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The ninth stage of the 2011 Tour de France features any number of climbs – not the biggest ones, but lots of climbs. The perfect stage for an escape to come through, and possibly a change in the overall.
Hello and welcome back to the ninth stage of the Tour de France. We will be having a lot of ups and downs today, with virtually no flat to speak of. Things will be getting underway in just a few minutes....
Today's stage take us 208km from Issoire to Saint-Flour. And there are seven – count 'em, seven! -- climbs to be conquered. They are all category two to four, but still, the legs are going to be getting tired after a long first week.
It is dry at the moment but we sitll have chances of rain off and on all day.
The race starts with a short neutralized section, with the real start coming at 12:15 CET.
We now hear that it is heavily overcast and we may even have a thunderstorm at some point. Personally, we don't think that is a very good idea.
The race has started, and we even have our first attack. No name yet.
Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank, who has been suffering from a crash earlier on, has given up the fight and was not at the start today.
Garate's withdrawal gave us 187 riders at the start today, which means we have lost 11 so far. Nine teams are affected. RadioShack and Movistar are the hardest hit, having each lost two riders.
Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoliel) are the first to try and get away on this bumpy stage. So far they have only a minimal gap.
Brutt and Westra attacked immediately after the stage started, and had up to 35 seconds on the field.
Anthony Delaplace (Saur Sojasun) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel) gave chase.
However, all were caught except Westra, who is now alone in the lead, but only at 15 seconds.
And Westra's escape is over.
Leonardo Duque of Cofidis is the first to puncture today.
Happy Birthday to Wilfried Peetrs, DS for Quickstep, who turns 47 today.
The first 50 km today are flat. And that's all. As race director Jean-Francois Peschaux said, “it's a real leg-breaker.”
Here are today's climbs:
Km 43.5 - Côte de Massiac - 3.4 km climb to 6.2 % - Category 3
Km 99.5 - Col du Pas de Peyrol (Le Puy Mary) (1589 m) - 7.7 km climb to 6.2 % - Category 2
Km 116.0 - Col du Perthus (1309m) - 4.4 km climb to 7.9 % - Category 2
Km 127.5 - Col de Cère (1294 m) - 2.9 km climb to 6.3 % - Category 3
Km 139.5 - Côte de la Chevade - 3.0 km climb to 7.9 % - Category 3
Km 154.0 - Col de Prat de Bouc (Plomb du Cantal) (1392 m) - 8.0 km climb to 6.1 % - Category 2
Km 193.0 - Côte du Château d'Alleuze - 2.0 km climb to 4.9 % - Category 4
Km 208.0 - SAINT-FLOUR Montée des Orgues - 1.6 km climb to 6.1 % - Category 4
Many are called, but few are chosen.
Which is a fancy way of saying that lots of riders have tried to get away, but none has so far succeeded.
There is, of course, also an intermediate sprint at km 178, after six of the climbs. Think any of the sprinters will be in any position to go for points?
And the stage will be topped off with an uphill finish. It rises about 182 metres in the final 1.5km.
Are you following the Cyclingnews/Easton Cycling trivia contest during the Tour? Of course you are! Yesterday's question was, who has the greatest number of days in the yellow jersey? The anser is Eddy Merckx, with 111.
Today's question will be coming up later on, be sure to see it and get a chance to win a great prize!
The first climb of the day has started, and our flock of sheep, er, peloton, is still all together.
We had a crash at 40km, with Millar (Garmin), Zeits (Astana), Zubeldia (RadioShack) and Bak (HTC-Highroad) all involved. All are back up and going.
Two riders have already dropped off the back of the peloton: Brutt of Katusha, and more worrisome, Robert Gesink of Rabobank.
Peraud of AG2R was also in the crash and is now said to be in dificulties.
Carlos Barredo of Rabobank has decided to try his luck with an attack.
Barredo's attack obviously wasn't successful. The first climb is over, and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) takes the top point, followed by Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil).
Voeckler just keeps on going, and now has about 20 seconds on the field.
The pace is high enough that a number of riders have alreay been dropped off the back, including Cavendish, Millar, Feillu and Duque.
Voeckler still leads, and is being chased by Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) and Juan Antonion Flecha. The peloton is 24 seconds back.
