With five big climbs, today’s Stage 9 of the 100th edition of the Tour de France always looked like being a big day in the Pyrenees; moreover, Sky’s demolition of the opposition to send Chris Froome into the maillot jaune yesterday gave added impetus to rivals to go on the offensive.
Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin took the stage, but neither his team nor Movistar could dislodge an isolated Froome, who managed to cling on despite spending most of the day with no team mates to help him.
Here’s some reaction from the day.
Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp, who follows his uncle Stephen Roche in becoming a Tour de France stage winner.
Every win is important and special in its own way. It was such an incredible day today because this team Garmin-Sharp shows such a team spirit.
Everyone gave 100 per cent today and some of the guys nearly missed the time limit because they gave so much for my victory. We decided this morning on the bus that I was going to try and win the stage and we've succeeded so it's incredible.
It's hard to describe how it feels; it's more relief actually because I knew I was the favourite coming into the sprint [against Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang] and I was quite confident... but I still had to do it. So to come across the line knowing that I've won a stage of the Tour de France is amazing.
In the end, the scale of the event wasn't on my mind – it was just another bike race. I was so focused on his wheel and beating that guy in the sprint that I didn't even look behind once to see where the peloton was. It was just a case of focus on the finish line and get there first.
I think there was a calmness that I developed in the sprint, rather than confidence. I've always had that sort of calmness, like when I won the ninth stage of the Vuelta it was much the same sort of feeling. In the big situations I seem to be able to relax very well and just be in control and it pays off.
Race leader Chris Froome of Team Sky, who found himself isolated from his colleagues on the second of the five classified climbs today but withstood sustained attacks to retain the yellow jersey.
We've got a great team here but we have had a really hard day today. There's a rest day tomorrow and we'll definitely soak that up and come out again in force, hopefully, on Tuesday.
That was really one of the hardest days that I've ever had on a bike but I'm just happy to still be in the yellow jersey.
My team-mates made a huge effort yesterday and I think they were just paying for that effort today a bit.
I was a little bit exposed there in the front group but I felt like I was riding quite within myself and I was happy that I was able to follow the biggest challenges.
Credit where it's due: the Movistar team really rode a good race today. They had a lot of riders in that front group and they did put me under pressure.
That was quite hard being on my own there but I did feel as though I was riding within myself on the climb.
Every team has got their own motive in the race and their own reasons to ride so there are a few races happening within the race.
It's quite normal for the leader to be a little isolated. My team-mates dug really deep yesterday to get me into the yellow jersey and today they paid a little bit for that but we also didn't have a great start to the day with Pete Kennaugh crashing early on in the race and, obviously, the race wasn't going to slow down for him to come back.
Richie [Porte] was doing quite a lot of work earlier on just covering the bigger attacks that were going and he actually helped me to get into the front group.
He did a great job for me today and I think it's quite normal that he wasn't on the front – it's good to see that he's also human.
It's definitely a long way from being over. We've got two weeks of really hard racing ahead and we're going to have to really fight for it like we did today. Other teams will test us all the way to Paris.
Pierre Rolland of Europcar, who wore the polka dot jersey (among other red-spotted items…) today and who moves ahead of Froome in the mountains classification to wear by right when the race resumes on Tuesday.
There really has been a race today. We thought we would have a ‘small Pyrenees' this year, with only two stages... but it was epic and there was a big show, of course, but also very big effort.
I think this stage is one of those who can influence the nature of the Tour de France.
For my part, I thought that for a moment but when Movistar started to take the helm, I understood that it would be very complicated.
They are strong, but it's not really a surprise; I think I have seen him do this on the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, for example. They have the qualities to try things – beautiful things.
Personally, I'm out of the general classification. The goal will be to get a stage win for the team, either for me or another rider.
And this jersey? I'll try to keep it, it is the dream of a lifetime. Now it's easy to say, but it is very difficult to do
In my memories, it's the jersey of Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert, who were my idols when I was younger.
Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who tops the mountains classification and attacked Froome repeatedly on today’s final climb but was unable to make him crack.
I take a lot of pleasure from what we did and I still hope to win a stage by the end of the Tour.
Today I missed a bit of strength when I wanted to attack in the finale, but we made a good stage, knowing that our goal is to get to the podium Alejandro Valverde.
We know that Team Sky is strong, but we also have a very good level, and so we must show that we are able to upset things.
Of course, Chris Froome is very strong, but we are confident that if we can separate him from his team-mates, then we can then attack.
When they are together, it is very difficult.
Personally, I have the white jersey of best young rider, and I will try to defend it. But I do not know how I will feel after three weeks of racing at this intensity.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.