Live coverage of a hugely important day in the fight for the yellow jersey.
Hello there, and welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre for full rolling coverage of stage 9 of the Tour de France.
You join us on one of the most critical, one of the most mouthwatering, days of this year's Tour. 181.5 kilometres, seven categorised climbs - three of them hors-cat - and more than 5000 metres of altitude gain. You have the profile above and you only have to glance at it to know that this is a brute of a stage.
The riders and crowds have all gathered in Nantua and we're currently going through the pre-race motions - sign-on, coffee, haircuts etc. The riders will roll out of the start town at 11.45 local time, and 10 minutes later Christian Prudhomme will emerge from his red car, wave his flag, and the stage will be underway. That much, I can predict. After that, it's anyone's guess.
First things first, check out our stage 9 preview, featuring a video run-through and insight from Phil Anderson.
@BORAhansgrohe Sun, 9th Jul 2017 09:03:28
As Bora point out, the stage climbs from the gun, with a short cat-2 climb followed immediately by a third-cat climb. No one will want to be caught cold, and that's why there are plenty of riders out on the rollers and turbos outside the team buses this morning.
This is how things stand on GC
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 33:19:10
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:12
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:14
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:25
5 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:39
6 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:00:43
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:47
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:52
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:54
10 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:01
Let's talk about the Mont du Chat
It hasn't featured in the Tour since Eddy Merckx was famously dropped there in 1974, but you may remember it from last month's Dauphiné, and the finale of today's stage is almost identical to that day - up the punishing western face and down the white-knuckle ride to the Lac du Bourget. The only difference is there is another 10km or so of flat roads to the finish line today.
Romain Bardet's AG2R La Mondiale team know the Mont du Chat well, with their base and service course positioned practically at the foot of the descent. At the Dauphiné we spoke to DS Julien Jurdie for a detailed insight into the climb and the equally important descent. You can read that here.
@LeTour Sun, 9th Jul 2017 09:26:08
The difference between today's stage and the Dauphiné's, of course, is what lies before the Mont du Chat. While that was pretty much the only difficulty on the parcours last month, today the riders will have a huge amount of climbing in the legs already, including the Col de la Biche and the Grand Colombier. Endurance will play a far bigger role, and there's always the chance that the race will have been blown apart before they even reach the foot of the final climb.
@TeamWantyGobert Sun, 9th Jul 2017 09:25:11
That Wanty tweet raises an important point: the weather.
Rain is predicted throughout today's stage and, with such a heavy load of descending, this will be a treacherous day out - not least on the already-dastardly final descent, where the endgame will be unfolding and risks will be taken.
'I expect the GC to be blown wide open'
Race leader and three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is braced for a big day. You can read the full story here.
Here's Nairo Quintana on the rollers. He was disappointing on La Planche des Belles Filles but this is a stage that suits him far better, and by the end of the day we should have a true indication of his chances of winning the Tour after three podium finishes.
The riders roll out for the départ fictif.
For more preview of today's stage, here's a story from Alasdair Fotheringham, with the thoughts of Quintana and his Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué.
Prudhomme rises through the sunroof of the car, flag in hand, and, as we pass the kilometre-zero banner, he signals that the stage is officially underway. Here we go!
Tim Wellens attacks from the gun.
The second-category Côte des Neyrolles has already begun. 3.2km at 7.2%.
Arnaud Demare, who fought to make the time cut yesterday, is dropped immediately. He has teammates with him but this is set to be another brutal day ahead of the broom wagon for the French champion.
Wellens has a gap as riders pile off the front in pursuit.
A great effort from Wellens, who is stretching out his advantage. Alessandro De Marchi, one of Richie Porte's BMC domestiques, looks to make his way over now.
There's a large group of breakaway hopefuls sitting just ahead of the peloton, where Team Sky are tapping out a steady rhythm.
Thibaut Pinot attacks. The Frenchman finished fourth in the Giro d'Italia and came here with the goal of stage wins and maybe the polka-dot jersey. He said he needed to ride his way into form and wrote off any chances in the first week, but is today his day? It's certainly a key day for the polka-dots.
Pinot reaches Wellens and skips away from him to take the five points on offer at the summit of the climb.