Hoogerland and Flecha have now joined Voeckler, with Sandy Casar of FDJ only a few seconds behind them.
Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank and Quick Step's Niki Terpstra jump from the field and join Casar.
The leading trio now has one minute on the field, with the Casar group somewhere in between.
And now the two lead groups have joined forces.
The gap is under a minute, so it is still not clear if this group will go or not.
Robert Gesink has pulled himself back together and is back in the peloton, after being dropped early on.
The gap is now being given as 3:35, so we would say, yes, this group is going.
The Great God Thor (also known as Thor Hushovd, of Garmin-Cervelo) still leads the race, with a not-so-big one-second lead over Cadel Evans of BMC. Fränk Schleck is third at 4 seconds. In fact, we still have 12 riders within 40 seconds of the lead!
At the other end of things from Hushovd and the lead, our “lanterne rouge” is Vincent Jerome of Europcar, who is already 1:09 down.
That is, of course, one hour and nine minutes.
“Phil Gil”, or Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto, is back in green ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) is lurking back in third place, but we doubt he will get any points today to move himself up.
Two more DNFs today: Wouter Pouls of Vacansoleil and Pavel Brutt of Katusha.
Seems to be a hard day today. Arnaud Coyot of Saur Sojasun is evidencing his stomach problems at the back of the field...
HTC-Highroad's youngster Tejay Van Garderen took over the polka-dots yesterday. He has five points in the mountain ranking, as does second-ranked Rui Costa of Movistar, who won yesterdays stage. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) is third.
By the way, van Garderen has totally broken out in spots. Not only on his jersey, but also on his helmet and socks!
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson is of course on the scene, and tells us that the medics were looking at Txurruka's collarbone before he was carried off.
Omega Pharma-Lotto and Garmin-Cervelo are leading the peloton now, and the gap has dropped by a handful of seconds.
Robert Gesink had a bad day yesterday but still managed to hang on to his best young rider's jersey. He leads Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Arnold Jennesson (FDJ).
He seems to be having his not-so-best day again today. No doubt he will try to simply get through to the end and then hope for a lot of recovery on the rest day.
Of the eight stages so far, seven have had individual winners (one was, of course, the team time trial). From those seven stages, we have six winners (Cavendish being the only rider to have won two stages so far). Six teams are represented, as are six different nations.
Garmin-Cervelo looks to be serious about this chase and has the peloton strung out single file behind it as they zip along.
A herd of brown cows runs over to the fence to watch the race go by.
Today's stage started in Issoire, a small community which has previously seen one stage finish and two starts. It's first time was in 1983 (a finish and a start). The second time was in 2005.
It's an early mealtime today for the riders. Mainly due to the terrain, there's just not enough flat later on to set up a feed zone.
The gap continues to come down ever so slightly, now at 3.25.
The stage ends in Saint-Flour, an even smaller town, which is hosting the Tour for only the third time. It's nickname is “the Windy City,” which probably won't make the riders too happy.
Alberto Contador is at the back of the field, working his way up through the team cars. Let's see if we can find out why he is so far back.
Apparently he crashed. Uninjured, thank goodness. He was having a time of it getting back up to the field, and only now does he have two teammates with him to give him a hand.
And they are now reconnected with the peloton.
So he promptly stops and wait to get a new bike.
And again he works his lone way up through the team cars.
The gap continues to go down and is now at 2:40.
They are on the way up the second climb of the day. From here on, there will be lots of ascending and descending.
The last time a stage ended in Saint-Flour, Richard Virenque won it after a 67km solo venture. Think we will see something similar today?
Three horses standing on a hillside watch the peloton go by. Let's just hope they stay where they are.
The lead group is riding along the top of a ridge, very lovely landscape. Not that they have time to admire it, though.
The gap has crept back up to just over three minutes on this climb.
Feillu pays a quick visit to the medical car.
Everyone is wending their way up the switchbacks on this beautiful and long green climb.
Terpstra is falling back slightly from the lead group. He is not really a climber.
Terpstra has now definitely been dropped and is dangling between the field and the escapees.
Voeckler and Hoogerland broke out to sprint for the mountain points, and it looks like Voeckler took them ahead of the Dutchman.
