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Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

The Bastille Day stage with a hard start and a tricky climb at the finish, this should be a day for the breakaway.

Stage 8 Review: a start so fast only three riders got away: Niki Terpstra, Thomas De Gendt and Ben King. Mads Würtz got within ten metres of the trio but they were moving so fast he just couldn’t close the gap, cracked and fell back to the bunch. Alessandro De Marchi was more patient, trying a little later and did bridge the gap once things calmed down but maybe his time spent “potato hunting” cost him later. It was surprising that there was no more of a fight from others given how many teams crave a stage win… but that’s their loss. The gap never got much above five minutes and was brought down to three with 100km to go and soon after Astana and EF Education First picked up the pace. De Gendt and De Marchi had shed King and Terpstra to form a noble breakaway duo and the tension began to ratchet up. On the approach to the final categorised climb with its bonus sprint Geraint Thomas was brought down by a crash but with hindsight this was hardly a negative given the luxuriant way he closed the gap, a big effort which he made look easy despite the 10% slopes. As soon as they started the final climb De Gendt took off leaving De Marchi looking immobile and the Belgian rider had a slender lead over the top of the climb. Here Julian Alaphilippe sprung like a jack-in-the-box and Thibaut Pinot followed, Alaphilippe banked the five second time bonus but this meant he was still one second behind Ciccone and had to ride on. The French duo worked well together, sharing the tasks and Pinot testing his nerves on the descent. Ahead De Gendt was resilient and only lost about 15 seconds in the final 10km to take a memorable stage win, surely the match of his Giro Stelvio win: what the finish lacked in grandeur, it made up for in the way he rode it. Pinot won the sprint for second and six second time bonus for second place with Alaphilippe reclaiming the yellow jersey and the main contenders came in 20 seconds later.

The Route: 170km west to Brioude, the town where Romain Bardet grew up (he’s since moved away). The race drops down to the Loire valley and then climbs up a long drag, six kilometres at 4% and then it’s across the big difficulty of the day, the Mur d’Aurec. Listed as 3.2km at 11% it’d be steep enough but there are warning signs for the 20% gradient and the slope keeps changing between 7% and 18-19%. It’s too early in the race to shape things too much but should help filter the day’s breakaway, only punchy riders and climbers will make it.

Then it’s across the Forez, a wooded plateau of the Auvergne region and past Craponne and Arlanc which featured on the Dauphiné route last month with the intermediate sprint in Arlan. There’s a long drag up to a KoM point and from here on the roads are steady, there’s an unmarked climb to come but it’s a regular road with no traps.

The race reaches the edge of Brioude and then heads out for a loop via the climb of Saint Just, 3.5km at 7.5% and all on a narrow, rural road followed by fast descent that’s got long straight sections.

The Finish: it’s downhill into town, there’s a right-hand bend with 400m to go and there’s a slight downhill run to the line.

The Contenders: a day for the breakaway? Probably but the finish today is something the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) can aim for as the final climb is plenty enough to shake out their rival sprinters. For Matthews his problem is that if there’s a sprint then someone is faster; but when he wins the bunch sprint there’s always a groupo up the road.

Otherwise today’s course is less mountainous than yesterday and so accessible to more riders, they need to cope with the Mur d’Aurec where the breakaway might form and with the Saint-Just climb in the finale but there’s less in between. Breakaway picks include Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) and Rui Costa (UAE Emirates). Longer range shots are Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Astana) and Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) if he’s avoided the bug going around the Cofidis team.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is the local rider and the town’s been decorated in tribute with flags and even a roundabout dedicated to him but his form’s not exactly scintillating and Alaphilippe’s robbed the title of best Auvergnat. His problem today is that he’s not far down enough to GC to get any room.

Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews
GVA, Stuyven, Rui Costa, Colbrelli, Garcia Cortina


Yellow story: this blog has a hypothesis that the more often the yellow jersey changes shoulders during the Tour, the better the race. The 1924 Tour saw Ottavio Bottecchia take the race lead on Stage 1 and keep it for the rest of the race, a feat repeated in 1928 by Nicolas Frantz but arguably greater since the race moved from 15 to 22 stages, the same for 1935 by Romain Maes,  impressive but must have been dull to folloe. The Merckx era looks glorious with the sideburns and lapels but when he wore the jersey for 20 stages in 1970 the contest must be been a bit flat. By contrast the 1958 Tour saw the jersey change shoulders 10 times among eight riders and the 1987 Tour saw nine changes among eight riders, these were great races. In 1989 it was six times among four riders which sinks the hypothesis a touch and in 1998 the jersey changed shoulders seven times among seven riders which ought to signal a vintage edition but it was perhaps more memorable for the Festina affair, rider strikes and worse.

