Hello cycling fans, Alex Ballinger here reporting from a very rainy south of the UK.
I'm sure there may be a few sore heads out there after England's 4-0 over the Ukraine (no it wasn't a dream), but get the coffee on and settle in for more bike racing action in France.
Here's the profile from today's stage - it should be another banger:
Today at the Tour: A huge mountain test over 144.9km from Cluses to Tignes, finishing with the 20.8km-long Montée de Tignes climb #TdF2021 pic.twitter.com/ojpJCPeR9XJuly 4, 2021
There has already been some pretty huge news this morning, as Primož Roglič has abandoned the race ahead of stage nine.
The Slovenian had been suffering from injuries he sustained in his stage three crash but has now finally thrown in the towel.
Read the full story here: Primož Roglič abandons Tour de France 2021
Today's stage kicks off about 1.10pm French local time (12.10pm British time) with the finish expected some time between 5.30pm and 6pm local time (4.30-5pm British time)
Away from the Tour de France for a moment, and Remco Evenepoel has been selected in the Belgian squad for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Back in France and, much like yesterday, the weather is horrid in the Alps, with rain forecast all day, right up until the peloton arrive at the ski resort of Tignes, the day's finish.
Mathieu van der Poel ceded yellow yesterday and he will not start today.
Matthieu van der Poel tells eurosport gcn he will not start today's #TDF2021 stage. He leaves to prepare for the #Olympics#eurosport #gcn @eurosport @Eurosport_UK @gcntweetJuly 4, 2021
Mathieu van der Poel has spoken about his decision to leave the race this morning.
Today's race begins in just over 20 minutes. It's set to be another exciting day, just 24 hours after Tadej Pogačar not only took yellow but also strangled complete control of the race. It will be interesting to see how his GC rivals attempt to reduce their already big deficits to the Slovenian.
There are five categorised climbs across 145km today, with the race finishing in Tignes. It is the first time this race that there is a summit finish.
Here is the profile of today's race
Stage nine has begun and already we have seen our first attack, Benoît Cosnefroy of AG2R Citröen going clear as soon as the race flag dropped.
With 10km having been ridden, Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck - Quick Step) and Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal) have a small advantage of around 30 seconds. The weather, like yesterday, is best described as unpleasant.
The first of five categorised climbs begins in earnest, the Côte de Domancy having an average gradient of 8.8% for 2.6km. Short and sharp, it's like a British climb.
Today's stage is the first time we have seen defending champion Tadej Pogačar in yellow during a normal road stage of the Tour. Last year, he memorably claimed the race leadership on the penultimate day, only wearing yellow on the final, processional stage in Paris.
Our leading duo maintain a small lead of about 35 seconds, the peloton being led by Team BikeExchange up the first KoM of the day.
At the summit of the Côte de Domancy, Pierre Latour sprints from the peloton to take the maximum king of the mountains points available, right under the nose of Ballerini and Sweeny who were just about to be caught.
There is an intermediate sprint next on the agenda, meaning it's possible that the break will not be formed until after then. But Mark Cavendish, the leader of the points classification, has been dropped from the peloton.
Latour, riding for Cofidis, is currently out front with Dan Martin of Israel Start-Up Nation. Just behind the pair is a group of nine, that also includes Julian Alaphilippe and Sonny Colbrelli.
Colbrelli is an interesting case. He's clearly targeting the green jersey and his strategy is to take points in these mountain days when Mark Cavendish is unable to keep with the pace. He has 86 points in the classification to Cavendish's 168.
The attacks keep coming but nothing is being allowed to stick. Right now, Michael Matthews is at the head of the race, targeting the intermediate points sprint that is fast approaching.
Enric Mas, Movistar's best-placed rider on GC at 5:15 adrift of Tadej Pogačar in eighth, has crashed. TV footage showed the Spaniard standing at the side of the road, but he has remounted his bike and is riding back to the peloton. He is sporting cuts to his left side.
