Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

192km and into the Alps, this is a mountain stage as the tall peaks and ski resorts show but it’s a warm-up for the big days to come next week.

Society: it’s an old joke in social science academia that for the university exams the questions are the same each year, it’s just the (right) answers that change as people try to address the same problems in new ways. For the Tour de France, the question of who is going to win each day is the same, and the answers are feeling familiar too. Glance at the photo above and the signs are helpful to remind us what happened otherwise the picture would be too familiar. This time a stage finish in Lausanne, and Wout van Aert won, sprinting ahead of Tadej Pogačar and between them they’ve won four of the eight stages.

If Lausanne is home to the International Olympic Committee, the peloton seemed to adopt the Coubertin mantra of “it’s the taking part that counts” as they all rode to Lausanne together. But this was involuntary, it’s surprising that there wasn’t a bigger fight for the breakaway but just when three riders were clear there was a big crash in the peloton and this paused the chase and race. The trio were left clear but they were never going to hold out. Jumbo-Visma and BikeExchange kept the gap down and so we got an uphill dash where the field was reduced from 170 or so riders down to 26 riders on the same time on the line, a clue as to how hard the climb was. Pogačar seemed to show early on the climb before his team mates rode up in front of him, but no attack on the steepest part of the climb. Van Aert won after being caught out of position but as soon as he found an opening in the final metres he was able to ride away for the win.

The Route: 192km and into the Alps, 3,700m of vertical gain and barely a pothole or cracked road in sight. Starting in Aigle, the race heads along the Rhone valley and around the swanky shores of Lac Leman, it’s all flat until turning away from the lake for gentle climb among the vineyards that gradually drags on to the first intermediate sprint of the day.

Soon after it’s Bulle and Gruyères and the race heads into the Alps proper, the road is enclosed by tall peaks. The Col des Mosses is never steep and comes in four parts: 3.5km of climbing at 5-7%; a flat section through Etivaz ; climbing resumes up to the Col de La Lecherette at 5-6%; then it eases for the Col des Mosses itself. Then comes a quick descent on smooth roads to the ski town of Les Diablerets.

The Col de la Croix is the hardest climb today when comparing stats, thanks to the 7.6% gradient. It’s even all the way up and a chance for any pure climbers in the break to make moves or sap others in the break. Then comes a 20km descent, at times with some very fast sections.

It’s back through Aigle where locals and visitors alike can presumably bag caravan freebies twice in a day. There’s a flat valley road section for the best part of 20km.

The Pas de Morgins is a big highway of a climb, more than a ski-station access road. The slope varies a little on the way up but it’s a confusing climb, the Alpine scenery and some hairpins give it the allure of a climb to spin up in a low gear; the wide road, impeccable surface and steady, sometimes soft gradient invites riders to bend the elbows and push a bigger gear.

The Finish: a steep descent into Châtel and then back out, then a 4km drag up to the line that has its moments at 7% but rarely feels like it, it’s a big ring approach. The final kick is under the flamme rouge before the slope softens for the final 600m.

The Contenders: a breakaway day? Normally yes but this blog’s predicted this to happen in Longwy and Lausanne and been wrong twice in a row. Still the course today suits a breakaway twice over, the early phase is where a move can go clear and the later part is hardly terrain for teams to bully Tadej Pogačar (UAE), the relatively gentle slopes today reward sitting on a wheel; unless Ineos or Jumbo-Visma go radical with some high risk moves, say a long range attack from one of their GC contenders.

For the breakaway picks, there’s a subset of riders who are strong in the mountains but can put their back into turning a big gear on the not-so-steep climbs today. Think Simon Geschke (Cofidis), Bob Jungels (Ag2r Citroën), or regular stage winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), but anything he can do, Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) can probably do better right now and his team mate Felix Großschartner is handy here too, Max Schachmann should be but he crashed hard. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) should be ideal but his team are having a dire season so far. More able climbers for today could be Jakob Fuglsang and Michael Woods (Israel),

Tadej Pogačar, Lennard Kämna
Mollema, Jungels, Geschke, Lutsenko, Teuns, Guerreiro

Weather: sunny and 28°C

TV: the stage starts at 12.30pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.45pm CEST. Tune in for the start to see the breakaway form and get a glimpse of the Alps. The Col de la Croix starts around 3.40pm, the Pas de Morgins begins around 5.00pm.

