Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

The legendary Puy de Dôme climb is back in the Tour de France and offers a unique summit finish, visually spectacular and a tough climb with steep slopes that never relent.

Stage 8 Review: a “4×4 breakaway” as Tour race director Thierry Gouvenou likes to call it, four riders away with a lead of four minutes and before pedants point out three riders were away in Anthony Delaplace, Anthony Turgis and Tim Declerq, well Declerq’s worth two. His presence was unusual and shows how Quick-Step are having to play cards from a hand they didn’t choose and alas for them, not even the combativity prize.

Two incidents mid-stage, first a small one when the sprinters pressed on after the intermediate sprint and the stage threatened to catch fire but Wout van Aert was among those missing up front and Jumbo-Visma chased and closed things down. The stage fell back into a slump but it was during this calm that the peloton slowed, some hit the brakes, others slammed on them and suddenly Mark Cavendish was on he ground and almost instantly you could see his shoulder was injured. He was put into an ambulance and out of the race, a cruel exit on terms nobody wanted just when he’d been so close the previous day. The stage record had become a defining goal of late but in time it’ll become anecdotal compared to the rest of his palmarès.

In the run into Limoges Steff Cras collided with a spectator standing in the road, crashing out of the race and also bringing down Simon Yates and Mikel Landa among others, with Yates losing 47 seconds.

The finish looked like it was made for Mathieu van der Poel but on the start line yesterday he said he was there to help Philipsen score more points for the green jersey and he wasn’t bluffing. He gave his colleague a good lead out but Mads Pedersen delivered another powerful sprint, he looks huge but his racing weight is 70kg or less which puts him in the punchy bracket. Wout van Aert got stuck in traffic in the finale including his own leadout Laporte and was closing fast but the line was too soon for him.

The Route: 182.4km and 3,400m of vertical gain. The start’s in Saint-Léonard, adopted home of the late Raymond Poulidor and in case you didn’t know this you will hear it a lot today and the first roads to Champnétry and Cheissoux are where Poulidor used to test his form, it’s all on a wide road to the Lac de Vassivière, France’s largest artificial lake. From here on the for the next 100km roads are smaller and lumpier, real rural backwater country and all the better riding for it with only the interlude for crossing of Felletin.

With 60km to go it’s back on to big roads all the way across to the Col de Nugère and the descent to Volvic, home of the eponymous mineral water – it’s been so warm and dry this year there are water restrictions here – and then down to the city of Clermont-Ferrand.

The Finish: the Puy de Dôme awaits but first there’s a long climb out of the city with some steep roads where the urban setting adds to the heat, the buildings radiating back heat. The first five kilometres are a tough climb alone and the flatter section after doesn’t allow for rest, it’s still uphill as it heads across to the car park and entry of the Puy de Dôme climb. Here riders will have to be in position as the final part of the climb is narrow.

Once on the famous climb the road spirals around the volcano at a steady 11-12%, the defining feature is how this is a tough climb but regular, it’s like this all the way to the top where just before the finish the road kicks up to 15%.

  • Race vehicles are restricted with one car from each time allowed to follow the peloton but not the breakaway or leaders, any mechanicals will have to be covered by neutral service motos or by staff waiting in two designated pit zones on the climb

The Contenders: Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) said he saw three stages where the Tour would be won and today is one of them, along with the Grand Colombier and Col de la Loze. How to pick between him and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) given we couldn’t before the race and can’t after the Pyrenees? Let’s note the weather and that it’s going to be hot that this might tilt things towards the Dane.

Romain Bardet (DSM Firmenich) is the local who knows every metre of the road but it doesn’t give him extra watts and he’s eighth on GC and won’t get space to move, plus he’s better suited to long climbs rather than this sharp effort.

Jumbo-Visma, UAE and other teams are likely to drive the pace coming into the climb as they fight for position which makes life even harder for any breakaway survivors, plus Jumbo-Visma have yet to win and this is a mythical day on a Box Office Sunday. Still if enough riders can barge clear a move has a good chance today, Jumbo and UAE might chase but who else? Several riders seemed to ease up in the finish of yesterday’s stage with an eye on being fresher today. Egan Bernal (Ineos) comes to mind, Neilson Powless (EF) is after those HC points and a stage. Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech) is suited to the steep finish and probably Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) too although the way he lost time in the Pyrenees wasn’t voluntary.

Some riders like Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Felix Gall (Ag2r Citroën) are 7-8 minutes down on GC but only three minutes of the podium race so they might not get much room, the likes of Ineos or Jayco could add a rider or two to the chase.