They keep on going with their lead over the other three.
French champion Sylvain Chavanel is another one having a hard time of it today. He has dropped off the back of the field and already has an 11 second gap.
Cavendish is another one who is quietly sliding off the back of the field -- and he is not alone.
it looks like the other three escapees have more or less caught up with Voeckler and Hoogerland, and in fact Hoogerland is lagging back a bit now.
Let's change that. We now have Hoogerland and Lulu Sanchez in front,
And it is wet....
Hoogerland took a few too many chances on a curve. Nothing happened, except a few more gray hairs have sprouted...
Sanchez is an expert descender and has really taken off.
A huge crash. j Many people down., Riders have gone oer the edge.
An Astana rider looks the worst off. He is surrounded by teammates and helpers.
It is Vino. He has gone over the edge into the woods. He looks to have seriously injured a knee.
he is not the only one down. Others are still lying or sitting ont eh road. A Garmin rider lays there, and Jurgen van den Broeck is sitting there....
Two ambulances move into position.
THe Garmin rider may be David Millar.
Dan Benson tells us that Klöden, Vande Velde and Zabriskie were also involved.
Vino had dropped out and Van Den Broeck is taken off his bike.
The gap has jumped to nearly five minutes, as the leaders head up an 11% gradient.
Van den Broeck is still at the side of the road, with medical helpers. We are not real sure he knows where he is at the moment.
The gap hs jumped to 6:34 as the field seems to have slowed down to see what is up with the injured riders.
Karpets (Katusha) gets some repairs.
Van Den Broeck is sitting up and being helped to have a drink. Someone else is cleaning a wound a the back of his head.
Cancellara and Gilbert chat with teh motorcycle passenger at the head of the field. They are keeping things calm.
Andy Schleck and Stuey O'Grady are together near the front of the field.
The gap is up to over 7 minutes. Lots of discussions amongs the riders at the head of the chasing field.
Klöden was indeed caught up in the crash but is now back in the peloton. Chavanel is also hanging on to the tail end of the field.
Once again Hoogerland and Voeckler sprint for the mountain points and this time the Dutchman wins. He is currently "virtually" in the polka dots.
The peloton is still rolling along together.
The pace had slowed down enough in the field that Cavendish had caught up with them again, but now that things are going uphill again -- well, you can guess what is happening.
David ZAbriskie has now abandoned. We hear the not-so-comforting news that he is conscious but unable to continue.
A puncture for Hoogerland. Quickly repaired.
We also hear that Vande Velde may have abdandoned, and that Van den Broeck has a broken collarbone.
Hoogerland has now rejoined his comrades a teh front. There is a quick chat amongst the five as to how to proceed.
We also get confirmation that Millar was involved. He is riding again but needs to visit the medical car.
Looks like the peloton has finally picked up its speed again. That may be because the gap is up to 7:30, with only 83km to go.
And no sooner are the leaders down from one climb, than they start up the next one.
Frederik Willems of Omega Pharma-Lotto is the next victim of that crash who has now left the race.
Echelons! And the field splits!
The split is growing. Chavanel looks to be at the rear of all the groups, in amongst the team cars, a a mater of fact.
Looks like the field is coming back together. Slowly, though.
Fränk Schleck looks very serious at the head of the field.
Terpstra is now back in the peloton.
Hoogerland takes the two points of the next climb, with Voeckler behind him taking one point.
Oooh, a little bit of flat for the lead group! Not much of that today.
An Omega Pharma-Lotto rider is at the head of the field, followed by a lot of Leopards.....
Voeckler didn't contest the last mountain ranking, but let Hoogerland take it. With a gap of over six minutes, he is probably looking forward to the yellow jersey at the end of the day. If he can have that, he would be more than happy to let the Vacansoleil rider have the KOM jersey.
Voeckler was only 1:19 down on Hushovd coming into the stage, so his chances look good.
There is no rest for the weary. The lead group is now headed up the fifth climb of the day.
Good news: the sun is shining!
The gap continues to fall, to 5:30.
Omega Pharma-Lotto with two men at the head of the field, with Leopard Trek behind them.
Another mountaintop and ang again two points for Hoogerland and one point for Voeckler.