@SadhbhOS Sun, 9th Jul 2017 10:09:16
Mori cries out in pain as he lies on the ground. He's clutching his shoulder. That looks like race over for him.
175km remaining from 181km
As more riders come over to Pinot and Wellens, the lead group has swelled to more than 30.
Alberto Contador has sent Bauke Mollema and Jarlinson Pantano - two of his most important mountain domestiques - into this breakaway group.
Robert Gesink has abandoned the race, along with Mori. He was involved in the same crash.
The riders are on the third-cat Col de Bérentin, 4.1km at 6.1%.
We'll bring you a full list of riders in the break shortly.
170km remaining from 181km
The break nears the summit and he skips away for the KOM banner once again. De Gendt and Geschke follow but the Frenchman collects another two points. It's clear that he fancies the polka-dots today.
Sky lead the peloton over the top of the climb 1:45 in arrears.
Here is a provisional list of breakaway riders
Ten Dam, Geschke, Barguil, Arndt, Matthews (Sunweb)
Benoot, Gallopin, Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
Bakelants, Domont, Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale)
Feillu, Pichon, Sepulveda (Fortuneo)
Betancur, Herrada (Movistar)
Mollema, Pantano (Trek-Segafredo)
Rolland, Van Baarle (Cannondale)
De Marchi, Moinard (BMC)
Voeckler, Chavanel (Direct Energie)
Edet, Navarro (Cofidis)
Kiserlovski, Machado (Katusha-Alpecin)
Kozhatayev, Lutsenko (Astana
Laengen, Durasek (UAE)
We make it 38 in the break. Sky, Dimension Data, and Wanty would seem to be the only teams not represented.
Sky, then, look to be on the defensive for a second day in a row. With his two most important men up the road, what is Contador planning?
The riders are currently making their way down a lengthy descent to the foot of the Col de la Biche, the first of the three HC climbs. The descent is interrupted after 35km by the third-category Côte de Franclens.
@caluweski Sun, 9th Jul 2017 10:36:39
The newly-surfaced roads are slick in the wet and Sepulveda comes a cropper, but he looks ok.
Voeckler and Laengen are off the back of the lead group, a minute back now.
147km remaining from 181km
Luke Rowe continues to lead the peloton for Sky, with the gap standing at 2:30. Henao needs a wheel change but he'll get back in.
145km remaining from 181km
De Gendt leads the break onto the third climb of the day, the Côte de Franclens, 2.4km at 6%.
Stybar and Feillu have been dropped from the break, along with Laengen, Voeckler, and Sepulveda.
143km remaining from 181km
De Gendt picks up the points at the top of the climb. Pinot comes across third and so can't add to his tally.
We're hearing that Gesink has been taken to hospital with a possible back injury.
@caluweski Sun, 9th Jul 2017 10:53:07
Sepulveda is back with the bunch. Voeckler, Feillu, Domont, and Laengen are together chasing down the break. And they have them in sight now.
@dnlbenson Sun, 9th Jul 2017 10:59:07
Voeckler, Feillu, Laengen, and Domont are back with the break, not without a vigorous piece of arm-waving from Feillu, who felt the others weren't pulling their weight.
The break is therefore back up to 38 riders.
@nygaardbn Sun, 9th Jul 2017 06:26:22
We're approaching the first big climb of the day, the Col de la Biche. And it's soon followed by the Grand Colombier. This is how it looks.
@SadhbhOS Sun, 9th Jul 2017 11:02:49
Sky continue to set a steady tempo in the peloton, 3:30 behind the breakaway. Will we see the GC battle light up on the Col de la Biche?
Ten Dam leads the breakaway on the early slopes of the climb.
Rowe and Knees continue to lead the peloton on this HC climb. They're not natural climbers and that means the gap to the break is growing out again, but better for Sky to have them around for what's to come here.
Tim Wellens and Nikias Arndt are suffering at the back of the breakaway.
De Gendt is the next to drop off the back of the lead group. With 120 km to go, the gap has grown to 4:22.
No smiles on the faces today, all are either grim-faced or gasping for air.