The intermediate sprint is won by Sonny Colbrelli who stayed behind Michael Matthews before coming past the Australian to beat him to the line to take 20 points. And now we can expect a break to form.
Tadej Pogačar and the yellow jersey peloton are roughly 50 seconds adrift of a large group of between 40 and 50 riders. Will the break of the day come from this group?
Points classification standings after intermediate sprint
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck - Quick Step, 168pts
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange, 130pts
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, 106pts
Our man on the ground Jonny Long has just informed us that the closer he and fellow journalist Peter Cossins get to Tignes, the worse the weather becomes. And he reminds us that the last time the race was meant to finish in the ski resort, it never made it due to a landslide caused by heavy rain.
It's a huge group out front and right now Julian Alaphilippe, free of his rain jacket, is at the head of proceedings. But a smaller group have still to dislodge themselves from the 40-odd riders who have an advantage of two minutes to Tadej Pogačar.
Sonny Colbrelli has collected the intermediate sprint points he wanted but he isn't resting there. The Italian has attacked again, clearly fancying a day in the breakaway before tomorrow's rest day. Nairo Quintana has since moved clear with Michael Woods, with the chasing group being led by Colbrelli up the second categorised climb of the day.
Wout Poels, who took ownership of the King of the Mountains classification yesterday, has a small lead of a few seconds, but still it doesn't look convincing. There are 45 points up for grabs in the KoM race remaining today.
The peloton, almost four minutes back, is being led by UAE-Team Emirates.
A big fight for the KoM points on the Col des Saisies between Wout Poels and Nairo Quintana.
Poels looked like he'd comfortably made it clear of the Colombian, but Quintana put in a huge dig to bridge across.
But Quintana left his effort just a little too late, with Poels taking maximum points at the summit and extending his leader in the polkadot jersey competition.
We now have two riders leading - Quintana and Poels - who are about 23s ahead of the nearest chasers.
The second group on the road is just three riders, Woods, Higuita and O'Connor, with another seven riders in a group around 1-14 behind the leading pair.
The peloton (still containing the yellow jersey) are 5-51 behind.
Quintana has dropped Poels on the descent of the Col des Saisies.
Poels is looking nervous as he descends in the wet, the gap is about 20 seconds, but more than likely these two will come back together shortly.
We have another little shake-up at the front of the race, Quintana has been joined by Woods, Higuita, O'Connor, and Hamilton.
Wout Poels has currently lost contact and is about 10 seconds off the back of that leading group.
Meanwhile just behind we have the huge 24-rider breakaway group, which also contains Julian Alaphilippe, two minutes down on the Quintana group.
The peloton seems to be letting the breakaway go, as the yellow jersey group is now seven minutes behind the leading Quintana group.
The weather is very reminiscent of the last time we were in Tignes for the Tour, back in 2019, when Egan Bernal went into yellow after the stage was shortened due to landslides on road.
Poels had just back on but is struggling again.
There's 70km remaining and the leading group are well on their way to the summit of the Col du Pré, with a nice collection of KoM points on offer at the top.
Tim Merlier, winner of stage two, has abandoned the race. He is the second Alpecin-Fenix rider to do so after his teammate Mathieu van der Poel quit before today's stage.
Nans Peter, AG2R Citroen rider, has also abandoned.
The situation hasn't changed so much, with the leading five holding an advantage of 45s to Wout Poels. We keep mentioning it but the weather is absolutely horrid.
Nairo Quintana has gone it alone, just a kilometre before the summit of the Col du Pré. He will collect the 10 points for the mountains classification at the top, and will then decide whether to wait for the four he left or continue solo.
Sergio Higuita has joined his fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana at the front. They have a very small gap to Michael Woods and Ben O'Connor with the next climb, Cormet de Roselend, just a few kilometres away. The peloton, still being driven by UAE-Team Emirates, is eight minutes back as we pass 60kmh to go.
Quintana won the polka dot jersey in 2013 and he is now leading the classification by two points from Michael Woods. Wout Poels, the current wearer of the jersey, is five points adrift of Quintana.
