Day three in the Pyrenees



STAGE NINE:
Saint Gaudens – Tarbes

Sunday, July 12



DISTANCE:
160.5KM



WHAT’S THE COURSE LIKE?

Stage nine is relatively short at 160.5km but includes the Col d’Aspin and the legendary Col du Tourmalet. Unfortunately it ends with a long descent and 50km of flat roads rather than a testing mountain top finish, which means the stage will almost certainly have little effect on the overall standings.



The roads from Saint Gaudens climbs sightly until the Aspin starts after 48km. It is a category one climb, lasting 12km with an average gradient of 6.4%. The hardest section is after 7km when the gradient hits 9.5% for a testing kilometre.



The Tourmalet begins after 73.5km at an altitude of 837m and climbs up to a dizzy height of 2115m. The summit is like a lunar landscape and it is an eerie place as Cycling Weekly discovered one year when we drove over the summit at midnight in the light of a full moon.



The descent is treacherous at the top but becomes easier lower down and launches the riders towards Lourdes and Julian before Tarbes.

Stage 9 map and profile>>



WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?


If only the stage had finished on the Tourmalet, or at least in the La Mongie ski resort, lower down the climb, we would have seen another round in the Armstrong-Contador fight for leadership in the Astana team.



The flat finish and then the flat stages across central France mean we will probably have to wait for the Alps and next Sunday’s mountain finish at Verbiers.



After a hectic first hour of early attacks, a break will probably form on the Aspin and if it includes riders out of the overall standings, will likely stay away. David Moncoutie (Cofidis) missed out on Saturday, so watch him go for it on Sunday.



Nocentini bravely defended the yellow jersey on Saturday but could really struggle on the Col du Tourmalet and not get back on the descent, meaning that Contador could take the yellow jersey and further deepen the crisis between him and Armstrong.  However, Johan Bruyneel admitted on Saturday that Astana are playing a long game and focusing on winning in Paris, rather than wearing the yellow jersey for as long as possible. That means Nocentini could stay in yellow for at least a week.



The battle for the intermediate sprints will probably be more entertaining than the stage.



The first sprint is in Sarrancolin after 41.5km, before the Col d’|Aspin, while the second and third are after 125.5km and 139km. Cavendish is now 11 points behind Hushovd and it will be interesting to see if he and Columbia go for the 6, 4 and 2 points on offer in the sprint. He may wisely decide to wait for the sprint stages, knowing he is faster than Hushovd when the big points are on offer.



MEN TO WATCH

Rinaldo Nocentini – The Italian will be fighting for another day of yellow jersey glory but will likely falter on the Tourmalet.



Brice Feillu – The young Frenchman will be desperate to take back the lead in the king of the mountains competition so that he can enjoy the spotlight in the second week of the Tour.



Thor Hushovd –  The mighty Thor now has the responsibility of the green jersey and will have to watch out for Cavendish in the first sprint.



Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador – They will be watching each other closely and the whole world will be watching them.



CW’S TIP TO WIN

Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) went for it on Saturday, so it has to be David Moncoutie’s turn on Sunday. Euskaltel will also be chasing a win on the last stage in the Pyrenees. Igor Anton could be a good bet each way.



WHO’S WEARING THE JERSEYS?

Yellow – Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R)

Green – Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)

Polka-dot – Christophe Kern (Cofidis)

White – Tony Martin (Columbia)

TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 LINKS

Tour de France 2009 – the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.

STAGE REPORTS

stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out



Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance



Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs



Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage



Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second



Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage



Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador



Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint



Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial

LATEST TOUR NEWS




Tour de France 2009 News Index>>




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Armstrong says Contador attack wasn’t in the plan


Cavendish survives the first Tour mountain stage with ease



Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived



The Feed Zone: Friday, July 10



Millar happy with Tour performance despite no stage win



Analysis: Fight for green jersey is between Cavendish and Hushovd



Wiggins looking ahead to Friday’s mountain stage



Analysis: Why Contador’s chances rose when Armstrong missed yellow



Delgado criticises Astana for Armstrong manoeuvre



Armstrong: Gaining time on Contador was not the objective



Stage three analysis: Why the bunch split and who gained the most

EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS



Garmin-Slipstream’s HQ before the Tour



David Zabriskie’s time trial bike



Mark Cavendish on the Tour’s team time trial



David Brailsford interview



Mark Cavendish on the Tour



Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins’ chances

TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS



Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones



Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson



Team presentation by Andy Jones



Team presentation by Graham Watson

TOUR GUIDE

Tour de France 2009 – the hub

Tour de France 2009: Who’s riding

Tour de France 2009: Team guide

About the Tour de France

FEATURES

Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules

Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France

Tour de France anti-doping measures explained

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

Cycling Weekly’s rider profiles

TWITTER



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