Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

The second day in the Pyrenees, today’s stage saves the best for last with the steep ascent of the Marie Blanque. The GC contenders have started to trade blows, today’s final climb is ideal for someone to go clear and stay away. If you plan to watch, note the finish is an hour earlier than usual so far.

Shepherd’s Delight: a break of 13 formed at the start and quickly took a big lead. The picky spectator could have asked for more action, with wave after wave of attacks but most teams had a rider up the road so that was that. Ilnur Zakarin was the best placed on GC 18 minutes down and Mitchelton-Scott were in no rush to chase. “Zaka” was the best climber on paper but couldn’t get clear on the Port de Balès, Nans Peters kept looking like he was going to blow to smithereens but held on, and even beat him over the top. It looked like he wanted the mountains points but the Ag2r rider pressed on while Zakarin struggled on the descent, tracing a series of straight lines down the curved road. Peters resembled a lumberjack hacking away at the pedals on the final climb of the Peyresourde but it worked, Zakarin couldn’t close the gap. Nans Peters, named after a TV series (like Sonny Colbrelli), brought joy for Ag2r La Mondiale who are having a great Tour. Meanwhile Groupama-FDJ’s mood must be down in the dumps, one day Pinot was taking turns in the first echelon, the next ejected on the Port de Balès but that’s back pain, having a constant load on a steep climb changes everything. We’ll see if he stays in the race and goes stage-hunting as he did in 2015 to win the Alpe d’Huez stage or retires to recover.

The other GC collapse was Tom Dumoulin. Jumbo used up all their riders, they’re not at full strength and Sep Kuss was ejected before Wout van Aert, then George Bennett didn’t last long on the Peyresourde. So Tom Dumoulin was left to do the work. As in the Tour de l’Ain and the Critérium du Dauphiné the Dutch squad looks very strong… until the final climb. Julian Alaphilippe was the catalyst, he attacked then folded moments later, his way of bowing out with a skip in his step. It drew out other riders and soon left Roglič a view up close of his rivals, who could close the gaps and who couldn’t. Only he let Tadej Pogačar back in the race, when his compatriot launched moves he could follow the first time but not the third and the young Slovenian took back 40 seconds, half of what he’d lost the day before. There’s no team able to control the race, once the favourites are alone in each other’s company it’s a bar brawl. Roglič looks strong but he’s not capitalising on it, but you can argue there’s two weeks to go and why hurry. Meanwhile Nairo Quintana and Guillaume Martin look lively but ditto, no gains while Rigoberto Uràn and Egan Bernal can hang in there and are buying themselves options on the future too.

The Route: after the near obligatory visit to Pau – why Pau for the 72nd time? Because it’s the large city within sight of the Pyrenees, meaning access, hotels and more – there’s a dash across the plains and foothills for over 60km.

The Col de la Hourcère is a new name for the Tour and at the top the race also crosses the Seyguet, Sainte Gracie, Taillade and Suscousse passes before the Col du Soudet, a regular in the Tour… to locals it’s just the Col de Soudet via the Isarbe ski station. So a ski station access road? Not quite, Issarbe is a hut and a car park rather than a resort and the road is small and very steep in some places, there are some 12-14% sections early on and it’s hard going.

At the top there’s a fast descent for five kilometres and then a steep four kilometres up the to the Col du Soudet. The descent is fast and without any nasty surprises and there’s the intermediate sprint of the day. The Col d’Ichère is a nice even ride on the way up, the descent down is rougher and here there’s less than 10km to the final climb, a last chance to eat and drink.

The Marie-Blanque is an unusual climb, 7.7km at 8.6% but with three kilometres at 12-13%, look closely and you can probably see marks on the left of the road where surprised cyclos click-clack their way up in cleated shoes. It’s not just amateurs, Bernard Thevenet had won the Tour in 1977 but climbed off his bike on these slopes in 1978 and Bradley Wiggins once said “This is just the mountain I don’t cope with very easily, it seems to defy analysis“. The steep section is for the most part a long straight ramp, there’s no hairpin to exploit, no flat section to recover for a moment. There’s a flat plateau section across the top before a fast descent with some tight bends.

The Finish: once off the mountain pass there’s a right turn and the riders head up the valley, there’s a slight gradient of 1-2% in places but otherwise it’s flat.