Vingegaard, Pogačar
Woods, Powless, Ciccone, Guerreiro, Bernal, Halland Johannessen

Weather: hot and sunny, 33°C and hardly a breath of wind either.

TV: KMO is at 1.45pm and the finish is forecast for later than usual at 6.20pm CEST. Tune in to see the start and the breakaway form. Be sure to be in place for the Col de la Nugère and the final hour.

Poulidor day: today will see the race celebrate Raymond Poulidor and the start town of Saint-Léonard is like an open air museum to him. While the race is keen to attract new audiences, it does also like to evoke the good old days and turn to the past which isn’t a big draw. But with Poulidor there’s no argument here, he was a great rider and a fascinating character. A few extra points you may not read elsewhere:

  • yes he grew up on a farm and got the “bumpkin” label but he was sharp from the early days and got the second highest mark for his school exams in the region
  • he’d later take people to the cleaners in card games and was a shrewd investor
  • the “eternal second” won more times than he finished second
  • the “eternal second” finished third more often in the Tour de France (five times) than second (three)
  • If you’ve seen the film Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert there’s the scene where a rider’s ability is gauged by the use of a pendulum, this is a nod to Poulidor’s superstitious team manager Antonin Magne who would do just this. Magne detected that Poulidor had “great powers” but that he would “be unlucky in July”, a technique probably not used today…
  • …Magne had a special potion for his riders called l’eau blanc (“white water”) which he kept in small vials for riders to use when they were in peak form. It contained… water and baking powder, the same soda used today by some ahead of intense efforts

66 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview”

  1. It’s not the sort of tricky day S Yates would have chosen to recover after yesterday’s crash.

    Will Cavendish find the motivation to prepare for the late season races where sprint opportunities are thin on the ground?

    • There’d been some talk of Cavendish retiring in Paris if he’d won a stage… today’s L’Equipe quotes Vinokourov who is ready to offer him a contract extension for 2024.

      While Cavendish has often downplayed the Merckx record, we can all see he’s after it. An anecdote on this: several years ago at the Tour of Oman Christian Prudhomme meets mark Cavendish and asks him if he’s heard of André Darrigade. Cavendish replies “22”, as in Darrigade had got 22 Tour stage wins. So for many years he’s been counting the stage wins and his rank here.

      • I think it’s almost inevitable he will carry on next year, whether that’s with Astana is another matter. He has the speed but he needs the positioning/timing. I’m not a Cavendish fan at all but that is not the way he should leave the Tour for good.

        • It could make sense: he gets more publicity than the rest of Astana put together and far more than most currently successful sprinters. Is he up for the challenge?

      • I do think it is a shame that so much focus is on a number of wins in a single race rather than the overall quality of a career. It feels to me that his chances recently have all relied on things falling correctly into place (luck if you will) , rather than him making things go his way. Comparing to entirely different type of riders in another era is meaningless.
        As an educator at MA level I am often debating the value of grades as anything useful, too self referential, and not a deep reflection of the quality of work being done. I think the same could be said here.

      • Agreed, Cav wants this record plus I think he has earned it. He has faults, but I also think he is a great champion and it would be great to see him finish more on his own terms. But for him to do well next year he must have a buildup that starts this fall… and he needs to be back on his bike soon.

  2. Let’s not forget Pierre Matignon’s incendiary feat* on the Puy de Dôme in 1969. Matignon was the lanterne rouge and won the stage, incredulously beating Merckx to the top. (*He was wearing Fire-socks)

  3. Race vehicles are restricted with one car from each time

    Sb team

    I had a dream that Kuss would go into the break with vHooydonck and push UAE to chase.

      • Ah yes, that’s true actually, he’s in the top 10 still isn’t he. I wonder what the game plan is with him? Try and hang in to a top 10? Or go for a stage in the 2nd or 3rd week?

        • Pidcock appears very goal orientated so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is just seeing how long he can stay in the top 10/how high a GC placing is possible. Stage 14 has his name on it.

          • That’s been the plan, to see how far/high he can go on GC. He’s ninth overall so won’t get much room to move and we’ll see how he works with Rodriguez, who is 4th overall now but set for a move to Movistar so you wonder who the priority is.

          • Not confirmed, officially no deal can be signed before 1 August but of course riders can sign deals to agree terms etc, it’s more that this deal has been on for a long time and today’s L’Equipe is even giving details, eg two years. But still not official, could still be Rodriguez’s agent stirring Ineos into matching, raising etc.