The peloton look like they're loving today's weather.
The summit of the next mountain is just 3.2km away for the leading trio of Nairo Quintana, Ben O'Connor and Sergio Higuita. Wout Poels, who took the King of the Mountains jersey yesterday, is 2:40 back and we will be leading the classification after today's stage. That honour will probably go to Quintana.
Ben O'Connor began the day 8:13 adrift of race leader Tadej Pogačar and is now the virtual leader of the race. Normally we probably wouldn't mention such a thing as the peloton won't allow him to win by such a margin, but then this is the 2021 Tour de France and strange things keep on happening.
Nairo Quintana won the sprint for the KoM points ato Cormet de Roselend and now leads the classification by seven points from Michael Woods, who is about to be caught by the big breakaway group that is just a shade under three minutes behind Quintana, O'Connor and Higuita.
The peloton are still climbing the Cormet de Roselend and the rain continues to fall. Television pictures have been showing the rain tumbling down from the top of the Alps, the streams gushing with white water. Caution will be required on the descent before the final climb to TIgnes.
Sergio Higuita has attacked on the descent and is trying to build a gap ahead of the final climb of the day. The peloton remain just over eight minutes in arrears, led by UAE-Team Emirates.
Brandon McNulty has just had a nasty crash. The UAE-Team Emirates man was leading the peloton down the descent when he turned around to check that Tadej Pogačar was in a good position. Upon looking forward again, the American rode himself off the road, tumbling to the left and into the trees. There is no sign yet of his condition and if he has been able to get back on his bike.
Sergio Higuita and Nairo Quintana are the leading duo now, Ben O'Connor about 25 seconds behind the Colombians. As it stands, though, with the peloton 8:45 in arrears to O'Connor, the Australian is in the virtual lead of the race. One to watch...
Another rider, Jasper de Buyst, has jumped in his Lotto-Soudal team car and abandoned the race.
O'Connor is closing in on Higuita and Quintana at the front of the race, and as things stand at the foot of the climb to Tignes, he has a minute lead to Tadej Pogačar in the GC.
The climb to Tignes is the longest in this year's race, stretching out for 20.8km, with an average gradient of 5.6%. It looks like the winner of the stage will be one of Quintana, O'Connor and Higuita, but it will be interesting to see how UAE-Team Emirates play their tactics. Will Pogačar be happy to sacrifice leadership of the race to O'Connor?
Nairo Quintana has been dropped by Higuita and O'Connor, and the Colombian doesn't look like he will be able to get back on. He looks spent. Regardless of where he finishes on the stage, he will move into first place in the King of the Mountains classification.
Ben O'Connor has attacked Sergio Higuita as he goes in search of the stage victory. He is no longer the virtual leader of the race as UAE-Team Emirates have pulled back a few minutes, but the Australian is in pole position for stage honours with 17km to go.
As is common on mountain days, the sprinters are in their own race to survive and finish within the time cut. Mark Cavendish, the man in green and buoyant after two stage victories, has Deceuninck - Quick Step teammates around him, helping him to finish within the required time.
Ben O'Connor is absolutely flying. He has a massive 1:41 advantage to Sergio Higuita with 12.8km remaining.
Back in the peloton, Richard Carapaz will be happy to see Geraint Thomas around him, the Welshman obviously on a much better day than yesterday.
And O'Connor is not letting up. This is quite the ride from the Australian. He now has a lead approaching three minutes, and with the peloton dropping their pace a little, perhaps he could ride himself into yellow after all.
Wout van Aert, by the way, will be tumbling out of the GC picture. Second to Tadej Pogačar overnight, the Jumbo-Visma man was distanced from the peloton earlier and looks set to finish way down by the end of the stage.
This is getting very, very interesting. O'Connor looks certain to win the stage now, but he could also be taking the yellow jersey from Tadej Pogačar. He needs to finish 8:13 ahead of the Slovenian, and right now he is virtually leading the race by three seconds with seven kilometres to go.
