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Tour de France 2010: Stage 9

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage nine of the Tour de France.

After a well-earned rest day at Morzine, the convicts of the road saddle up for another tough day in the Alps.

204km remaining from 204km

Like Sunday's stage, it's looking like it's going to be an aggressive start to the day. Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) has led the chase up to him. Damiano Cunego is there too.

It's all come back together, but the bunch is strung out and the attacks will keep coming until a suitable break goes clear. Damiano Cunego seems very keen to get up the road.

Pierrick Fedrigo is having a dig on the front of the bunch now with Jerome Pineau in his wheel. No shortage of riders looking to slip away early on today.

198km remaining from 204km

Hushovd is pushing hard on the short descent to the foot of the 4th category climb of the Côte de Châtillon (2.1km at 3.9%). He'll be hoping he can get clear ahead of the intermediate sprint that comes just afterwards.

Meanwhile Andriy Grivko (Astana) has to stop for a wheel change.

Twelve man break now formed on the front. Jerome Pineau (QuickStep), Thos Hushovd (Cevelo), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Cyril Gautier (Bbox), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) , Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) are among the riders involved.

Interesting to see three Caisse d'Epargne men in this breakaway. Moreau, Luis Leon Sanchez and Gutierrez are three men well capable of lasting the distance on a day like today.

189km remaining from 204km

Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r), Anthony Charteau (Bbox) and Johannes Frohlinger (Milram) are also in this breakaway. There are some strong riders in this escape. If they continue to work well together it could go a long, long way.

A couple of Euskaltel-Euskadi riders trying to get across with Damiano Cunego on their wheel. They're desperate to get on to the break, which is now 1:16 clear and on the Cote de Chatillon.

Luis Leon Sanchez is on the front now and the breakaway is motoring well.

186km remaining from 204km

Correction. Pineau did in fact lead over the Cote de Chatillon ahead of Voigt and then dropped back. Our pictures picked up the break just after they'd crested the summit. Apologies for the confusion.

Thor Hushovd is driving the break now towards the day's first intermediate sprint. They have 1:30 on the peloton.

The trio of Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) and Christophe Kern (Cofidis) are trying to bridge to the escapees. BMC are on the front of the bunch but don't seem to have things under control.

179km remaining from 204km

Luis León Sánchez is a dangerous man for BMC to allow get up the road. He's only 5:03 down on the general classification and is solid on all terrains.

The breakaway's lead is approaching 2:30. Good to see Sandy Casar in the break today, he's always aggressive in the Tour, especially on stages like this one.

The break are on the lower slopes of the 1st category Col de la Colombière (16.5km at 6.7%).

The Col de la Colombière featured in last year’s Tour on the road to Le Grand Bornand. Fränk Schleck was first over the top and won the stage, but the climb itself was more noteworthy for Alberto Contador’s attack that distanced Andreas Kloden from the break, and led to an even frostier atmosphere than usual at the Astana dinner table that night…

The bunch now takes the sharp right turn onto the Col de la Colombiere. The gap is now 2:50.

Christophe Moreau is riding on the front now. Caisse d'Epargne are keen to make use of their numbers up front, and Moreau doubtless wants to do something special in his last Tour de France.

172km remaining from 204km

BMC are on the front of the peloton, but the tempo they are setting is very steady.

171km remaining from 204km

David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) is off the back of the peloton now and not looking at all well. Meanwhile Damiano Cunego is back getting some on the move adjustments made by his mechanic. He'll be disappointed not to have made it in to the morning's break.

Robbie McEwen is off the back of the peloton, but is still just about in contact.

169km remaining from 204km

The last time Vinokourov rode the Tour in 2007, he tested positive for blood doping.

10.5km to the top of the Colombiere for the break. Luis Leon Sanchez is setting the pace on the front.

Meanwhile there's a flurry of attacking out of the bunch behind. Janez Brajkovic has jumped across to Vinokourov, Chavanel and Horner.

Astana and RadioShack are sending men up the road to put BMC under pressure. Let's not forget that Saxo Bank are already represented up ahead by Jens Voigt. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) is in difficulty at the back of the peloton.

167km remaining from 204km

Now Cunego has attacked from the front of the peloton. He clearly sees today as a big opportunity to win a stage, especially now that the gap to the break is coming down. 2:15 is the advantage now.

Cunego has got across to Popovych and Robbie Hunter, with Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) on his wheel. He jumped just after Vinokourov had been reeled back in. RadioShack are very aggressive today, trying to put BMC under pressure.

Kevin Seeldrayers (Quick Step) is also in the Cunego group.

Cunego and Paulinho are working hard to get across to the group in front.

164km remaining from 204km

Jose Ivan Gutierrez is tapping out a decent tempo for the lead group, resplendent in the red and yellow of Spanish champion.

Hushovd has been dropped by the lead group. He's already 35 seconds back, but he'll be happy with his morning's work regardless.

162km remaining from 204km

Frohlinger has lost contact with the lead group. He had been looking uncomfortable for the last couple of kilometres.

