LARUNS, FRANCE (AFP) - Slovenians took the laurels on the Tour de France on Sunday (Sept 6) as rookie Tadej Pogacar won a Pyrenean mountain slog and his compatriot Primoz Roglic took over the overall lead.
Overnight leader Adam Yates of Britain made a valiant effort to keep hold of the yellow jersey but fell gradually away on the final climb as the gradient hit 12 percent.
Pre-Tour favourite Roglic has been the form man this season and after Sunday's second place leads defending champion Ineos leader Egan Bernal of Colombia by 21 seconds.
Pogacar said at the winning line that he remembered little of the frantic sprint that gave him a first Tour de France win as he pipped Roglic on the line.
"I wanted to gain as much time as possible," said Pogacar, who twice lost time earlier in the week, but is now within 41 seconds of the lead.
"Ten seconds bonus for the stage win in the sprint is great but I don't know what happened in it," he said breathlessly.
The 21-year-old Pogacar had a message of consolation for his 30-year-old countryman Roglic.
"He's won before and he'll win again. He and I can achieve great things for Slovenia," Pogacar said.
French pair Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet are third and fourth overall with Colombian duo Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran within touching distance.
The 153km ninth stage set off from Basque town Pau, and there were many berets being worn along the route, and took in five climbs including two category 1 mountains.
The Slovenians narrowly avoided disaster as they crossed the final summit, Col de Marie Blanque, together.
Pogacar looked round to see where Bernal was, swerved and clipped Roglic. Both did well to stay in the saddle.
Bernal's Ineos defence is going to plan according to team principal Dave Brailsford.
"So far so good," he told AFP ahead of the stage. "It'll be a race of attrition with people going out ahead and falling off the back." Monday is the first rest day but a nervous wait for results of Covid-19 swab tests await the riders with a ban on teams with two positive cases.