Aigle: the stage starts in Aigle (French for eagle), home of the UCI, cycling’s governing body. While many sports bodies tend to be in cities, cycling’s one is out in the sticks in between a retail park and the river Rhone, but this location means they can have their own velodrome and a BMX track rather than urban office space.

The Tour’s owners ASO and the UCI have clashed over the years but things have calmed down of late, just as they have on the front between the teams and the UCI as well. Is this stage a sign of the rapprochement? Maybe, but the main thing is the town of Aigle wanting to put itself on the map as a cycling destination. You’ll remember it was supposed to co-host the Worlds in 2020 but the pandemic ended that, now it wants to have the Tour de France. There are good rides around – you’ll see them on TV – and now the area wants to go up a gear and encourage more cycle tourism.

Food and drink: more cheese and wine? Today’s stage goes near Gruyères and it passes through Etivaz where the Etivaz cheese comes from, similar to Gruyère but only made in a small area. The race rides right past the “House of Etivaz” today, apparently it’s open 7 days a week, all year and there’s a vending machine in front in case you need some cheese when it’s closed at night. There’s wine too, the early part along the shores of Lac Léman passes the Unesco site of the Lavaux vineyards, then later on Aigle makes wine. If you’re sick of this cheese and wine combo, what else is there? Aigle turns out to be a big producer of cornichons, or pickled cucumbers… but there’s no escape because they’re an essential condiment for raclette, scrapings of melted cheese.

53 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview”

  1. “… unless Ineos or Jumbo-Visma go radical with some high risk moves, say a long range attack from one of their GC contenders.”

    Oh man, I would REALLY love to see that, but logically, breakaway all day. Not a lot of logic to the race so far, though, so who knows?

    • Has someone “put the word out” amongst the peloton to leave off the breakaways or what, because there aren’t particularly a lot of contenders each day so far?
      Yesterday as well, Team UAE got to the front of the peloton and blocked it off, with Pogacar very prominent for such a young man.

  2. Looking at the GC podium now, it’s as most predicted (bar Roglic’s absence) Pog, Vinge & G. 3 teams with not much incentive to attack. Then Bardet, Mas & Gaudu who are only just a minute ahead of Roglic on GC and with a long TT to come, have a good reason to go up the road, in the coming days, if they’re thinking of GC standings. Vlasov came in with the main guys yesterday so hopefully Bora, Bahrain and maybe Intermarche will liven things up today.

  3. Gruyères brings back memories of chasing LeTour around France. Seemed like they grated that stuff over pretty much any/everything as if it was an Italian hard grating cheese. Sadly, our boss back then was a guy who wanted to eat “Italian” food no matter where we were or how badly it was made…so we suffered through a lot of grated gruyeres. The taste/smell still makes me gag.
    Did anyone else notice the lack of French moto guys hopping off to mechanically wave their flags to signal the road furniture when the race entered Switzerland? Seemed like the Swiss just put up some padding marked in red/white and left it at that. Once I noticed this I started looking for the moto boys zooming by to get ahead of the race, but it seemed they weren’t there. Nobody seemed to crash into any road furniture despite this so I’m wondering a) Did I imagine this? b) If it’s true, can this be a way to reduce the dangers of these high-speed passes by the motos to get in position to wave the flags? Does this safety measure actually make things less safe?

    • Aren’t those moto guys Gendarmes, i.e. military police? If they patrolled Swiss street furniture, would that count as an invasion?

      • As the race rolled into Switzerland, I would guess the TV-bikes, motoguys etc just followed. I remember a few years ago riders complaining about the amount of road furniture in Switzerland after some nasty crashes.

    • Perhaps have a bell or siren sound at each dangerous road furniture. Who ever is Leading the peloton can see the clearly marked obstacles, but 2 rows back guys cant see them, but all could hear it.

