Tour de France 2016 Stage 9 preview: Vielha Val d'Aran - Andorre Arcalis, 184km

Modern management theory, in the touchy-feely post-millenial era, dictates that criticism alone is not motivating. We are encouraged to sandwich the malodorous filling of the negative between slices of positivity, the better for self-improvement and self-esteem. However, viewed through this prism, stage 9 of the 2016 Tour de France is the equivalent of the full hairdryer from Alex Ferguson. It’s got a very, very hard beginning, a very, very hard middle, and a very, very hard finish.

Arcalis is a relative newcomer among the summit finishes of the Tour. It’s twice appeared in the race, in 1997 and 2009. While it’s not the most atmospheric climb – nor does it have the character of an Alpe d’Huez or a Ventoux – it does bring out breakthrough performances in Tour contenders. In ’97, Jan Ullrich gave a monstrous demonstration of what, in hindsight, might be considered the answer to the question, ‘What happens if you give a prodigious physical talent copious performance-enhancing products?’ and single-handedly won the Tour on this one climb. In 2009, it could be argued, Bradley Wiggins discovered himself as a Tour contender. He started the climb as a good time triallist, who’d reached the mountains close to the race lead by dint of a solid efforts in the individual and team time trials. He finished it as a future Tour winner, having ridden up in the company of Armstrong, Schleck, Nibali et al.

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