First the departure of his captain fueled the corona worries, then Simon Geschke conquered the mountain jersey of the Tour de France. The Berliner used the unexpected freedom on the ninth stage and will be driving through the Alps in the coming week in the famous white jersey with the red dots. Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels secured the stage win, while Tadej Pogacar, who was also affected by a corona case in his team, successfully defended the yellow jersey.
Geschke is the first German professional cyclist to wear a mountain jersey since 2016. At that time, Paul Voß wore it for one day. Overall, the 36-year-old is the eighth German to lead the mountains classification.
“You don’t always get into the situation of having a jersey on the tour. For me it’s the first time. I died a few deaths on the last climb. But it was worth it,” said Geschke, who reached the finish line more than four minutes behind, and added: “The tour is still long. I’m enjoying starting in a mountain jersey the day after tomorrow, provided Corona doesn’t thwart my plans.”
Shortly before the start in Aigle it became known that Geschke’s captain Guillaume Martin had to leave the race because of a positive corona test. The studied philosopher was 14th in the race with good prospects. Geschke was planning to go into the escape group of the day anyway and put his plan into action. A group of 20 riders, which also included German champion Nils Politt, pulled away early. Geschke won the penultimate climb, then saved two points with his last bit of strength on the final climb and has 19 points more than Jungels.
Dominator Pogacar did not want the day’s victory on the first real stage in the Alps. His UAE team only managed the breakaway lead. In the not too difficult final up to Chatel Les Portes du Soleil, the favorites did not attack. In the overall standings, Pogacar is 39 ahead of last year’s second-placed Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark and 1:17 ahead of Geraint Thomas of Wales. In Wout van Aert’s stage win on Saturday in Lausanne, Pogacar secured a further four bonus seconds with his third place.
Pogacar is more worried about the corona virus than the competition in the race. The 23-year-old worries above all about the danger from outside. “Every day people on the climbs yell at you, which I like. But it increases the likelihood of contracting viruses,” said the Slovenian. Pogacar hopes the virus isn’t in the team bubble and that the Norwegian actually contracted it from a fan. “I hope that’s it and that we’re safe until the end.”
There were three new cases over the weekend. In addition to Martin and Poagcar’s teammate Vegard Stake Laengen, Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard also had to retire. Ahead of Monday’s first rest day, the peloton was getting more and more nervous about how many riders would be caught in the first mandatory tests since the start in Copenhagen.
After over a week of silence, the virus is suddenly back in the peloton after six riders had to withdraw their starts before the start in Copenhagen. Ironically, Jungels also tested positive before the start but benefited from a new rule that allows a symptom-free and non-contagious professional to still ride.
Geschke and Max Walscheid’s Cofidis team was the first team to lose their captain. “You can only do what you can to protect yourself. I think we did that well too. That’s just bad luck,” Walscheid told the German Press Agency before the start of the ninth stage, adding: “It’s stupid because we’re all preparing so meticulously and the race is just so big and so hard. It just can’t be changed. Unfortunately, that is part of it now, we have to deal with it.” Walscheid expects more cases.