The Contenders: another good day for the breakaway and also for the overall contenders, it’s the rest day tomorrow so plenty will be all in today and hopefully we get two races today. Who’s going to win? Just sit back and enjoy the uncertainty, today’s another wheel of fortune spin, because on the flat roads there’s a lot of luck and tactics about who gets away. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) lost 18 minutes yesterday, once he knew he couldn’t climb with the best he pulled up the parking brake to give him room to attack. L-L Sanchez (Astana) also looked to have sat up yesterday, yes he’s ageing but he’s climbing well from the way he dispatched everyone at the Spanish championships and team mates Ion Izaguirre and Alexey Lutsenko are ones to watch. Alessandro de Marchi (CCC) was tipped yesterday but his team mate Zakarin went up the road, does he try today? Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) has had back problems, if he’s over them he’s got a good chance. Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) might feel it’s his time after Peters yesterday. Is Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates) retained to protect Pogačar, if he can play his own card he’s one to watch. Half of Groupama-FDJ get a ticket to ride today, Rudy Molard looks the most rested of them all.

Among the GC contenders the Slovenian tandem of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) are the obvious picks. Pogačar’s floating on the climbs while Roglič is strong, descends well and can snipe the sprint.

Julian Alaphilippe, L-L Sanchez, Tadej Pogačar
Roglič, Lutsenko, Herrada, Latour, Formolo, Benoot

Weather: cool and cloudy with a chance of rain and fog, it’ll warm up later, a top temperature of 20°C for the finish.

TV: live coverage from the start at 12.15pm CEST to the finish forecast around 4.30pm Euro time.

48 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview”

  1. Great stage yesterday, and equally great short write-up. So many highs and lows…

    Even if his team wasn’t, Roglic yesterday gave the impression he was in control, covering all the moves, but not making any effort to drop Yates. Not sure why he’s desperate to keep the jersey off his shoulders, Mitchelton-Scott doesn’t seem committed to keeping it either, and when they do have it, they don’t ride on the front anyway (see Giro and Vuelta 2018). I’m still trying to figure out why Jumbo had Dumoulin do such a turn on the front, putting a blow in his chances and damaging a potential 2-prong strategy, if Roglic wasn’t going to attack and put some time into anyone.

    There is danger in letting Bernal and silent performers like Uran and Buchmann (who could be slowly recovering), they could finish well and Roglic isn’t capitalizing on his current form. Is he that confident he doesn’t need to? Another thing that was nice to see: superteams aren’t so super after all. Jumbo and Ineos don’t have the strength to control so many contenders on their own, it’ll be up to Roglic/Bernal to cover the moves, and that might push for a more aggressive race. All the more reason for people who seem in good form (Quintana, Roglic, Pogacar) to try and get some buffer.

    I’m gutted for Pinot, but it looks like nobody was surprised, TV commentators assumed that his Tour was done the moment he had a wheel between him and the front group. I assume Madiot or whoever had told them about Pinot’s injury off the record.

    • Dumoulin reportedly said that he’s not in good enough shape to challenge for the win/podium, so would rather help Roglic than so his best for a 10th place finish…his turn on the front yesterday certainly helped to shed some outside contenders, but it does now limit JV’s tactical options as they’re clearly all-in for Roglic…

      I was impressed with Uran yesterday – seems he’s close to 2017 form. He never really looked in trouble, slowly pacing his way back to any attacks. And he would have easily followed Roglic & Quintana’s attack over the Peyresourde had another rider not blocked his path…

    • Mitchelton-Scott . I don’t remember the giro or vuelta 2018. But if somebody else is willing to ride the front then let them. Especially when your team is not that strong in the mountains. But actually rather willing to let it go they have managed there resources perfectly so far to keep the jersey as long as possible. And they will keep it as long as they can in this fashion. Which may well end today depending on how Yates rides.

  2. I’m a huge Pinot fan, but I never once thought he’d actually compete for the podium. Reminds me a little of a better (for GTs) Porte. Good to see that no team is truly dominating ala Skyneos. Curious strategy from JV. Hopefully we’ll get let in on what’s going on eventually. Lots of hard racing in the first week yet the top 8 are within 13s of each other, with a charging Pogacar coming on strong. And WVA, wow.

    • A great Pinot is a joy to watch… a Pinot with some trouble… not so much. He looks like he really doesn’t know what to do with himself. If your back hurts, WHY go on the attack? Why the surging? Is this all for the camera?

