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We've got five major climbs today! Stage nine takes us 168.5 km ffom Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, in the second consecutive high mountain stage.
Welcome back to our coverage of the Tour de France. You thought the mountains yesterday were tough? Today is going to be even harder, as five climbs rear up to torture the peloton in stage nine.
What is awaiting the peloton today? Things start out nice and easy (ha ha) with a category two climb. But they are followed by four cat. one climbs. The only good news is that there is no mountaintop finish.
The stage is scheduled to start at 11:20. There will first be a 4.4km neutralized section, before teh sharp start at 11:30.
And here are the day's climbs, courtesy of letour.fr:
Km 28.5 - Col de Portet d'Aspet (1 069 m)5.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.9% - category 2
Km 44.0 - Col de Menté (1 349 m)7 kilometre-long climb at 7.7% - category 1
Km 90.0 - Col de Peyresourde (1 569 m)13.2 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 1
Km 110.5 - Col de Val Louron-Azet (1 580 m)7.4 kilometre-long climb at 8.3% - category 1
Km 138.0 - La Hourquette d'Ancizan (1 564 m)9.9 kilometre-long climb at 7.5% - category 1
They are indeed underway. And as if the day isn't difficult enough, the temperature at the start was 28° C.
We have one DNS today. Rohan Dennis of Garmin-Sharp was scheduled to leave on the first rest day, but the decision was made to leave a day earlier.
There were 186 riders at the start today, meaning11 have left the race so far. Astana is the hardest hit, having lost three riders, and Lampre and Garmin are both two down.
No sooner was the flag dropped for the sharp start than the first attack came, and it was none other than Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM). He has been joined by two others whose names we do not yet have.
Hoogy's two escape companions are Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) and Laurent Didier (RadioShack Leopard).
But it didn't last. The three have been caught, and now others try their luck.
As always, the Cyclingnews preview of today's stage here.
Jerome Roy (FDJ) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) now have a slight lead on the pack.
And another rider was DNS: Michael Schär, BMC, who crashed on the seventh stage.
We apologize, it is of course Jeremy Roy, and not Jerome.
That attack didn't work out either. Now two Garmin riders are giving it a go, will they be able to make it?
Former pro Robbie McEwen is picking Thomas Voeckler to win today. As he tweeted, "Why Voeckler? Good form, won mtn stg in Dauphine. Lost time yday & sold the suffering. Don't be fooled, he'll lick 'em today"
The two Garmin riders David Millar and Jack Bauer have 13 seconds on the peloton. BMC's Tejay van Garderen is trying to catch them.
Simon Greschke of Argos-Shimano joined van Garderen in the chase, but they too have been caught. The two Garmin riders still have about 25 seconds, with Sky leading the chase.
Will we see another Team Sky day today? After yesterday's performance, the other favourites for th crown will likely be quickly coming up with new tactics – or realizing it could be a very long two weeks until Paris.
That one didn't last, either. Peloton together again.
There is a slight split in the peloton -- or a large group is trying to get away. 10-12 riders now slightly off the front.
Peter Kennaugh (Sky) took a tumble off of the road and down into the greenery. He seems to be ok, but apparently the same can't be said of his bike.
Oh, and that large group wasn't successful either. Ruben Plaza of Movistar is the next to give it a go.
The stage started out ascending, as the first climb comes at km 28.5. The first riders are already being dropped, including Saxo-Tinokoff's Benjamn Noval.
With the first mountain ranking only 1 km away, another large group has split off. Yellow jersey Christopher Froome is giving chase.
it looks as if Arnold Jeannesson of FDJ was first over the top, followed by Garmin's Dan Martin.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) was third at the top and Przemyslaw Niemiec of Lampre-Merida fourth.
The GC got tumbled around yesterday, and here is how it looks this morning:
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 32:15:55
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:51
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:25
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:44
5 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:50
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:51
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
8 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:02
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:31
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:02:40
Jeannesson leads the way in the descent, 10 seconds ahead of Plaza, who in turn is followed by Martin and Niemiec, who in their turn have the long strung-out peloton behind them.
The situation is changing virtually every minute. Steve Morabito (BMC) has now joined Jeannesson in the lead.