Weather: sunny and a top temperature of 26°C

TV: the stage starts at 1.05pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST / Euro time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Max Sunday, 14 July 2019, 6:14 am

    Good morning.
    Bastille day.
    Allez Ponot!

    • Max Sunday, 14 July 2019, 6:15 am

      Pinot….of course.

      • Joe Saroni Sunday, 14 July 2019, 3:49 pm

        🍾 Noir Rose to celebrate

  • hdb Sunday, 14 July 2019, 6:49 am

    Yesterday’s stage will be hard to top. Scintillating riding by De Gendt, Alaphilippe and Pinot that kept the results in play to the last few metres.

    • Digahole Sunday, 14 July 2019, 7:32 am

      His legs’ll be heavy from yesterday and that last climb might not be steep enough for him, but Alaphilippe has to attack on that final climb doesn’t he? In yellow, on Bastille day? His public will demand it!

      There seems to be a little half km climb in the final decent… any intel on gradient etc?

      • hdb Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:57 am

        I’m seeing if he’ll share an interactive version of the stage but until then, here is a link to a tweet from Ben of Veloviewer’s graphical assessment: https://twitter.com/VeloViewer/status/1150307609293012992 Toughest climb is pretty early on in the day.

        • Digahole Sunday, 14 July 2019, 3:11 pm

          Nice one 👍🏼

  • Patrick S Sunday, 14 July 2019, 7:17 am

    Thanks for picking DeGendt yesterday. 33-1! You little beauty!

    • Larry T Sunday, 14 July 2019, 8:20 am

      I guess that offset your losses on Schachmann, Fraile and Benoot? 🙂

      • DaveRides Sunday, 14 July 2019, 11:42 am

        If I could invent a time machine for one time use only, I’d forget about killing Hitler (messing with history is too complicated).

        Instead, I’d go back to 2016 to put a $10 multi on Mat Hayman winning Paris-Roubaix, Leicester City winning the Premier League and Nico Rosberg winning the World Championship 🙂

  • Stuie Sunday, 14 July 2019, 7:31 am

    It was great to see Pinot on the attack, I just hope he hasn’t started burning too many matches. He turned himself inside out. Yes Thomas had a stressful day, but he spent very little time with his nose in the wind.

    • SYH Sunday, 14 July 2019, 8:01 am

      Pinot has today, two sprint days and a rest day to make up for whatever matches he burnt yesterday. If he can’t manage that, he wasn’t going to win anyway.

  • Gregario Sunday, 14 July 2019, 8:08 am

    What a performance by De Gendt! This was hands down the best cycling performance of the year and next to Van der Poel’s AGR win certainly the highlight of 2019. The numbers from his Strava profile are just insane. On the last categorized climb of the day, after pulling for 190 km, he was still able to average 460 W for almost 5 minutes. Wow! De Gendt is probably the only one who can pull off something like that in the modern era. He is arguably more suited to some ultra endurance cycling events and maybe he will go down that path once his professional career in the peloton is finished.

    • Richard S Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:02 am

      Massive indurance and an impressive burst of anaerobic power at the end. How is he not a factor in races like Liege and Lombardy, and the worlds?

      • Gregario Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:23 am

        It’s a curious case, isn’t it? His characteristics are ideally suited for those races. But he seems to enjoy stage races much more. He actually spoke about it in one episode of The Cycling Podcast, where he was interviewed by Adam Blythe. I recommend it, it is a good listen. He mentioned that in the past he was mostly a domestique in the classics and never got this chance to ride for himself. Also in the classics the breakaways rarely stick and he doesn’t enjoy riding in the pack with the stress all day. In the classics you only have one match to burn and if you get it wrong, you fail, whereas in the stage races he has more opportunities. If it doesn’t work out one day, he can always try the next, which is exactly what happened this Tour. He didn’t make it to the top of Planche dBF, but succeeded yesterday.

        • Richard S Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:38 am

          I don’t suppose anybody would be stupid enough to allow him up the road at Liege or similar.

    • KevinR Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:12 am

      Unbelievable stuff. What a legend. Better than his Stelvio win even. Wouldn’t want to go for a Sunday ride with him – I’d be wrecked after a couple of mins!

  • Callum Sunday, 14 July 2019, 8:12 am

    The 2011 race is the best I’ve watched and part of that was due to the fact that the yellow jersey DIDN’T change shoulders for so long. I understand the point though as if Voeckler hadn’t been in yellow the jersey would have changed a bucketload of times.

  • Richard S Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:43 am

    All these attempts over the years to make the Tour more entertaining, turns out all they needed was Alaphilippe. Putting in a few springboard finishes that suit him helps I suppose. It’s interesting that yesterday’s very entertaining finish was possible only because Ineos got taken out by the crash, otherwise they would have sailed to the front and 5 or 6 of them reeled in JA and Pinot without drama and nicely set up a Sagan/Matthews win. Just goes to say what a difference such a strong team makes, and the possibilities when they aren’t there.

