Tour de France stage 9 preview: Tourmalet is looming

Day three in the Pyrenees

STAGE NINE: Saint Gaudens – Tarbes
Sunday, July 12


Stage nine is relatively short at 160.5km but includes the Col d’Aspin and the legendary Col du Tourmalet. Unfortunately it ends with a long descent and 50km of flat roads rather than a testing mountain top finish, which means the stage will almost certainly have little effect on the overall standings.

The roads from Saint Gaudens climbs sightly until the Aspin starts after 48km. It is a category one climb, lasting 12km with an average gradient of 6.4%. The hardest section is after 7km when the gradient hits 9.5% for a testing kilometre.

The Tourmalet begins after 73.5km at an altitude of 837m and climbs up to a dizzy height of 2115m. The summit is like a lunar landscape and it is an eerie place as Cycling Weekly discovered one year when we drove over the summit at midnight in the light of a full moon.

The descent is treacherous at the top but becomes easier lower down and launches the riders towards Lourdes and Julian before Tarbes.

Stage 9 map and profile>>


If only the stage had finished on the Tourmalet, or at least in the La Mongie ski resort, lower down the climb, we would have seen another round in the Armstrong-Contador fight for leadership in the Astana team.

The flat finish and then the flat stages across central France mean we will probably have to wait for the Alps and next Sunday’s mountain finish at Verbiers.

After a hectic first hour of early attacks, a break will probably form on the Aspin and if it includes riders out of the overall standings, will likely stay away. David Moncoutie (Cofidis) missed out on Saturday, so watch him go for it on Sunday.

Nocentini bravely defended the yellow jersey on Saturday but could really struggle on the Col du Tourmalet and not get back on the descent, meaning that Contador could take the yellow jersey and further deepen the crisis between him and Armstrong.  However, Johan Bruyneel admitted on Saturday that Astana are playing a long game and focusing on winning in Paris, rather than wearing the yellow jersey for as long as possible. That means Nocentini could stay in yellow for at least a week.

The battle for the intermediate sprints will probably be more entertaining than the stage.

The first sprint is in Sarrancolin after 41.5km, before the Col d’|Aspin, while the second and third are after 125.5km and 139km. Cavendish is now 11 points behind Hushovd and it will be interesting to see if he and Columbia go for the 6, 4 and 2 points on offer in the sprint. He may wisely decide to wait for the sprint stages, knowing he is faster than Hushovd when the big points are on offer.

Rinaldo Nocentini – The Italian will be fighting for another day of yellow jersey glory but will likely falter on the Tourmalet.

Brice Feillu – The young Frenchman will be desperate to take back the lead in the king of the mountains competition so that he can enjoy the spotlight in the second week of the Tour.

Thor Hushovd –  The mighty Thor now has the responsibility of the green jersey and will have to watch out for Cavendish in the first sprint.

Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador – They will be watching each other closely and the whole world will be watching them.

Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) went for it on Saturday, so it has to be David Moncoutie’s turn on Sunday. Euskaltel will also be chasing a win on the last stage in the Pyrenees. Igor Anton could be a good bet each way.

Yellow – Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R)
Green – Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)
Polka-dot – Christophe Kern (Cofidis)
White – Tony Martin (Columbia)

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


stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out

Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance

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>>

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Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived

The Feed Zone: Friday, July 10

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


Garmin-Slipstream’s HQ before the Tour

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 eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

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
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Tour de France 2009: Team guide
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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
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