Those two have now been joined by Danielson and Jon Izaguirre (Euskaltel). We don't now how much of a lead they have.
And we think they have now been caught anyway.
The second climb started directly after the first. 10 more riders have joined the four in front, with about 10 seconds over the peloton. The peloton itself has split, with Cadel Evans (BMC) in the second group, which is about 40 seconds back.
The 15 riders up front are: Morabito (BMC), Jeannesson (FDJ), Hernandez (TST), Nieve (EUS), Trofimov (KAT), Izagirre (EUS), Rolland (EUC), Losada (EUS), Castroviejo (MOV), Costa (MOV), Plaza (MOV), Hesjedal (GRS), Danielson (GRS), Martin (GRS), and Merderel (SOJ).
Richie Porte is no longer with Froome and is back in the Evans group, at about 30 seconds down.
Van Garderen has been dropped.
We have the 15 riders in front, followed by a 30-plus strong group which includes Froome and Contador. The Evans group is another 30 seconds behind them.
This will be a real test of strength: Contador has three helpers in the group, but Froome is all alone.
Trofimov (Kastusha) and Danielson have a amall gap on the lead group as they all go up.
Porte is now 1:05 back. Froome is all alone. Will Contador and the others be able to take advantage of this?
Hesjedal jumps from the Froome group, as does a Euskaltel rider, and Rolland.
Valverde and Contador have a little chat -- wouldn't we all love to know what was said!
Hesjedal catches the two leaders at the mountain ranking, taking second behind Danielson.
There is now a long and fairly steep descent, followed by a flattish section of 20-some kms, Then, of course, we have even more climbs.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has cemented his lead in the points ranking, and now has a 93 point lead over Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 234 pts
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 141
3 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 128
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha 111
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 88
It looks like there are five riders more or less in the lead, as Anton and Rolland have caught the first three. ´Everyone else quite spread out on the descent.
Bram Tankink of Belkin has crashed.
Valverde hs jumped and is now between the leaders and the Froome group. Evans is moving up and is within sight of the Froome group.
Dmitiri Murayev of Astana has thrown in the towel and abandoned the race.
That leaves Astana with only five riders in the race.
Things are looking good for th led group, as theynow have a minute on the Froome group. And it looks as if Contador and Co. are doing their best to dump the yelllow jersey.
More riders have joined the leaders. Let's see if we can catch the names.
Valverde had fallen back to the Froome group, but now he attacks!
Froome has no choice but to give chase. He soon joins them, as Plaza as with Valverde.
Contador did not respond and is still in the group.
Let's see if we can set things up here: Hesjedal and Rolland are in front, with 10 riders behind them. The next group is Valverde, Froome and Plaza, with Contador and Evans in a group behind them.
But things are chaning with every meter....
Contador and Evans were apparently caught by surprise by Valverde's move. Surprisingly, neither has made any attempt to give chase.
Two Movistar riders had joined the Danielson group, but now they have dropped back to help Valverde. The group is now three Movistar riders and only one Sky....
54 seconds to the Froome group, and 1:09 to the Contador group.
Bardet, de Gendt and de Clerq have joined the two leaders. Actually we look to have many small groups scattered along the way.
100 km -- and three cat.1 climbs to go. Froome and the Movistars have now caught the first chase group.
The Froome group is 54 seconds behind the lead group.
Four Sky riders hare leading a third group, which is 3:14 down. It looks like Porte is in this group.
The day's intermediate sprint was along the way, and De Gendt took it.
The Froome group is now the chase group. All the little groups have come together to form one large one. Froome is still without helpers, though.
Time for the lead group to start up the day's third climb! That is the Col de Peyresourde (1 569 m)13.2 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 1.
Things have calmed down a bit for the moment, since all the favourites are all back together again in the same group. They are 1:24 behind the leaders, with the Froome group anotehr two minutes down.
De Gendt has dropped from the lead group.
WE now have four riders in the lead -- Bardet, Rolland, Hesjedal and de Clerq -- followed by a group with Bakelants, Geschke and Bardet. Which isn't really possible....
Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff lead the big chase group.