    • Quite surprised by the lack of comments following up after the stage!

      Yesterday’s result was far better for Pidcock than a stage win.

      That’s the first time we’ve really seen him close to the best level on a long climb – he’s going well so far this Tour but until yesterday I’ve been of the opinion (as stated on INRNG comments section previously) that he’s a excellent rider but not good enough at any discipline to dominate a more likely a develop into a Mikel Kwiatowski type rider than either a proper consistent Grand Tour or Classics favourite.

      Yesterday was the first time I really saw anything different – cause Woods climbed Puy De Dome around 3/4mins slower than Pog/Vin so similar to Alpe D’Huez last year a breakaway victory for Pidcock wouldn’t have really shown us what his ride yesterday did.

      Great news for Pidcock and he mentioned he’s feeling stronger and stronger, really hope he proves me wrong and shows proper GT legs by week three. Admittedly though, we’re asking a lot for any rider to get close to P/V’s level, they are exceptional.

  4. Desperately sorry for Cavendish, but that’s cycling. So many hard luck stories. So many ‘what ifs’. Part of the fascination I suppose.

    I was in two minds about that record. Maybe a tie is a good result in the long run. Two great riders forever mentioned in the same breath.

    Thanks for the memories, Cav.

    • I think I wrote here in the winter that the Tour / 35th stage win was really becoming a defining test for Cavendish to the point where if he didn’t make it, it could almost see his career end on a sour note, a test he didn’t pass. But it needn’t be, he’s won so much that an extra win isn’t so much, and being tied with Merckx is special, but it’s just the exit in an ambulance on a transition stage after a random crash, a “back door” exit rather than on the stage taking applause.

      Having been so close to a win in Bordeaux he’s not fading away like others – insert your example – who have probably ridden on for the dreaded “a season too much” to the point that it detracts from what they did before.

      • Going after the record is the logical step and it draws so much attention given it’s close (1 win) and there’s little “big” for him to win is his impressive career.

        I guess if he was still close but down 3 or 4 wins at this point his magnificent palmarés would more more in the spotlight but let’s see if he’s still got some coffee in the pot to give it another go. It’d be entertaining.

        Sprinters tend to be stubborn and goal driven so who knows.

      • In some cases several seasons too much.

        Old Rider… Cavendish simply can not be mentioned in the same breath with Merckx. Cavendish combined with Van Aert and Froome, perhaps… but comparisons with Cavendish are insulting to Merckx. It’d be like comparing Rooney to Cruyff.

        • All these Cav chats are really lame… doesn’t feel of the INRNG comments section level!

          Every cycling fan knows Merckx is the greatest and a different type of rider to Cav so the comparison is silly but just there cause of the stage victories – what both have done in different ways is remarkable and both deserve all the praise they receive in different ways.

          There is not a single rider in cycling’s history who gets away without some kind of criticism – Merckx for possible doping, Cav for temper tantrum’s and what some view as a number of team victories rather than his only… same for Nibali being spiky, Valverde not saying anything about his doping ban, Froome being dull, all the way to Armstrong being Lucifer incarnate…

          But for every top champion at some point you have to concede their greatness at some point?

          Merckx for obvious reasons… even if you hate Cav his ability to galvanise a team and repeatedly win across different generations… Nibali was never my favourite but his unrelenting grit and versatility won me over eventually… and seeing many riders admiration for Valverde and his ability to win so late in his career made me reconsider my antipathy. Froome being labelled boring always seemed totally unfair to me but then Armstrong…

          I find his bullying of people far more repulsive than his doping if I’m honest, the stories of people’s careers he ruined or intimidated are pretty obnoxious but… I listen to his podcast because he’s pretty entertaining! Sometimes the worst people are quite fun to spend time with in the right circumstance and begrudgingly I would admit that even in an era of doping Armstrong’s ability to build a world around himself to take over cycling and win repeatedly is as impressive as many other riders successes. Admittedly though Trump and other awful people have done this in different ways and is pretty typical of narcissists so maybe admiration has a tipping point eventually?

  5. We could see interesting tactics on the final climb. JV won’t want to work and have Pogi take advantage again with exactly the same logic for UAE.

  6. Thinking about Cav still been competitive at the age of 38 and seeing Sagan looking like a shadow of his former self at the age of 33 , is it a physical thing or a mental thing ?
    Will Cav delay his retirement for a year now ?

      • Sagan was busted for drunk driving with a very high BAC in the late morning. I think there was another similar incident during the pandemic. I fear Sagan’s love of partying is quite severe (or he is just a straight up alcoholic) and has taken over his career.

