacar kept a close eye on his challengers as he retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France after the ninth stage, a 144.9km mountain trek from Cluses in the northern Alps on Sunday.
Australian Ben O’Connor of the AG2R-Citroen team won the stage from the breakaway, ahead of Italians Matteo Cataneo and Sonny Colbrelli.
Slovenian Pogacar, who claimed the yellow jersey on Saturday, was in control all day and responded to a late attack by Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, his main rival for the general classification, in the final climb to the Alpine resort of Tignes (21km at 5.6%) to stay top of the rankings.
With his maiden Tour stage win, O’Connor climbed up to second in the overall standings, two minutes one second off the pace, with Colombian Rigoberto Uran in third, 5:08 behind Carapaz.
After a brutal start the Tour, last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic abandoned after failing to recover from injuries sustained in a third-stage crash and an exhausted Mathieu van der Poel, who wore the yellow jersey this week, also quit before his bid to win Olympic gold in the mountain biking event.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond
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