Yaroslav Popovych now off the back of the peloton.

160km remaining from 204km

1km to the top of the col for the men in front. Jerome Pineau will be looking to pick up the points here.

Lance Armstrong is near the front of the peloton with his jersey fully unzipped. The pace has steadied back there again. The break's lead is back up to three minutes.

Cunego and Taaramae have passed Frohlinger. Cunego is riding strongly today, if he descends well he should make it up to the leaders.

158km remaining from 204km

Cunego and Taaramae crest the summit 40 seconds down.

Hushovd is over the top of the Colombiere with Gadret and Seeldrayers.

The peloton goes over the top just behind, with BMC setting the pace on the front.

As the race sweeps down the spectacular descent of the Colombiere, there should just be enough time to update you about some of the riders who abandoned the Tour during the rest day at Morzine.

Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) did not start this morning. Contrary to the rumours that Karpets' controversial pre-Tour decision to shear his trademark mullet was the reason for a sub-par showing on the road to Morzine, it has emerged that the big Russian rode the entire first week with a broken hand. Incredible. Karpets went down heavily on the stage to Spa last week, but x-rays that evening showed no damage. Further scans on the rest day revealed the true extent of his injury and the Katusha man is out of the Tour.

150km remaining from 204km

The youngest rider in this year’s Tour is another non-starter today. Fabio Felline (Footon-Servetto) fell early on Sunday, but the twenty-year-old was only ever going to ride as far as the rest day for in any case. “I started without objectives,” Felline told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “I just started with the idea that it would be better to ride ten good days perhaps even with a breakaway, than three weeks slogging to finish half an hour down every day.”

Felline’s story is an incredible one. This time last year he was just finishing school. Part of his final examinations was to submit a short dissertation. His chosen topic? The history of the Tour de France, in French. On submission, his teacher laughed and asked him, “And when are you going to ride this blasted Tour?”

Thor Hushovd has been absorbed by the peloton. Mission accomplished for the big Norwegian today. Six more points in the bank for the green jersey, now he'll just get to the finish as steadily as possible.

147km remaining from 204km

144km remaining from 204km

The lead group are working well together in the valley ahead of the Col des Aravis and their lead is stretching out towards four minutes. They currently have 3:45.

141km remaining from 204km

Damiano Cunego is now getting his radio adjusted on the move.It's a complicated operation fitting it back into the pocket in his shorts, but the mechanic has - finally - managed it.

The peloton has just started the climb of the Aravis, a shade over four minutes behind the twelve men up front.

137km remaining from 204km

Frohlinger might well be putting himself in the shop window for next season. Latest reports suggest that Milram will struggle to find a sponsor for 2011.

135km remaining from 204km

It's no surprise to see Sandy Casar up the road on a day like today. He finished second on the stage to Bourg-Saint-Maurice during last year's Tour. The Frenchman had particular reason to feel hard done by that day, as it was subsequently revealed that the victor Mikel Astarloza had tested positive for EPO before the Tour.

107km remaining from 204km

Pineau was a little unhappy that Moreau jumped him for the points on the Colombiere. They seemed to have reached an agreement on this climb however. The break's lead is now almost five minutes.

The break is now drilling down the descent of the Aravis. Luis Leon Sanchez is closing in on being virtual leader on the road.

Luis Leon Sanchez was 5:03 behind this morning.

125km remaining from 204km

While one Australian is enjoying life in the yellow jersey today, another man from Down Under is having a tougher time of it in this Tour after crashing in week one. Robbie McEwen was off the back earlier on today, but he hasn't lost his sense of humour. He had this to say on Twitter before today's stage: "Just to make todays tough day that bit harder-730am wake up call for UCI blood control. I need the extra sleep & blood but they rob me of it."

121km remaining from 204km

Speaking of the yellow jersey, it's worth noting that Rinaldo Nocentini is very active in this breakaway, which has just started the climb of the Col des Saisies. The Italian had eight days in yellow in last year's Tour. He started this season in fine form, but then broke his tibia, fibula and several bones in his foot in a crash at the end of February. He returned to racing just in time for the Tour de Suisse, and was delighted just to make the start of this year's Tour.

The breakaway is still working together now on the slopes of the 1st category Col des Saisies, which climbs for 14.4km at an average gradient of 5.1%. BMC are still setting the pace on the front of the peloton.

118km remaining from 204km

Rin Taaramae is riding very strongly today. The young Estonian has been off the front at every opportunity in the Tour so far and no less a figure than Bernard Hinault has tipped him as a stage winner this year. If this break goes the distance he'll certainly be a major factor in the finale.

Andy Schleck is looking composed near the front of the peloton. He laid down a serious marker as to his Tour ambitions on Sunday's stage. It will be interesting to see how Alberto Contador has processed that psychological blow. The gap at the finish was only ten seconds, but the Astana leader will surely be concerned that he couldn't respond to the acceleration in the finale.