De Gendt has fallen back far enough to be caught by the first chase group.
Jose Ivan Guittierez of Movistar has abandoned the race, as has Benjamin Noval (Saxo-Tinkoff).
And now De Gendt has nearly caught the four leaders again.
This is a very long ascent, and we are still not near the top. The Froome group is at 47 seconds, with the Porte group another 1:15 back.
There are now six in the lead group, as Bakelants has joined them.
Froome's win yesterday also gave him the lead in the mountain ranking.
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 31 pts
2 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 31
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 28
4 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 25
5 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 21
There are at least five Movistar riders in the Froome group.
What did Mark Cavendish, OPQS, have to say aboaut today's stage? Nothing good, as you can imagne. Yesterday he tweeted, “Today's stage should have been piss easy compared to tomorrow. Which absolutely terrifies me!”
Tony Gallopin has dropped back from his group.
This area has suffered terrible damage from floods this early summer, and the riders have said they will donate all the premiums they receive today to this cause.
De Gendt falls back again.
This is one of those not-necessarily so steep, but rather never-ending climbs. It just keeps going and going and going.
But the end is in sight. Only one km left for the five leades.
The Sky car pulls up to the Porte group, which is still 2:30 down.
A Movistar rider jumps from the Froome group. Up ahead. Rolland julmps, but De Gendt has not only managed to come back, but also passes the Frenchman to take the points.
And down the mountain they all fly....
Ryder Hesjedal hinted to Cyclingnews before the start of the stage that he and his Garmin-Sharp teammates would not sit back and let Team Sky control the racing all the way to Paris.
"We've still got a lot of goals and we want to be aggressive. We've got a lot of guys to do that. There's still a lot of racing to come in this Tour," he said.
"We've seen the time gaps on the first mountain finish, o what's going to happen in the third week? I think there's going to be lots of chances in this race, I've got to be ready to take them."
"My rib isn’t helping things isn’t helping things but I don’t feel bad. I'm just not in top form. I was hoping I could ride into the race a little bit but I'm not at a top level. It's not unexpected. My run-in to the race wasn't ideal. We've just to be positive and hopefully I can get better as the race keeps going," Hesjedal said.
“I think a lot of guys were surprised by the time gaps yesterday. But it's the Tour de France and so people go when they can. I didn't feel that great and so I wasn't there to experience the full effect. I was able to ride steady but I just don’t have that top end form."
52 seconds now to the Froome group.
Europcar has moved to the front of the Froome group, and is slowing things down. They want to protect Rolland who is up ahead, and assure he gets back the KOM jersey.
That certainly didn't please the Movistar riders who have moved back to the front.
Simon Clarke of Orica GreenEdge jumped from the Froome group and is dangling somewhere between that group and the leaders.
The fap back to the Froome group, which is now grabbing feed bags, is now 1:34.
Clarke has not only caught the lead group, but passed them!
There is a very short flat section before the next climb, and Clarke has reached it.
The flatness is over and Clarke is now climbing again. The Froome group is 1:44 behind him.
De Gendt is not only out of the lead group, he has fallen out the back of the Froome group.
Porte takes things into his own hands and heads up to the the group ahead of him -- that is, several minutes ahead of him.
Hesjedal is the next to struggle. He can no longer stay with the others chasing Clarke.
Hesjedal's teammate Andrew Talansky is fighting to hang on to the Froome group.
Porte is moving up, but still 3:13 down, with his captain Froom some two minutes up the road.
Cadel Evans (BMC) tried to stay optimistic about his goals in this year's Tour de France despite losing time on Saturday's stage. He is now targeting a place in the top five or top ten.
"It was difficult to stay hydrated on the small roads yesterday. I was one of those riders who suffered but that's not good enough because Sky overcame those problems and performed at their best. I was along way off that,” he told Cyclingnews.
1:34 for the Froome group.
Hesjedal has been caught and dropped by the Froome group. Clarke still moves on ahead. De Clerq, Rolland and Bardet are now 25 seconds behind the Australian.
Porte is moving up slowly but surely, passing individual riders and small groups along the way.
One team car moves up to the three chasers and hands out bidons to all.
This climb too has endless switchbacks working their way up.