His team are willing him on
🇫🇷 @LeTour COOOMMMMEEEEE OOOOOONNNN BENNNN #AG2RCITROËNTEAM pic.twitter.com/fHVfpqrTi1July 4, 2021
Back in the peloton, and UAE-Team Emirates have isolated Tadej Pogačar once again. Surrounding the yellow jersey is three Ineos Grenadiers riders, including Richard Carapaz and Geraint Thomas. Are the British team going to try and ambush the race leader?
Geraint Thomas is now leading the peloton, a welcome return to form from the 2018 Tour champion. Tadej Pogačar doesn't have any teammates to help him, but he looks comfortable.
Just under two kilometres separate Ben O'Connor and the top of the climb, and he currently has an advantage of 7:47 to the yellow jersey group, meaning he would go 27 seconds behind Tadej Pogačar in the overall standings if it finishes like this.
Ben O'Connor shakes the hand of his sports director in the AG2R Citroën team car because now they know he will win his first ever Tour de France stage in his race debut.
Richard Carapaz has attacked, but he is immediately joined by Tadej Pogačar. After waiting behind the Ecuadorian for 30 seconds, the yellow jersey then sprints out of the wheels and launches another massive attack that no one is able to follow.
Pogačar looks so comfortable and is riding at ease. No one is able to match his rhythm. He is in imperious form.
Ben O'Connor, meanwhile, crosses the finish line in Tignes, celebrating with a massive grin on his face. Now he will be clock watching to see how far back Pogačar finishes. Remember, the yellow jersey has an advantage of 8:13 to the Australian.
Even if, as is likely, Pogačar maintains his grip on yellow, O'Connor us now in the fight for a podium spot in the race, a staggering turnaround in just a few hours.
Riders must finish within 37:20 of Ben O'Connor or will be thrown out of the race. There are a number of riders fighting to make the time cut, including Arnaud Démare. It's been a horrible day for everyone except a few.
Tadej Pogačar will remain in yellow, as he has crossed the line 6:02 behind Ben O'Connor. In another show of complete dominance, the Slovenian has added 32 seconds to the advantage he has to Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán. He could win this race by 10 minutes.
Pogačar has a lead of 2:01 over Ben O'Connor, with Rigoberto Urán in third at 5:18.
O'Connor is in the fight for a podium spot.
1. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, in 4-26-43
2. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 5-07
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 5-34
4. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 5-36
5. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM, at 6-02
6. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
7. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 6-34
8. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
9. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team
10. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, all at same time
Here is the moment that Ben O'Connor moved into second on GC and took his maiden Tour de France victory
🇦🇺 @ben_oconnor95 won the stage in Tignes with a fantastic solo effort! 🏅Here is his final KM, where all the effort paid off!🇦🇺 @ben_oconnor95 s'impose en solitaire à Tignes ! Une performance fantastique ! 🏅Voici son dernier KM, où tous les efforts ont payé !#TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/uUnp8XmPfUJuly 4, 2021
General classification after stage nine
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 34-11-10
2. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, at 2-01
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 5-47
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-58
8. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 6-12
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 7-02
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7-22
Stage winner Ben O'Connor could barely believe his success at the finish line in Tignes.
Want to catch up on the day's action? Here are five talking points from the race
Mark Cavendish did make the time cut today by two minutes, but Arnaud Dèmare was among several riders who did not.
For some riders, though, their Tour is over. Check out the complete list of abandonments here
Tadej Pogačar has spoken about his attack today, coming shortly after Richard Carapaz attempted to dislodge him.
"They wanted to race, Carapaz felt good, in the end they tried and I respect that but I gave my best to counter-attack because I was thinking maybe if I don’t try then everyone will attack sooner or later and I will be in trouble but in the end I was okay.”
Geraint Thomas has given his thoughts on stage nine.
Arnaud Démare did not make the time cut on stage nine and has been eliminated, but Mark Cavendish did.