        • Yet there seemed none-of-that as LeTour crossed into Switzerland…which was my point. And yet it seemed there were no more issues with road-furniture than when they have moto guys racing up the road to get ahead of the race in order to wave their flags and blow their whistles. I’m wondering if these “safety” measures end up reducing rather than increasing safety, especially when you consider the rush the motos always seem to be in…blasting past the riders at great speeds while TV viewers hold-their-breath, hoping a rider doesn’t stray into their path and get hit. But at least the Shimano neutral support cars are no longer running over/into the riders, right???

  4. It is difficult to see what Jumbo Visma are up to. WvA has the green jersey pretty much wrapped up, it is also less vulnerable to “issues” than yellow, an ill timed mechanical or crash does not mean the end. Yet in Lausanne they chased for the 50 points but at a cost of giving Tadej Pogacer four more seconds. Yes it was another great display by WvA but was that really worth it when all it does is make their GC hopes (thin as they are) less? There is no way Sky would have even thought of working for Michal Kwiatkowski if there was even a slight possibility that it would have impacted on Chris Froome’s pursuit of yellow. Let the break go, let others chase, if Tadej Pogacer wants bonus seconds let him use up his team, sit quietly in the bunch. All very odd.

    It hardly needs saying that today is perfect for a break (there is a tiny chance of seeing some “Froomeigal” type ambush from JV/Ineos but that seems more computer game than reality) maybe Bob Jungels or Bauke Mollema, though I suspect Tadej Pogacer will get towed to the line again.

    • To be fair to WvA he has put a lot of graft in for team mates during his time at Jumbo -Visma, and you can only assume that he’s able to call the favours in?
      They maybe fancy Vingegaard in a finish with Pogacar too, though it’s the Slovenian who has edged it so far.
      But, yes, it is the Wout show at the moment and Pogacar is profiting from it.

      • The only thing I can think of on the day WVA went long with Simmons and Fuglsang was that they wanted to give the yellow jersey to Pogacar and UAE, so they had responsibility to sit on the front in the following days, more media for Pogacar, less recovery time etc.

        Much as they might try and capitalise on that I think the reality is TJV/Ineos best chance of winning is to forget Pogacar, and concentrate on attacking each other, and get their man into second position. And then hope Pogacar falls off or catches Covid.

    • Perhaps van Aert will be happy in full domestique mode, now that they’ve let him sew up the points competition? That might be more valuable to Vingegaard than the 4 seconds he lost today.

      • “It is difficult to see what Jumbo Visma are up to. WvA has the green jersey pretty much wrapped up, it is also less vulnerable to “issues” than yellow, an ill timed mechanical or crash does not mean the end. Yet in Lausanne they chased for the 50 points but at a cost of giving Tadej Pogacer four more seconds.”

        Van Aert said that in his post-race interview yesterday the team had estimated that they needed those 50 points yesterday to make sure of green jersey and now he has more freedom to help the GC leaders.

  5. I think this is a day where we could see moves made to try to take advantage of the big fast descents as the climbs should not trouble any of the contenders or give pure climbers a big advantage which should bring everyone back together for the finish. As Inrng said Col de La Croix is the hardest of the day but a long way from the end with descents back to the valley will be very fast on very good roads passing through Swiss ski villages bringing with it road furniture and tram tracks that cut across the road. The Pas du Morgins gets easier as it rises with the last 4 kms or so benefiting from the usual tail wind making it feel flat. The run into Chatel will also be very fast on freshly tarmaced roads which the final 4 kms is a false flat and again should have the usual tailwind. I think it will be another sprint finish for WVA / POG as there is plenty to time to bring back anyone who has broken away over Col de La Croix back into Valais. Fromage d’Abondance should be added to the list being produced in Châtel and the Abondance valley and these parts of Chablais – perhaps consider it for Tuesday’s stage 🙂

    • I was wondering about Van Aert but thought if he’s there, maybe he’ll be too tired and so this time Pogačar gets him. The tailwind is interesting as it sounds helpful but can also make riders overheat as it reduces the breeze.

      Too much cheese already, but hard to avoid Abondance and Reblochon for Tuesday.

  6. Thanks as ever for the write-ups!

    No rings for WVA today? The way you’ve described the finish makes it sound like he should be able to follow and with a not-too hard finish, he could outsprint a group if the peloton swept up the break?