The sprinters are, as expected, falling out of the peloton: Greipel, Kittel, Bouhanni. Going to be a rather large gruppetto today, we suspect.
The lead group still has five km to the summit.
Stybar is the next to let go from the first group.
The peloton is giving up time here, as the gap is over 4:45 now, with 117 km and much climbing still to come.
A mechanical for Fuglsang, not the best time for that.
A teammate is pulling him back up to the peloton. The gap is now 5:11.
Ten Dam continues to lead things, what a display of strength from the Dutchman. Edet fades away from the back of the lead group.
The gap to the peloton is now nearing the 5:30 mark.......
Rolland jumps from the lead group as they near the summit. He is soon joined by a handful of others in an uphill sprint.
Roglic builds up a small gap in the lead. The former ski jumper knows how to deal with mountains.
And Roglic wins the mountain points!
Roglic keeps going, with four other riders close behind. The rest of the lead group is coming on in dribs and drabs.
It is apparently raining at the moment, as it has been off and on all stage.
It is not clear who was second at the mountain ranking, as some sources say Pinot and others Vuillermoz.
110 km to go, and the peloton is now 6:20 back. One begins to wonder if they will be able to catch up.
Things have come together again at the head of the race, as they race down in the rain on wet roads.
The Sky-led peloton crosses over at about 6:40 back.
A crash on the descent, with 3 riders involved.
The mountain points went to: Roglic, Vuillermois, Barguil, Pinot and Mollema.
The three riders out of the lead group in that crash were Herrada, Kozhatayev and Lutsenko. Herrada has abandoned.
Three AG2R riders have built up a small lead With the rain continuing, all are being a bit more careful at the moment.
AG2R is also leading the peloton. Calmejane, yesterday's winner, has finally been dropped by that group.
Crash! Geraint Thomas is down.
That's exactly the same corner as the one where Herrada et al went down. Thomas is on the floor, sitting up at the moment. The cameras didn't catch the moment of the crash but it looked like a hard one.
Oof. Gautier, leading the peloton as break-neck speed for AG2R, overcooks a corner and has to go wide. Somehow, he keeps his bike upright, despite having to come to a halt.
99km remaining from 181km
The peloton has been ripped apart by AG2R, who will know this area better than anyone, with the team's base located near the finish of today's stage.
Froome only has one teammate with him as he follows Porte down the mountain. But there are huge splits in the bunch.
Rafal Majka also went down with Thomas.
Up front, AG2R's work has forced a selection, with Bakelants, Domont, and Vuillermoz joined by Pantano, Poljanski, and Benoot.
Bardet is following his teammates down this descent, and Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana are up there with the Frenchman. Froome is caught behind. He has Kwiatkowski leading him down, and he also has a couple of teammates in the Bardet group.
@SadhbhOS Sun, 9th Jul 2017 12:17:36
Aru is also in the Bardet group, but Froome et al are coming back.
Where is Contador? It seems the Spaniard has been caught out.
Froome, Porte, Yates and other favourites make it up to the Bardet group.
97km remaining from 181km
There are only around 20 riders left in the yellow jersey group as they begin the climb of the Grand Colombier.
Up at the head of the race, Domont, Vuillermoz and Bakelants lead the way for AG2R, with Ten Dam, Benoot, Poljanski, and Pantano in tow. That's 7 riders in the front group, with the rest of the breakaway remnants scattered on the lower slopes of the Grand Colombier.
Contador is back with the yellow jersey group.
AG2R lead the yellow jersey group up the Grand Colombier. This is some statement of intent from Romain Bardet's team. Something of an underdog runner-up last year, he has stepped up and is now asserting himself on the Tour de France.
Geraint Thomas has abandoned the race after that crash and is reportedly on his way to hospital. Here's the story.
Betancur is struggling in the chase group, and now Vuillermoz, in the lead group, is the virtual maillot jaune.
Domont and Bakelants have fallen away from the lead group.
And now Pantano is getting dropped. So out front we have the trio of Vuillermoz, Benoot and Barguil (he was the Sunweb rider - not Ten Dam)
Crash for Contador!
What happened there? The Spaniard, climbing and not travelling fast, suddenly falls over to his left-hand side. Was he knocked off balance? He has a bloodied left arm but he's back up and running.