  3. So what were JV doing yesterday? They basically dropped themselves, sacrificed Tom D’s GC position, without taking any advantage because Roglic never attacked. Up until yesterday I thought they had the two strongest climbers in Kuss and Roglic, but now it seems Pogačar‘s the man (apparently that was a new record on the Peyresourde beating Vino be 45 seconds!), but a man without a team. Ineos will have taken heart from yesterday

    • Agree – mystified by Dumoulin lying on the barbwire but Roglic not going over the top. Mental maybe, worried about going to deep? We know Bernal and Quintana can go the distance and might be taking time in the third week. Today might be different though.

    • Digahole – agreed. Seemed like pretty dumb from JV. And it also showed that their climber domestiques aren’t as strong as they thought they were. I liked the way Brian Smith came straight out with it on Eurosport, which seemed to surprise fellow commentator Rob Hatch a bit. Maybe Ineos’ tactics are to let them burn out while the likes of Sivakov are on a social ride and then go hard in that final week when Bernal has ridden into form

    • Dumoulin has always seems more of a steady-state diesel climber (Uran is another) than one capable of accelerations and rapid recovery. Even a cyclist as mediocre as me learns to read his body and understand the pace he can maintain, and that’s without the power and heart rate indications. His misjudgement leaves more weight on Roglic. One week in and already many picks falllen by the wayside.

  4. No mention of Yates? Will be interesting to see today if he was using up his last reserves or if he was conserving his legs to defend the jersey to the rest day.

  5. WvA’s turn on the front of the Balès was something else to watch! He was turning himself inside out to shred the peloton, it was his most impressive ride thus far on super domestique duties. Just. WOW.

  6. I expect another break away today to win as long as nobody in the break away is within 6 or 7 minutes.
    Mitchelton-Scott will let it go to keep there efforts as low as possible. And i don’t think any of the GC teams have so much strength at the moment that they will burn so many matches with 2 weeks to go just for a chance at a stage win. Not with 2 weeks to go.
    My pick is Alaphilippe in a break away. If the Mitchelton really are just here for stage wins its time they sent either Neive or chaves up the road. If everything is calm and they feel good go for stage win. If not then wait for Yates.
    I have a soft spot for Zakarin because he’s so terrible at descending. I can’t watch him descending because you half expect a terrible crash every corner. He should have gone for a stage with an uphill finish and no fast descending like i suggested a couple of days ago. Whats wrong with his coaching. He hasn’t improved in the 5 years he’s been around and why did they pick this obviously unsuitable stage to get in the break away. Can’t they read the race book.

    • Harsh words.
      I’m not sure Zakarin ever was a confident descender, but he had a couple of really bad crashes a few years back that seem to have really rattled him. It takes a while to come back from those, and some people never do. Pierre Rolland springs to mind when looking for others in similar situations, he’s only now starting to look a bit more confident going downhill.

      As for why he chose to go today… Maybe this wasn’t the best stage for him, but who knows if he’d have had a chance further. The uphill finish stages might be trusted by the GC contenders chasing after seconds in the last week. CCC is likely to fold and Zakarin might end up without a team at the end of the year, he needs to show what he can do. And without Peters putting in what may well have been the ride of his career so far, he could have had a decent gap to the others and held on in the descent. Hard to complain about boring stages with no breakaway and blame riders when they try and can’t deliver.

      • Feel for Zakarin, as you say there are only so many mountain stages for him and he he was in a group with a big lead and no other ace climber to worry about.

        Teams often do work with descending coaches, it’s become quite widespread. He might have, he might not have. Maybe he was also beginning to lose concentration because he had to go so hard up the Port de Balès, he knew he had to drop Peters but couldn’t.

        Also for Brent, the roadbook never helps for the descent, there’s no info etc.

  7. Both Ineos and JV are missing a rider in the Wout Poels / Richie Porte mould who were able lieutenants enabling the team to chase down breaks etc. Without that the mountain train thing doesnt work and all the teams need a new tactic. Perhaps next year we shall see Richie Porte guiding Adam Yates?

    With regard to Promoz Roglic the question must be, was he simply conserving energy yesterday or is his form not as good as advertised? We might not get an answer today. This is only Stage 9 and there is a long way to go. Despite the win at last year’s Vuelta there are still some questions on his ability to last three weeks. Perhaps those questions are in his head too and he is reluctant to push too much too early? Do any of the other teams have the strength to exploit the unexpected weakness of JV?

    Romain Bardet, Egan Bernal, Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran have all much more experience of ensuring they get to the third week in as good condition as possible. This could be the key to this race.

    Little discussion of Adam Yates, whilst the assumption must be he will loose the jersey at some point he did manage to hang on yesterday and might do the same again today.