  7. Saw this, “Marc Madiot, a team manager who earned his spurs alongside Hinault and Laurent Fignon. “Jumbo were pushing their pawns forward to harass [UAE], harass, harass,” he said.

    “They’ve adopted a tactic which involves destabilising UAE to force them into working every day, so that later in the race they can get Pogacar on his own in the mountains. It’s a war of attrition.”

    So are Jumbo planing to do what Pogacar did in 2020? Shame Ineos seem to be stuck in “Sky Train mode”.

    • The tactics of road cycling are endlessly fascinating.
      I truly think that the British Brexiteers could have looked at this most quintessential of continental sports and got an idea of what would transpire.

    • Jumbo-Visma’s DS Marijn Zeeman said himself in Thijs Zonneveld’s podcast this was the tactic behind sending WvA ahead in the stage to Longwy: making sure UAE had to do all the work. JV didn’t care about defending yellow; that was just a bonus. When it became apparent the breakaway likely wouldn’t make it, WvA got the freedom to go on anyway, unlike Fuglsang, because they learned from the past that it is better for morale to (try to) win stages than control constantly for GC.

    • Why should Ineos help Jumbo win any more than they should help Pogacar win? If Pogacar cracks Jumbo win, and Ineos will gain nothing except the crushing feeling of having been played.

    • Would be great to see that, although easier said than done. If the other teams made alliances and pinged off contenders, forcing UAE to chase, it might work. But can’t see that happening.

    • They should, but his back is still terrible and he seemed to struggle on the Planche and yesterday as well. At his best, he is able to follow or even beat Pogacar at yesterday’s finish. I think JV will try to get him to the rest day with minimal damage and hope he recovers some more to be able to go for long attacks in week 2 and 3.

      Which makes me think: there is still so much Tour to go! This first week has been great on average (bar the Danish stages). I really hope COVID stays out of the peloton and the riders keep battling as they have done so far.

  8. It feels to me that pog and wva are banking what wins they can for fear of Covid decimation of them or their teams later on. Will the fatigue come back to bite them?

  9. Gryeres note: Also the home of the xenomorph from the Alien movie series. HR Giger used to live there, his Oscar exhibited along with studies of the monster and other creations of his. Things from a very dark place…

      • And I didn’t know that 👍
        Someone left a note in the guestbook of Giger’s, my wife and I cite this on occasion: “Lighten up, Gigermate!”

      • Didn’t Byron and his entourage – including Shelley and his future wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwinn – stay in Cologny, over the Leman?

      • My Gran used to say that eating cheese just before bedtime gave you nightmares……

        I love the cheese vending machine, it’s a shame they don’t have a wine dispenser as well. There used to be a milk vending machine outside our local Carrefour, which was pretty odd, given that I never saw a French person put milk in tea or coffee, but wine required forethought.

    • Can’t decide if Xenomorph’s would be sprinters (fast twitch muscles) or climbers, as their low body fat and acid for blood would be useful in the high mountains.

      Frankenstein’s Monster is clearly a rouleur.

  10. Aigle used to host a nice cyclo-cross race early in the CX season, at the very UCI centre. Bit since they tried to organise the Worlds, the CX seems to have vanished. I don’t understand why. CX in Aigle seems very fitting and easy to organise.

    • There’s an invitation-only top level cx summer camp for youth-to-juniors at Aigle every year.
      Agree that it should be a fixture on the World Cup to keep cross in the forefront of UCI thinking, but would it trickle down to national level anywhere outside the Be NL heartland?

      • Switzerland had its own CX cup, the EKZ cup. Bern even went to World Cup. But then Bern found it too expensive to be in the World Cup, and then EKZ pulled the plug on its sponsorship, so no more cup. Quite a catastrophe.

        • Yes, the EKZ Tour was a fine series, with some nice races. Sadly, as you said, Bern couldn’t afford to keep hosting the World Cup….big error from the World Cup organisers.

          Switzerland has a fine history in the sport – their success in CX, has been carried on, but in XCO MTB.

  11. Inrng,

    I wanted to thank you for the great job you do with all the stage details (and everything) on this website. Huge applause to you.


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