The breakaways slow as they pass through the feed zone halfway up the Saisies. They've ridden very intelligently so far. There's a long descent and valley between the top of the Saisies and the foot of the Madeleine, it makes sense for them to stay together for that, it will increase their chances of staying clear.

For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day:
Who was the Lanterne Rouge in last year's Tour?

113km remaining from 204km

George Hincapie is on the front of the peloton now in the stars and stripes of American champion. The man from Queens has been in the news recently as the investigation into the US Postal team gathers momentum.

110km remaining from 204km

108km remaining from 204km

107km remaining from 204km

Fabian Cancellara slips his chain at the rear of the peloton and the France Television cameras are immediately trained on him. And no, he hasn't changed his bike...

Andy Schleck drops back to his team car to take a bidon from Bjarne Riis. While Schleck seems destined for the new Luxembourg team along with his brother Frank, Riis yesterday announced that he has found new sponsors for his Saxo Bank squad for next year.

The peloton is over the top of the Col des Saisies now, 4:39 down on the breakaway group.

2008 World Champion Alessandro Ballan is leading the bunch down the descent of the Saisies in the service of 2009 champion Cadel Evans. Meanwhile, the 2008 Worlds silver medallist and Ballan's erstwhile Lampre leader Damiano Cunego is pushing hard in the break ahead.

There is some spectacular forestry in the Savoie region. The terrain in the Alps becomes a bit more exposed further south.

91km remaining from 204km

85km remaining from 204km

Sandy Casar takes a look at the stage map. Eyes on the road Sandy! In 2007 Casar was knocked off by a dog when in a break on the stage to Angoulême. He got back up, chased back on and then tried to jump off the front of the break in the finale. Casar was caught in the finishing straight and forced to lead out the sprint, but he managed to take the win ahead of Axel Merckx. It was a fantastic win by a rider with a great degree of natural class. The Frenchman is always a consistent performer at the Tour.

79km remaining from 204km

The breakaway has to collectively bunnyhop a speedbump as they enter Alberville. That could cause problems for the peloton when it steams though in six minutes' time.

Albertville hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics. It was also the scene of a stage finish in 1998, when Jan Ullrich outsprinted yellow jersey Marco Pantani for the win. It was the day after Pantani's epic win over the Galibier to Les Deux Alpes. Ullrich and Pantani seared clear on the Madeleine that day to Albertville, they were head and shoulders over everybody else in that very controversial Tour.

69km remaining from 204km

Gutierrez led the escapees through the sprint at La Bathie. Damiano Cunego is looking intently at the route map now. We're a little over 12km from the foot of the Madeleine.

According to France Televsion's on-screen statistics, Christophe Moreau has done the most work on the front of this breakaway and Cunego has done the least...

Bbox Bouygues Telecom have two men in this breakaway. Along with Charteau, Cyril Gautier is also up here in the light blue kit. The Breton is riding his first Tour, and was European Espoirs Champion in 2008.

62km remaining from 204km

58km remaining from 204km

The three Caisse d'Epargne men are on the front of the break now, tapping out a decent pace on the early slopes of the pass. They're working towards a stage win and possibly a yellow jersey in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne this evening.

Back in the peloton, a phalanx of Rabobank orange is moving up to the front. This is interesting. Robert Gesink was hugely impressive on Sunday's stage and Denis Menchov is riding solidly too.

The Rabobank and BMC-led peloton is on the Madeleine now. Denis Menchov is 5th overall at 1:10. Gesink is 11th, 2:37 behind. As Rabo's designated "loose cannon", we might Gesink put in a dig on the Madeleine.

55km remaining from 204km

Spanish champion Gutierrez has seized the initiative here on the front of the breakaway and his pressure is telling. Taaramae and Frohlinger have also been dropped. Pineau in his polka dot jersey has inched past them, but he'll be struggling to make it back on now.

54km remaining from 204km

53km remaining from 204km

The peloton is started to fragment completely on the slopes of the Madeleine under the impetus of Sorensen's tempo. As happened on Sunday, the selection is taking place at the back of the field as riders are dropping off in twos and threes.

Two national champions are among those dropped. Britain's Geraint Thomas (Sky) and the USA's George Hincapie (BMC). Janez Brajkovic and Michael Rogers have also been dropped.

Sorensen is setting a very decent pace on the front. The main contenders are all still behind him.

51km remaining from 204km

The controversial Vinokourov has about ten seconds on the main contenders. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) is on the front of that group now with Matthew Lloyd on his wheel.

50km remaining from 204km

At the front Gutierrez is still on the front. He's burying himself in the service of Luis Leon Sanchez. Sanchez is just about in yellow on the road. There are 17km left to the top of the Madeleine. It's a monster of a climb.

48km remaining from 204km

The break reaches a flat section on the Madeleine and Christophe Moreau comes to the front and the pace has shot up accordingly. He may be 39 years of age, but the former Festina man can still  turn a mean pedal.

Alexandre Vinokourov had his Weetabix this morning, he's eating up the ground.

Vinokourov has blown past Taaramae in pursuit of t