    • DJW Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:10 am

      According to Fuglsang and Mollema (both thoughtful riders) the Alphilippe/Pinot escape was also made possible by the proximity of motos at key moments – a frequent complaint of mine. In this case, and without access to continuous footage, those who criticise Fuglsang and Mollema as unjustified (L’Equipe comments…) surely have limited validity. As a general rule the UCI could surely try harder. A great stage quand même!

      • Richard S Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:15 am

        That old chestnut

        • Anonymous Sunday, 14 July 2019, 4:33 pm

          Moto help is derisively dismissed as that old chestnut but Ineos being emasculated just goes to show what possibilities there are. Confirmation bias much?

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:18 am

        Did Mollema actually say, that or was he criticising motos in general? I’ve seen him making more general complaints but nothing specific to Alaphilippe and Pinot.

        • Erwin Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:24 am

          Mollema’s comments were immediately after the stage finish to Han Kok of Dutch broadcaster NOS. He said he was happy that Thomas de Gendt won the stage, because the peloton benefitted the entire day from motorbikes “less than 1 second in front of the bunch”. He didn’t mention Alaphilippe and Pinot at all.

      • Lukyluk Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:24 am

        @DJW: the TV broadcaster releases all feeds now, and many people make their own highlight edits (you can find a plethora of them with a quick search on Youtube, etc.)

        I went back to the attack, and checked out helicopter pictures, and honestly can’t see a problem. I heard it was established that drafting effects can be felt (in lab conditions) up to 30 meters behind a motorbike, so I wouldn’t deny there could be something there, but in hindsight, Fuglsang’s comments seem exaggerated. And more generally, I don’t see how you can forbid motorbikes 30m ahead of riders.

        I’ll admit to a bit of a bias towards the top 3 on the day though, so maybe someone who’s entirely neutral can check it out and post his/her opinion :p

        • Larry T Sunday, 14 July 2019, 3:59 pm

          Regarding the drafting of TV motos – what I found odd was that a duo of that pedigree couldn’t run down the lone escapee, a guy who’d been out there all day!
          I thought for sure DeGendt would be caught before the line, but despite the alleged drafting that helped them get away from the rest, they couldn’t catch one guy out there all alone? Something doesn’t add up.

      • Dave Sunday, 14 July 2019, 12:45 pm

        GCN did a video about the effects of drafting , the conclusion been that it has a bigger effect than you might think and is also effective over a greater distance then you imagine .
        I have no idea about yesterday specifically but the motos do have an effect on the racing and riders do complain about it .

      • Anonymous Sunday, 14 July 2019, 1:00 pm

        Pinot and Alaphilippe made their own luck by trying. If the other gc guys raced they could have benefited from motos too. It seems to me that when Ineos are taken out other teams are left confused and clueless. The gc peloton yesterday acted like queens who suddenly realised there was nobody else to clean the toilets.

      • Andrew Monday, 15 July 2019, 11:36 am

        This was raised in the British TV coverage and there seemed to be no evidence that the motos were any closer at that point than any other time on the stage. Certainly there was a clear gap ahead of the attackers, based on the overhead shot.

        But it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the motos “accidentally” got in front of the French riders from time to time.

    • Lukyluk Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:16 am

      Good point, most have focused on Thomas (he did look very strong), but the race has been very different to what it could have been because the Skineos train had been spent to bring him back. In his post-race comments, he said he didn’t want to go to the front himself while expressing disappointment in the Sunweb riders performance, but if this happens again, he might be forced to ride defensively, maybe for the first time in years.

      I’m usually a vocal critic of ASO, but one has to admit that the organization is often top-notch and this year’s course seems to have been designed with a level of detail that I haven’t seen in a long time. I feel it has delivered, kudos.

    • StevhanTI Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:16 am

      I felt that thehe ineos bodyguards had to abandon Thomas rather quickly during his chase, not so sure they could have reeled in the escapees.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:18 am

      The hill bonuses are a good touch also, especially placing them so close to the stage’s end.
      They serve a double purpose – time reward and as a launchpad for a move.
      Another today too, another chance to see if your theory on Ineos could happen?