  8. I think we will see Bernal get gapped on the final climb. The engine is there, but he’s quickly distanced by his rivals superior kicks. He got back on yesterday because Roglic and Quintana were stalling instead of countering or working with G. Martin. Should be a super fast stage today and I think the GC teams will ride for the win.

    Roglic for the stage. If the break does make it, De Gendt.

  9. Nans Peters is one of those riders, a bit like Lutsenko and De Gendt, who is just strong. He looks strong, quite barrel chested like the other two, you’d imagine he must have a serious set of lungs in there. Zakarin looked frail by comparison and is genuinely frightening to watch on a narrow, fast descent.
    I think Roglic missed a trick not going with Pogacar, allowing Quintana’s usual anchor act to mess up that move. If I recall the Giro where Roglic was red hot favourite but ended up losing out to Carapaz he was similarly conservative. He should be wary of allowing Bernal back into form and also so many riders being around him on similar time. He can’t watch all of them and I’d imagine someone like Bardet isn’t going to die wondering.

  10. I don’t get the Domoulin decision. A rider makes a rash decision in a difficult stage. He could have been there for Rogic without burning himself. A bad decision by team management to let him do that when Domoulin has ‘feelings’ during a stage. Oh well.

  11. I thought Roglic missed a chance to put time into his rivals yesterday , go with Pogacar and you can take Quintana with you if needs be . Easy to say of course . I think the race looks to be more open than I expected which is great from a fans point of view .

  12. Yesterday was great, I have absolutely no idea who was controlling their efforts and who was just hanging on for dear life.
    As for Roglic: can he really handle these guys in the Alps? Today could be his, but after today all bets are off.

  13. As written (many) times above, I am as well puzzled by jv tactic yesterday.
    Why sacrifying Dumoulin? Why was Roglic so passive afterwards? Why did wva pull so hard up Balès? I really don’t see the coherence in this.
    I think JV and Roglic might end up in a risky position in the Alps. With many riders still in contention, the race will be difficult to control. Even if Roglic is theoretically better in the ITT, they should filter a bit the list of contenders.

    • I’m starting to think that the only logical explanation is that JV set it up for Roglic to make a decisive attack to put him in yellow with a good lead. Only he couldn’t do it. And perhaps realised after he initially closed down Pogacar.

  14. Marie Blanque is a tough climb: a long straight line 11% grade. In thevenet’s times, on a bad day this was the kind of things that was just unclimbable. Now, the riders don’t use anymore 42×23 in the mountains, and with a proper gearing it becomes accessible even for cyclos.
    But don’t get me wrong, it remains pure climbers territory. I expect Quintana and Pogaçar today.

  15. I watched memorised yesterday as a young man rode the fastest time ever up a tough climb putting out unbelievable watts whilst distancing all the best climbers in the world without apparently having to open his mouth.

    I sincerely hope I am on the wrong track and I hate to raise unsubstantiated doubts, but if it looks to good to be true…………..

    • “mesmerized”
      “fastest time in Tour de France”
      “to be true…”

      If you truly hate to raise unsubstantiated doubts, then don’t. It doesn’t lead into informative or entertaining discussion, it just causes everyone to trot out his or her favourite stereotypes, received wisdoms and so called self-evident truths.

        • Well according to Inrng I wear a tin hat. But I hear you. I don’t think there’s a coincidence about Roglic and Pogačar being the best two and from the same country.
          6.7 watts on the Peyresourde and I wonder about the Marie Blanque. Lance’s line was about hitting 5 I believe.
          What hit JV I think was that the main group were able to sustain the high pace. The pace was so high that I don’t think Roglic felt so positive about attacking.
          No matter. Today was a bit more “business as usual” and Roglic is in yellow. Feel a bit for Yates. But I think he should take the positives from taking yellow and defending it on two really tough stages. That should give him confidence. His race is not yet run.
          However, Bernal’s appearance at the front of the race shows that he is still up for the fight and perhaps JV need to be wary coming into the next two weeks.
          One rider that is surprising me is Ritchie Porte. He’s been consistent and not shed much time. A stealth performance. I think his MO will be a top ten finish so he’ll just be steady eddy.

    • It is the fastest recorded time up the Peyresourde, but approaching from Port de Bales means that they miss the first few km of climbing. So even though it was the fastest time over the last 9.6 km, it’s not strictly comparable to the other efforts. Still fast, obviously.

  16. Welcome to the Hirschi show – anyone complaining about Mathews non selection needs to wake up. Only reason his 2018 u23 wins at Worlds and Euro as a 1st year u23 and 3rd in last years San Sebastian is Evenepools results in the very same juniors races and San Sebastian.