Hoogerland now leads the mountain ranking with 17 points, ahead of Voeckler with 12. Van Garderen, who is wearing the polka dots today, is third with five points.
Feillu falls off the back of the peloton.
Van den Broeck has a broken shoulder blade, Zabriskie a broken wrist.
Vinokourov is worst off, with a broken elbow and a broken pelvis.
Get well wishes to all of them.
Willems has a broken collarbone.
Vino may hve a broken femur, we have heard that reported as well, instead of the pelvis. Doesn't matter, they both hurt.
60km to go for the leading quintet, and a gap of 5:05. Will they make it? The field has finally woken up again....
A puncture for Voeckler.
Sanchez drops back to the team car for a snack.
The gap is falling dramtically now, at 4:43.
And the next climb of the day for the leading group.
This is the sixth climb of the day. And there are still two more to come!
Once again Cyclingnews and Easton Cycling have teamed up for a contest during the Tour. We have some great prizes line up for you, ranging from a signed BMC team jersey to the grand prize, a complete BMC Teammachine SLR0. For more, just click here.
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The group approachs the next mountain ranking.
And surprise, the points go to Hoogerland ahead of Voeckler, Casar and Sanchez.
A lot of people expected Hushovd to lose the yellow jersey yesterday, but the Norwegian put in a stellar performance to hang o n to his lead. “you know I have good form – the best form I've ever had – and that allows me to go really deep and get everything out of my body and of course that's what I did again today. It gives me motivation again to keep the yellow jersey on my back,” he said after the stage.
The peloton tops out on this climb at 4:40 behind the lead group.
Hushovd very, very far back in the peloton.
Lots of sunshine today, against all expectations. And while Hushovd is at the back of the field, Gesink is near the front. We hope this is a sign that he is feeling better.
Gesink lost some time yesterday, and admitted to having had thoughts of abandoning.
So it is quite good to see him up at the front.
The gap has been holding steady at around the 4:45 mark for a while now.
We would say off hand that Omega Pharma-Lotto has pulled the peloton along for the last hunded km or so.
Hoogerland now has a seven point lead in the mountain ranking and the polka-dot jersey is his again this evening, no matter what happens from here on out.
Let's speculate a bit, and say this group comes through to the end. Voeckler gets yellow, Hoogerland gets polka dots.
That leaves the stage win up for grabs to the othre three. Who of them would take it?
All three of them have previously won Tour stages. Casar and Sanchez have even won two stages each.
Now we see the yellow jersey back up near the front of the field. We might also mention that it is a bit flatter at the moment.
Another crashi n the leading group. Flecha has gone down.
A cr has run into Flecha!j
Hoogerland went down too. Hard to belive but Flecha is back up and going.
Hoogerland got knocked off his bike and flew over a fence. We don't know anything further.
It was apparently a French TV car, which wanted to avoid a tree on the left side of the road. So it took out tiwo riders instead......
Still now word at all on HOogerland. Did we say he was assured of the polka dot jersey tonight? We thought about adding, assuming he finishes the stage, but thought it wasn't necessary....
The gap is now at 5 minutes.
Great news, Hoogerland is now back on his bike!
And now we see Hoggerland, who doesn't look real happy, and has a number of gauze patches all over him.
The remaining three go through the intermediate sprint without competing for it.
Hoogerland gets some more gauze applied. He is dripping blood. Looks like he totally ripped up his legs on the barbed wire fence.
The field is approaching the sprint, and Cervelo moves up to the head of the field. Haven't seen them there for a long time.
Hoogerland hs been caught by the field. He looks truly awful, and it wouldn't surprise us if he has to abandon.
Gilbert sprints out to take the 11 points at the intermediate sprint. A teammate is right behind him to sop up some points too.
Ahead of Gilbert, the points went to Casar, Voeckler, Sanchez, Flecha, in that order.
The peloton is strung out single file again.
The "Medical Assistance" motorcycle moves up to Flecha.
Meanwhile, Hoogerland drops off the back of the peloton.
Flecha has hole in the back of his jersey. And fellow victim Hoogerland falls back further and further.
The Tour tossed the motorcycle driver who knocked down Saxo Bank's Sorensen in an earlier stage. Will they do the same with this car driver? And did he even stop to see what kind of damage he had done?