The peloton hits the infernal gradients of this climb - remember, this is the toughest side of the Grand Colombier. Henao is struggling as the yellow jersey group threatens to blow up once more.
@tcyclinguk Sun, 9th Jul 2017 12:36:30
Porte's domestique Nico Roche has been dropped.
Benoot and Barguil have dropped Vuillermoz.
Benoot and Barguil are just over 2.5km from the top of the Grand Colombier.
What a day this is turning out to be. The GC favourites rode the first three climbs and the Col de la Biche in pedestrian fashion, but it all kicked off when AG2R hit the front of both groups on the descent. We're still 91km from the finish, and anything could happen.
Mollema and Roglic have joined forces from the remnants of the original breakaway, and they've just caught Vuillermoz. They're just over half a minute down on Benoot and Barguil.
Thibaut Pinot has been caught by the yellow jersey group, as have many members of that large initial breakaway.
90km remaining from 181km
Barguil rides away from Benoot towards the top of the Grand Colombier. He'll take a further 20 points in the mountains classification.
There are no more than 25 riders in the yellow jersey group. Quintana and Martin are without teammates, Porte has one man with him, Froome has three men, Bardet two. Aru and Fuglsang are there for Astana.
Barguil and Benoot decide to wait for Mollema, Roglic, and Vuillermoz - the three chasers. So now we have a lead group of five. And with a lead of six minutes, the stage win is becoming a possibility
The yellow jersey group is over the top of the Grand Colombier, so all the main players are descending.
82km remaining from 181km
A reminder of the stage profile. This is a fast, near-20km descent off the Grand Colombier.
Kwiatkowski leads Team Sky down the descent. AG2R, after their assault on the last descent, have backed off for the time being.
@SadhbhOS Sun, 9th Jul 2017 12:55:46
The five-man chase group is closing in on the five leaders. They're just 25 seconds back now. This is promising for Matthews, with the intermediate sprint coming up 15km or so beyond the foot of this descent.
Here is how things stand in the points classification. There are a maximum of 20 on offer at the intermediate sprint.
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 212 pts
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 182
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 140
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 130
5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin 113
@Cyclocosm Sun, 9th Jul 2017 13:07:12
The lead and chase groups have merged to make it 10 riders out in front, with a lead of 4:45 over the peloton.
@willfoth Sun, 9th Jul 2017 13:10:32
64km remaining from 181km
As the road flattens out, the race calms down after a long period of action. There are 10 riders out front, with Sky leading the yellow jersey group 3:45 behind, yet that doesn't tell the story of the upheaval we've had so far.
We're just over 20km from the foot of the Mont du Chat, and it looks like it will be calm until then. In between, we have an intermediate sprint and a short cat-4 climb.
Mechanical for Quintana, who's chasing back on through the cars.
Kwiatkowski, arms tucked over his bars, fast becoming one of the stand-out domestiques of this Tour, is still leading the yellow jersey group for Sky, and he's brought the gap to the break down to 3:35.
Kwiatkowski, Henao, Landa, Nieve, Froome. Despite the Thomas crash, Sky have come through that early test pretty well indeed, and they look in a strong position ahead of the Mont du Chat.
Simon Geschke has made it up to the leading group and, with 3km to the intermediate sprint, that's useful for Matthews.
But Lotto Soudal have other plans. Greipel isn't here but his teammates are, and they want to deprive Matthews of as many as possible. The lead group splits briefly as Gallopin and Benoot apply the pressure.
Matthews goes for a long one, attacking from 1km out. Benoot rides over but appears to say he won't contest the sprint. In any case, Geschke hits the front to provide a more traditional leadout.
54km remaining from 181km
Matthews launches with 200m to go, and true enough Benoot doesn't bother to chase. There are easier ways to get 20 points, but fair play to the Australian, who's deadly serious about this green jersey.
Benoot and Bakelants carry on up the road, having tracked Matthews, who drops back with Geschke.
A reminder of our special podcast with Thomas Dekker, telling the remarkable story of how his career - and to a certain extent his life - spiralled out of control at the hands of doping, and how he has subsequently picked up the pieces.&