Toulouse – Bagneres-de-Bigorre, 224km

What will happen?

The Pyrenees arrive. It’s already been a hard week, but this is a brute. Okay, so it’s not as glamorous as a stage with a summit-finish and the descent from the Col d’Aspin to the finish is a little uninspiring, but this is a real energy-sapper. It’s also very long, at 224 kilometres. Even on the fast schedule it’s anticipated it’ll take the riders almost six hours. The favourites may well choose to wait until Hautacam on Monday to make their mark but they could end up at the front by default as the breakaway riders tire in the latter stages.

What is the terrain like?

Lumpy all day and mountains at the end. The first 125km feature four fourth-category hills and a third-category hill. This is not a straightforward run at the Col de Peyresourde, it’s up and down all day and the peloton could split up as early as the third-cat Col des Ares.

The main climbs

Col de Peyresourde – first-category climb with 57km to go. It’s 13.2km long at an average gradient of 7.1 per cent

Col d’Aspin – first-category climb with 26km to go. It’s 12.3km long at an average gradient of 6.5 per cent

Will Kirchen stay in yellow?

Probably, but again it won’t be easy. He should be able to stay with the other overall favourites over the two first-category climbs and even if he does get dropped on the Col d’Aspin should get back on, provided he doesn’t lose too much time. As long as he doesn’t blow, he should be fine.

What they say…

Alejandro Valverde, still nursing injuries from his fall the other day. “I had a good day. With the rain it was important to get through without any problems. Now we go to the mountains and the race changes again.”

Kim Kirchen: “I have waited a long time to be in this position so I am not nervous. I climbed well in the Pyrenees last year. For sure it’ll be a different experience with the yellow jersey on my back. I have lost the lead in the green jersey competition, but at the moment that is not the priority. Anyway, I will hopefully score some points in the mountain stages.”

Damiano Cunego: “It has been a strange Tour so far. The last days have been on difficult roads and it’s been dangerous. I am glad we’re at the mountains because it makes it easier to ride at the front without complications. I hope to regain the time I lost at Super Besse and Aurillac. Just because I lost time there does not mean I will lose more in the Pyrenees.”

Who’s wearing the jerseys?

Yellow
Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia)

Green Oscar Freire (Rabobank)

Polka-dots David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval)

White Thomas Lovkvist (Team Columbia)

CW’s tip for the win

Alejandro Valverde. With a shallow 26-kilometre descent to the finish after the Col d’Aspin, it’s not going to be a day for individual heroics, but a group effort. Unless the favourites let a small group get such a big lead by the top of the Peyresourde they can’t catch them, there will probably be a general regrouping on the way down.

Then it’s a question of whether anyone can get away on the run-in. If not, the stage will go to the fastest sprinter, and that’s Valverde.

RELATED LINKS

Stage 9 info: map, profile and more

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

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TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

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