Armstrong within inches of yellow as le Tour hits the mountains

Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2009, stage 3

STAGE SEVEN: Barcelona – Arcalis

Friday July 10



Having been as far south as the Tour de France has ever been, the race begins to head back north, through Spain and into one of the smallest nations in Europe, Andorra.

For the overall contenders, today will be a significant rendezvous. Snaking northwards over 224km, the route encompasses four categorised climbs before hitting the hors categorie Arcalis mountain.

Standing at over 2,000 metres, Arcalis is sufficiently difficult to inflict some serious damage on the overall classification. Anyone who underestimates this climb will do so at their peril.

Stage seven map and profile>>

Estimated finish time – 16.04 CEST


Before the race started, Alberto Contador will have eyed this long and gruelling Pyrenean stage as the first opportunity to put a dent into his rivals' victory chances. However, he may not have factored team-mate Lance Armstrong into the equation.

Astana could well take on the race up the hors categorie climb of Arcalis, setting a fierce pace before Contador launches himself clear to take the yellow jersey. If he is true to his word, Armstrong will make way for his team-mate's ambitions.

At the same time, the race's intended climax - on Mont Ventoux - is still two weeks down the road. That's a long time to defend the yellow jersey.

The general classification will be thoroughly shaken up by the end of today's stage, but we may not see a decisive and imperious attack on the race's first summit finish - something which was Lance Armstrong's forte in his Tour heyday.

Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre, big losers in the first week, will have to come out fighting if they want to salvage their fading Tour ambitions.  Over two minutes down on Contador, following is no longer an option.

A cohesive early breakaway could make it all the way today. King of the Mountains contenders like David Moncoutié will be up the road, keen to bank early points.


Alberto Contador - The Spanish gunslinger has had to deal with crosswind splits and the nightmare scenario of Lance Armstrong climbing above him in the overall classification. Now, the race has hit the mountains and Contador can get to work giving his rivals some nightmares of their own.

Carlos Sastre - Two prize Giro stage wins showed that Sastre is not afraid to attack his rivals. He will be motivated by home support too. However, does the defending champion have what it takes to match, let alone attack, the likes of Contador and Schleck?

Andy Schleck - Barring a never-before-seen show of climbing strength from Cancellara, Saxo Bank's energies are now focused on helping this fresh-faced Luxembourgeois. It will be interesting to see how Schleck copes with the pressure of being a favourite in the Tour de France for the first time.

Lance Armstrong- The Texan is a blink of an eye away from the yellow jersey. All he needs to do is distance Cancellara and stick with Contador. Easier said than done but this is Armstrong, after all.

Cadel Evans – Evans has been largely invisible so far but will have to show his cards to day if he’s not to rule himself out of the race completely.

Roman Kreuziger – The Czech rider is tipped as a star of the future and will look to stay with the leaders today. The Tour of Romandy-winner could even take the stage if people start playing cat and mouse.


Alberto Contador – he’ll be fired up to win in the mountains, plus he’s on home turf


Yellow - Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)

Green - Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC)

Polka-dot – Stephane Augé (Cofidis)

White - Tony Martin (Team Columbia-HTC)


Tour de France 2009 - the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.


Stage six: Millar's brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs

Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage

Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second

Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage

Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador

Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint

Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial


Tour de France 2009 News Index>>

Millar happy with Tour performance despite no stage win

Analysis: Fight for green jersey is between Cavendish and Hushovd

Wiggins looking ahead to Friday's mountain stage

Analysis: Why Contador's chances rose when Armstrong missed yellow

Delgado criticises Astana for Armstrong manoeuvre

Armstrong: Gaining time on Contador was not the objective

Stage three analysis: Why the bunch split and who gained the most


David Zabriskie's time trial bike

Mark Cavendish on the Tour's team time trial

David Brailsford interview

Mark Cavendish on the Tour

Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins' chances


Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Team presentation by Andy Jones

Team presentation by Graham Watson


Tour de France 2009 - the hub

Tour de France 2009: Who's riding

Tour de France 2009: Team guide

About the Tour de France


Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules

Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France

Tour de France anti-doping measures explained

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

Cycling Weekly's rider profiles


Follow the Tour on Cycling Weekly's Twitter feed

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