Hoogerland is now six minutes behind the leaders and is willing to just roll along to the end now. We hope he can hobble on to the podium to accept the KOM jersey.
Flecha will be back in the peloton momentarily. Hoogerland gets a visit from his team car.
Voeckler takes off from his companions, as Flecha is caught by the field.
Garmin-Cervelo is now full at the head of the field. The gap is now 4:13 -- do they think they can cut it enough to hang on to Hushovd's yellow jersey?
The three leaders are together again.
Now Flecha goes out the back of the peloton. Time to lick his wounds and make it to the end....
The three leaders are going up the penlutimate climb of the day.
Gilbert and Hushovd have been chatting in the chasing field. Probably trying to decide if they have a serious chance of catching Voeckler.
We would say, no they don't. Barring further catastrophes, of course.
Puncture for Gilbert, who has to wait relatively long for help.
Gilbert diligently working his way back up to the field.
He is passing a lot of riders who have fallen off the back. They are perfectly glad to just let him go.
Voeckler took the one point available at the mountain ranking.
Looks like Gilbert has caught on to the end of the field.
The peloton tops off the next-to-last climb, with a gap of 4.10.
As always, Voeckler takes the lead and tries his best to get away from the other two.
Hoogerland now over 10 minutes down.
Voeckler has done 68 percent of the lead work in the last 10 km.
The other two will let him. He is the one who needs to pull out as many seconds as possible to assure his yellow jersey.
Eleven minutes for Hoogerland. The cut-off time is about 25 minutes, so he ought to be ok in that respect.
Casar take a turn in the lead.
Voeckler at the head again, looking grim.
Or should we say, looking determined?
BMC now leading the peloton.
HOogerland passes the 12km marker at the top of the penultimate climb, over 12 minutes down.
Only five km for the three leaders, who are now trading off lead work nicely.
Sanchez is of course Spanish time trial champion. He could take off any time now and possibly cruise in alone....
Of course, Frenchman Casar would love to have his third Tour stage win and bring in the first French win of this year's race.
Sanchez shakes his legs a bit -- cramps?
Leopard Trek moves up to help BMC with the chase work.
The three leaders are approaching the two km marker.
The three leaders are about to take on the closing climb.
We expect to see Voeckler let the other two fight it out for the win.
Remember, this is a climbing finish.
Voeckler still eads and looks around to see what the others are doing.
They are all still together....
The otehr two have pulled slightly ahead of Voeckler.
Voeckler is the first to go! But Sanchez notes it and jumps!
He easily pulls away and take it by six seconds ahead of Voeckler, with Casar third at about 17 seconds.
Sanchez salute his child (we assume), by sucking on his thumb as he crossed the line.
Hushovd at the back of the field now. He knows his time in yellow is over.
The peloton goes under the Flamme Rouge. Gilbert and Evans are two and three in the field.
Hushovd isn't trying any more, just rolling his way along.
An Omega Pharma-Lotto rider pulls his captian and a group of 25 or so to the finish line.
The finish approaches and Gilbert opens the sprint.
Gilbert takes fourth place, with -- we think -- Tony Martin fifth and Evans sixth.
They came in about 4 minutes down.
Hushovd rolls unconcernedly over the finish, at over six minutes. He is smiling and chatting, happy with what he has accomplished in this Tour.
What a stage! A successful escape group, with a sprint for the mountaintop win and a chang of yellow jersey.
On the other hand, several horrible and disastrous crashes. it will be a while before we get some of those images out of our minds.
1 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 5:27:09
2 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:05
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ 0:00:13
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:59
5 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad 0:03:59
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:59
7 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:03:59
8 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:03:59
9 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:03:59
10 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:59
And the new GC, going into the first rest day:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 38:35:11
2 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:49
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:26
4 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:29
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:37
6 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:02:38
7 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad 0:02:38
8 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:02:43
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:55
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:03:08
Congratulations to "Lulu" Sanchez for his stage win and to Voeckler for his yellow jersey
Our sympathy and best wishes to all who were injured today.
Thanks for reading along. Tomorrow is the much-needed rest day, so join us again on Tuesday when the race continues.