  17. That was a compelling days racing. Great credit due to all the actors.

    As Pogačar was climbing The Marie-Blanque I thought this guy is the best climber in the race, and he’s probably the quickest finisher out of the climbers, and he just beat Roglič in their National TT. What more can I say?

    I saw the interview after the stage today and after Pogačar had said some positive stuff about his compatriot Roglič being successful the race he got a look in his eye that said to me – I’m really in the xxxxx now, because I think I can beat him in Le Tour.

  18. When was the last time we had a top 10 in week 1 without 2 from the same team?
    Tour is looking good.
    Hopefully JV and Roglic will bring some excitement and not only defend until the TT.

    • It’s barely going as per script is it?
      OK we have some of the expected protagonists on GC, but no-one looks invincible and, although Jumbo-Visma are the strongest team so far, no team has locked the race down securely either.
      Bernal has almost gone under the radar.
      If he ridden any more conservatively, he’d be sporting a Thatcher hairsprayed bouffant with pearls and twin-set.
      The strange circumstances of 2020 are delivering a race difficult to predict.
      I’m sure that most would say the race is all the better for it too?

      • Apart from the crash fest on the opening day which has removed Pinot and others, I’d say it’s going exactly to script. As we saw in the Tour de l’Ain and the Critérium du Dauphiné, Jumbo-Visma’s train runs out of steam on the final climb to leave Roglič to fend for himself, the difference now is that while he had Bernal, Pinot and Buchmann to worry about, he’s got 7-8 riders to contend with. Everything is very close.

        • It does feel like there are a lot of contenders this year. But I suppose they’ll get gradually get filtered out and some will be lost who were just having a good week and others will slip back 10-20 seconds at a time, like maybe Martin, Quintana and Bardet, until we’re left with just 2 or 3. Probably Roglic, Bernal and Pogacar.
          Maybe it would be an idea for JV to get Van Aert to calm down a bit. Whenever he comes on the front he does a massive pull that sheds most of the peloton and you end up with Gesink, Kuss and Bennett able to do about 20 seconds each after before they blow!

  19. Officially a Marc Hirschi fan now, that was some effort. Really enjoyed watching him.

    Pogacar is some rider. I mean this purely because of his fearless attacking style, not because of anything else, but he reminds me a bit of Riccardo Ricco. If he sustains his current form for the whole race I think he’ll win.

  20. Pogacar bobs a bit like Dan Martin on the bike, or maybe I’m just seeing things. Anyway, that attack in the crosswinds is looking quite significant now, with victims Pogacar, Landa and even Porte looking decent or better. It has incited Pogacar to attack like it’s already stage 20, whether that’s going to help or hinder his overall chances remains to be seen.
    These young guys are good for cycling, both Bernal and Pogacar in particular seem to enjoy it all regardless. Photos can be deceptive but Bernal looks like a cheeky kid in that one.

  21. Big call by the Sunweb DS to get Hirschi to drop back to the PogRog group, it’s great when it works and the rider out sprints everyone. No wonder the kid was upset on finishing third after all that effort

    • I was thinking he just started his sprint a fraction too early. Both Roglic and Pogacar took his wheel for a second a got a crucial draft. But maybe he had to go then to get the jump on everyone and just ran out of gas in the last 50m (Kelly’s theory)

    • I think it was the right call – there are a few ramps on the road into Laruns, and he was shedding time to Pogacar et al on each one, so better to be caught a few kms from the finish and give himself a chance at the sprint, than get caught just 1km out with no time to recover…
      If he’d started his sprint just a second later he might have won. But equally, he’d made that error on stage 2 where Alaphilippe got the jump on him before he’d rushed the gap to open his sprint.

      I was on the edge of my seat screaming him for him in the sprint, but in hindsight I think it was a fair result – if it wasn’t for some fairly cynical sticky bottles, he would’ve been caught and dropped before the top of the Marie Blanque.

    • I really appreciate how Hirschi is racing: he is very talented and dares to take initiatives despite his young age. However, the last 15k were, let’s say, tactically weak.
      First, the question for him was to survive Marie Blanque. With 15sec and favourite group behind it was always extremely complicated to get to the finish on his own. In other words, he should have waited right after the summit and recover downhill and on the flat. He would have made a much better chance in the sprint this way.
      Second, he should have never launched the sprint, let alone at such a distance.

      But chapeau still. Sure he will learn from that.
      It is clearly future classic winner material.

Comments are closed.