July 12, Stage 9:
Saint-Gaudens - Tarbes 160.5km
- Daniel Simms
June 30, 2009, 11:24 BST,
July 21, 2009, 14:38 BST
Big mountains finish Pyrenees
The Pyrenees conclude with some legendary Tour de France mountain passes, the Col d'Aspin (12km at 6.6 percent) and the Col du Tourmalet (17km at 7.5 percent), where riders will be greeted by the masses.
An early breakaway will need good legs to master both of the challenging climbs and hold out until the finish, as there are still some 50 kilometres to cover to Tarbes after the descent of the Tourmalet. Depending on what happens within the group of favourites, this stage could be more nervous than it appears on paper, especially since the riders will be able to rest in Limoges the next day.
More of the same, but even more insane: On paper, this stage is similar to stage 8, but harder.
The Tourmalet is never easy, no matter where it’s placed in a stage. The scrappy breakaway climbers will have their day again, maybe this time making it to the line or maybe being absorbed by a very reduced group of 25 or so big name dudes.
One thing to look for from this day forward is: does the race leader have a strong team? They will need it as, after Arcalis and the rest of the Pyrenees, it’s a long way to defend until the Alps.
Whoever has the jersey at this point will need to have a good team or chaotic racing will be the rule for the next week. Chaos aside, I'd really like it if Dan Martin won on this day.