  • weeclarky Sunday, 14 July 2019, 9:54 am

    This looks like a day for Steve Cummings — I keep waiting for him to have a go

  • StevhanTI Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:17 am

    I had the idea Alaphilippe gifted the second place (and additional bonus secs) to Pinot rather than losing in the sprint.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:23 am

      It could well be, it suited them both

  • kavan Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:18 am

    Moscon’s bike of two halves cannot be a good advert for Pinarello.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:23 am

      All carbon frames can break like that, it’s a literal price to pay for such light frames. Break a Pinarello like that on a weekend ride though must bring a tear to the eye, it’s a €6,000 frameset

  • Ecky Thump Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:31 am

    Something has to go wrong with the peloton for a breakaway like de Gendt’s to succeed?
    Bora, in particular, and Sunweb put in so much work to bring the four escapers back to 3”.
    It was at this point that Trek stepped in (I think) and, quite quickly, the gap lengthened back out beyond 5”.
    Both teams must be feeling sore in more ways than one after yesterday, they rather got too heavily leaned on by the rest.
    You wonder if there is a natural poetic justice at play; Trek soft pedalling lost them the leadership and Ineos could have reeled in anyone anytime but perhaps they were waiting for some late takings and got brought down en masse before their move.
    Anyway, the peloton got it badly wrong yesterday and the two Frenchmen were able to pick its pockets. But de Gendt deserved his reward, awesome ride and finish.

    • Martijn Haar Sunday, 14 July 2019, 11:03 am

      In the post race interview Steven Kruijswijk was very critical of Trek-Segafredo in general and Bauke Mollema in particular. His not unreasonable argument was that Mollema couldn’t have give all in chasing Alaphillippe and Pinot to defend Ciccone’s yellow or he wouldn’t have finished with the first group.

      • RQS Sunday, 14 July 2019, 11:52 pm

        I heard that Ritchie Porte wasn’t even bothering to ride for Ciccone (or at least did not seem to be doing turns at the front).
        It’s a bit sad they didn’t ride for the jersey, but pragmatically speaking they don’t have the squad to control a race like that so why waste matches? It has to be said that they seem either fractured, or a team without cohesion. No one seems to believe or care in anyone else.
        Talk of the moto seems a little wide of the mark as it was staggeringly close when things kicked off. There were times when the camera tracked them from the front on the decent, but the rest of the teams seem largely lacking anyone to provide a concerted effort to close the move down

    • jc Sunday, 14 July 2019, 12:55 pm

      Who needed to chase? Trek? They did but did not have the team. Bora? Peter Sagan looked to be struggling. Sunweb? They did but again there is a lack of strength. GC teams? What for, they would have preferred a quiet day. Thibaut Pinot did very well taking advantage of the situation. Understandable that Ineos were short at the end (there were 7 of them until the crash) but where were Movistar? Astana and EF Education had already expended a lot of energy trying to set up a win, not sure that was sensible especially for Astana, maybe that implies Astana are not completely convinced over Jacob Fulgsang’s chances?

      • jc Sunday, 14 July 2019, 1:03 pm

        Michelton Scott missing too

        • Ecky Thump Sunday, 14 July 2019, 6:07 pm

          A lot of GC teams were / got interested in the hill bonus but did very little beforehand.

  • md Sunday, 14 July 2019, 10:32 am

    An exciting edition so far. A dynamic parcours. Decent weather. A different leadership at Ineos. A stronger Astana squad. And Alaphilippe and Pinot. Feels like a potential classic edition – 3 wearers of the Maillot Jaune so far (4 changes), could it be 6 or 7 by the end?

    Luxuriant is a beautiful adjective to describe that ride. Thanks for that.

  • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 14 July 2019, 11:57 am

    I think it will be tough to beat Ineos, but Pinot looks good this year. It is also good to see him in the attack so early in the tour, and so well placed already in the GC.

  • Armchair Cyclist Sunday, 14 July 2019, 12:37 pm

    The bookies over the last few stages have consistently had Wout van Aert quite high (or low in terms of odds) – wonder if we may see him let off the leash at anytime soon?

  • Tovarishch Sunday, 14 July 2019, 12:54 pm

    Bit disappointed to see no chain rings for EBH.

  • Ferdi Sunday, 14 July 2019, 1:21 pm

    It’s the number of podium contestants in yellow that counts. Who cares if someone who will lose minutes in the Alps/Pyrenees has worn yellow in the first week? 1987 was great, largely because al final top-4 riders all wore yellow, and all 4 with a lead significant enough to dream realistically of making it to Paris. The greatness was that all 4 had days of weakness measured in minutes. So that yellow changed shoulders in the last 10 stages. When it matters.

  • DaveRides Sunday, 14 July 2019, 1:36 pm

    Stage 9: crunch time for Richie Porte.

  • Iwan Sunday, 14 July 2019, 1:46 pm

    My picks for today : Nibali, Barguil, Cosnefroy, Naesen

  • Motormouth Sunday, 14 July 2019, 4:20 pm

    “Potato hunting”?

    Great stage yesterday, the race so far has some good energy. Doesn’t feel stale.