Some more thoughts from Cadel Evans:
"We have to stay realistic now. I came here to go for the win like in 2011. That's a little bit unrealistic. Finishing in the first five would be good and getting in the first ten is the first step. There's a lot of hard racing to go. Yesterday was a preview of what is to come. We're going to take things step by step and try and move up on GC."
"We haven't had a heap of reasons to be good about our moral. We haven't had the results to feedback to the work we put in. That's sport, that's cycling and a reflection of life. You have tough out the difficult moments to enjoy the good times."
Clarke tops out on the Col de Val Louron-Azet. Only one more climb to go!
He has 18 seconds on the three chasers, 1:10 over the Froome group, and 3:15 over Porte.
Porte has gathered a little group around him. Of course they are allowing him to do all the lead work.
We know hear that despite earlier reports, Muravyev did not abandon and is still in the race. Astana called Cyclingnews to tell us that, and they should certainly know best!
The gap back to the Froome group is shrinking on this descent, and is now only 56 seconds.
VIP guest here today: French president Francois Hollande is at the race.
50 km to go, and they are all going downhill at the moment.
The three chasers have caught Clarke.
Porte is not really having much luck. He is still 3:48 back.
Don’t expect to see any maverick attacks from Bauke Mollema (Team Belkin) today. The Dutch rider lies fourth on GC, with team-mate Laurens Ten-Dam in fifth. Mollema said the team strategy was to hang on as long as possible and see what happens when the race reaches the final climb to La Hourquette d’Ancizan.
“Before the last climb we’ll keep quiet as long as possible,” he said in Saint-Girons this morning. "I think it’s going to be a hard day with a lot of climbing. I hope to be with the best riders on the last climb and then we’ll see what happens.”
We are told that Movistar has done 100% of the lead work in the chase group over the last 10 minutes!
Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Charly Wegelius spoke at length about before the start of the stage. Perhaps knowing the aggressive tactics that his riders would play out, he predicted that the Tour de France was far from over.
"Go and look at the history of the Tour de France. There are all kinds of crisis that happen for tiny little reasons. I don’t think it’s over by a long way," he said.
Only 27 seconds back to the Froome group now.
And time to start yet another climb, the last one of the day: La Hourquette d'Ancizan (1 564 m)9.9 kilometre-long climb at 7.5% - category 1
Only 16 seconds gap now.
Garmin-Sharp still has plenty of goals, Wegelius told Cycling news.
"Dan (Martin) was pinging and has a chance to do extremely well in the next few days and winning a stage is definitely on the menu. We've got an important project with Andrew (Talansky) for the white jersey. But as we've said from the start of the race, we've got a lot of options for the race and we'll try and use all of them. A final jersey in Paris is important, it's a prestigious thing and good for the team. But I don’t think that has preclude going after other objectives."
Bardet jumps as the ascent begins.
And Rolland is caught by the Froome group.
Movistar still plugging away at the head of that group.
The chase group is gobbling up the former leaders, one by one.
Wegelius also talked about Australian neo-pro Rohan Dennis who did not start the stage.
"He came into the Tour so that he discover the Tour de France, learn about it for the future and grow as a rider. He's done that in these first days. The objective was to get to the first rest day to see how he was but unfortunately the calf injury he picked up moved it forward a little. Our priority is to look after him for the future and I think he can still go away from the races with a lot of positive experiences. Now we've got to give him the time to develop."
Clarke now off the back of the chase group.
Bardet has been caught. Movistar still in the lead of what is now the first group.
It seems highly unlikely that Richie Porte will move up to the lead group and retain his second place overall, as hie is now in teh second group at 4:45.
And now 5:18 for Porte.
Peter Sagan is quite the hero in this race so far. Check out our video of him.
Wegelius talked about Ryder Hesjedal.
"I think Ryder is a victim of his less than perfect run into the Tour, with his crash in Switzerland and then his rib. It's been a disappointment personally but his race isn’t over and the team's situation is positive," he said.
Quintana takes a slight lead on the group, but Froome leads the chase to catch him.
Dan Martin of Garmin is the next to jump, and he is allowed to go.
He is then followed by Jakob Fuglsang of Astana.
