An early attack: Two Swiss riders, Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Schar (CCC) have peeled off the front of the bunch and opened a gap of 1min 02sec as they cross the Oleron Bridge, which is nearly three kilometres long.
Another withdrawal: NTT rider Domenico Pozzovivo has not started today’s stage, having failed to recover sufficiently from injuries he suffered in the chaotic opening stage of this year’s race.
“I didn’t want to leave the Tour without seeing if my body could recover during the course of the race but the pain every day has been incredible,” he said. “Added to that the risk of crashing again and causing even greater harm is simply too great. I’m going to focus now on recovering as quickly as possible and then look towards my next goal which will be hopefully the Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve tried to give my absolute best and have had incredible support from my team here for which I want to thank everyone involved. I wish them all the very best for the rest of the race.”
Well, you can’t say he didn’t give himself every chance. Pozzovivo becomes the 11th rider to leave this year’s Tour for one reason or another, leaving 165 in the field.
The weather: It’s 24 degrees celsius with barely a breeze in Ile d’Oleron. Wit much of today’s stage being along the coast, cross-winds could wreak havoc should they materialise. I attended a fairly similar stage that finished in Zeeland in the Netherlands in 2015, where the wind caused all kinds of problems for the riders on only their second day of that year’s race.
The riders roll-out: And will travel around seven kilometres from Château d’OIéron before being given the signal to start racing. In the absence of Christian Prudhomme, who will now have to self-isolate for seven days after testing positive for Covid-19, Francois Lemarchand will take his place in the lead car.
These Tour Covid-19 tests: After an initial declaration that nobody had tested positive, it’s since been revealed that four teams have had a member of their backroom staff leave the Tour bubble. Race director Christian Prudhomme is also being widely reported to have tested positive. The riders are due to roll out for today’s stage in about 20 minutes.
But what about the race director?
There are unconfirmed whisperings from France that race director Christian Prudhomme is not at the start this morning because he has tested positive for Covid-19. Reports suggest he is being re-tested. Should he test positive again, somebody else will need to do the important job of emerging from the sun-roof of the official Tour Skoda to wave a flag and signal to the riders to start racing.
at 7.08am EDT
Race director Christian Prudhomme’s thoughts on today’s stage: Two islands linked by a stage of the Tour, that’s already a first for the peloton that will find it hard to make it bunched to Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
The stage will be marked by the Vauban buildings in Royan, Rochefort or La Rochelle, but also by a course mainly set by the sea… and the crossing of marshlands swept by wind.
The top 10 on General Classification
Primoz Roglic has the yellow jersey and a 21-second lead, but only 2min 31sec separate the top 13 riders in a very tight affair.
Stage nine recap
Adam Yates lost his grip on the yellow jersey as Slovenian cyclists swept the board in the second of the Pyrenean stages in this year’s Tour de France, writes Jeremy Whittle.
All teams clear to ride after Covid-19 tests
Team managers had a nervous wait until 9am this morning before checking their email inboxes for the results of the Covid-19 tests they, their riders and support staff underwent during yesterday’s rest day. A French government diktat any team that returned two positives from its riders or support would be chucked off the Tour.
In a joint ASO-UCI statement, it was revealed that no riders had tested positive for Covid-19 but one staff member from each of Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale, Ineos and Mitchelton Scott have tested positive and left the race bubble. A technical service provider has also tested positive and left the race.
at 7.03am EDT
Stage 10: Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré (170km)
From William Fotheringham’s stage-by-stage guide: A transfer up the Atlantic coast for the flattest stage of the race. Bound to be a sprint finish so one for the likes of Bennett or Ewan or Viviani, but the question is whether the wind blows strongly off the sea in which case the race is likely to split and the outcome is anyone’s guess.