And then an Euskaltel rider jumps.
Speaking of Fuglsang, he thinks it will be hard work to dislodge Sky.
Quintana jumps again and is caught again,a s is the Euskaltel rider.
Martin and Fuglsang are together in the lead.
Kreuziger leads the chase group now, with Andy Schleck on second wheel.
Quintana goes yet again! And again Froome goes right with him!
There are no more than 15 riders in this group, we would estmate.
Froome now leading the group.
Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans, Robert Gesink are also all in this group.
Fuglsang and Martin now have 41 seconds on the chasers.
Wegelius was asked about Chris Froome and the fact that he immediately faced questions about his performance.
"He's in the prime of his career in a physiological point of view. But he doesn’t have a lot of experience, so we can only expect him to grow in the next few years. He's an extremely strong athlete," Wegelius said.
"I think it's a shame that the riders of this generation have to deal with the mistakes of the past but I think the top riders are quite aware that it’s a question that is going to get asked. I don’t think Froome has a problem with that."
Once again, lots of fans along the road.
A Vacansoleil rider has now jumped from the group, but we are not sure who it is.
Martin crosses over the mountain ranking ahead of Fuglsang.
The Vacansoleil rider is Wout Poels, who at this time last year was in intensive care. Nice comeback!
A slight gap has formed ahead of Froome, and you can bet he hurries to close it.
It's all downhill from here, about 28 km to the finish line.
41 seconds back to the Froome group.
When last heard of, Richie Porte was over eight minutes back.
Three Belkin riders in the group: Ten Dam, Mollema and Gesink.
Wegelius said he did not expect Contador to perform at his very best in this year's Tour de France but again warned about predicting the race was already over.
"Contador showed in the Dauphine that he wasn't coming into the Tour in top shape," he said. "If you go and look at the map, you can see this race resembles the Giro d'Italia in lots of ways. It's weighted a lot to the last week. A lot can change in the last week. If you come to the last week a little bit empty, you're going to pay the price for it. So this Tour isn't over by a long shot."
10:43 now for Porte, who has been joined by Hesjedal.
25km and nearly a minute gap now.
25km and nearly a minute gap now.
Schleck dangling off the end of the field. He is not the best descender in the peloton.
EVen the descent is failry well lined with fans.
Less than 20 km now, and 41 seconds for Fuglsang and Martin.
Kwiatkowski has jumped from the Froome group. He is no doubt trying to claim back the young rider's jersey from Quintana. Of course, if he took a stage win, that would be nice too.
Kwiatkowsk has been caught now.
Gesink is pulling the chase group along, setting a high pace.
10 km now and 25 seconds for Martin and Fuglsang.
The two leaders thread their way through a village, with the finish line still over 7 km away.
Froome has been alone much of the day, but has had no problem at all. Both Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff have had multiple riders in the group, but they have been unable to dislodge the yellow jersey.
4km and 37 seconds for the two leaders. They ought to be able to pull this off.
Only two km now, as we try to decide which of these two is the better sprinter.
Fuglsang leads the way under the flamme rouge....
Much looking back and forth -- but Martin won't move forward, not yet.
Fuglsang does what he can to convince MArtin to take the lead -- and he finally does. And the Irishman takes the win!
About 18 seconds later, the Froome group comes in.
We thnk that the last Irishman to win a stage at the Tour was Martin's uncle, Stephen Roche, in 1993.
Michel Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was third on the day, leadng the group across the finish line.
Stage results, today you get top 11:
1 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 4:43:03
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:20
4 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
5 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
10 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard
11 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
Porte won't be coming in for a long time now, so he has dropped out of his second place overall. It looks like everyone else just moves up one notch. Froome, of course, is still the leader.
And here the new top ten:
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 36:59:18
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:25
3 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:44
4 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:50
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:51
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:51
7 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:02
8 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 0:02:28
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:31
10 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 0:02:45
An interesing stage today, and the day is not yet over for the peloton. They must all jump in an airplane and fly up north, for their rest day. And on Tuesday the fun starts all over again!
Thanks for reading along with us, enjoy the free day tomorrow and check back in again on Tuesday!