        • He’s also probably bored. Ok, winning is fun and competing against the generation of Van der Poels comparatively sucks, but did Sagan ever really enjoyed road cycling?

          Also, some athletes have / are able to find / or are that dull (!) to find – the determination of result driven long term sporting career. For every Ronaldo there is a Nani?

          Recently, at combibed Czecho-Slovak road championship, Sagan was part of a crash on the finish line, while sprinting for the second place behing winning Vacek; he took down Pavel Bittner with himself and out of pure frustration went to Bittner, who still lied on the ground, and shoot at him something in the vein of “Do you know who I am?”. Hmm…

          • Did Sagan ever really enjoy road racing?! I know recency bias is powerful, but really? Say what you will about Sagan’s level of joy and excitement for the last several years, but it was clear that he was having lots of fun for most of his career. The exception was perhaps parts of 2014-2015, during which he was over-raced (90+ race days/year!!) and over-trained, and in 2015 openly mocked by the team owner – sure, he was probably miserable for some of this time. But he went on to win 3 WCs and a lot of other races, and was seen smiling, laughing, and popping wheelies regularly. His joy was infectious and led to him being the most popular rider in the peloton. He was exuberant on and off the bike.

            I watched the end of the Slovak road championship – from what I could see, Vacek veered abruptly towards Sagan just before the line, causing Sagan to lurch to his left to avoid being taken down by Vacek, at which point he hit Bittner. I half expected Vacek to be relegated. In the footage I saw, it was impossible to hear what the riders were saying, so I’m curious to know what he said and how you know he was directing it at Bittner?

    • He simply don’t deserve anything more than he gets.

      He got close to a rather anecdotal record by being the finisher in absolutely dominant sprinting teams of it’s era.

    • Ignoring the overuse of !, I agree with Fra, he really doesn’t deserve anything. Not the best of characters either. But the audience here being very UK biased I hope he retires to avoid going through a ! barrage at next year’s tour.

  7. The french journal I read made a lot more of Steff Cras than Cavendish.
    Spectate, sure but keep out the way. English has the term ‘rubbernecking’ and I do wonder if the caravane publicitaire and the 15milliseconds of fame in being roadside is too much excitement for some.
    As Cavendish was laying on the ground, one type was giving the thumbs up to be in the background of all the press pics. You do wonder if his presence roadside had something to do with the crash. He was later heard to be admonished by the course direction with a ‘Foutez le camp’ which is so quintessentially french.
    The tour may be victim of its own publicity, but it’s the riders that suffer as a result.

  8. Peter Sagan was reported to have caught Covid two or three times. I don’t think he’s won a race since the first. Would his recent career decline perhaps be due to Covid related issues?

      • Isn’t Sagan the guy with the tattoo – “Why so serious?” or something like that? My guess is the sport has gotten way too serious for him. Watching ever more guys race up climbs with one eye on their electronic gizmo the whole time is taking some of the fun out of watching on TV for me. The whole “marginal gains” claptrap (or was it BigTex’ F1 project?) was the beginning of things getting way too serious for me.
        The other day some DS was going on about how hard it was to help his rider going DOWN…lending some credence to my opinion that the using gizmos and earpieces has gone way too far.
        IMHO there is way, way too much “technology” in use in a sport where you still have to pedal the damn thinsg to make ’em go anywhere.

    • I think Sagans slow down really accelerated when he crashed on a downhill stage 17 in the 2018 tdf. Has not been the same at all. Much like Degenkolb, Froome crashes and recoveries where they are all at a lower level.

  9. Why hasn’t UAE brought McNulty or Jay Vine to this tour? Wouldn’t they provide Pogacar with some help dealing with JVs attacks on the climbs?

    • Sure they would! But I guess you didn’t see how hard they worked not too long ago at the Giro d’Italia? Conventional wisdom says Giro-Tour is too much, even if you’re just helping the guy trying to win pink or yellow. I don’t doubt for a second UAE’s management would have included them if they thought they’d be better than the squad they selected…but it’s easy for armchair DS’s to get carried away, especially with hindsight – “coulda/woulda/shoulda” never won anything.

    • There was a story before the race about McNulty being pooped after the Giro. Vine got hurt, didn’t he, in the TdSuisse? Maybe he couldn’t train, etc.

      • Thanks for both replies. I did see most of the Giro, and yes I understand the extreme workload of back to back grand tours. I expected one or both of those riders would be riding the TDF with Pogacar considering that he was kinda on his own at times last year under repeated attacks from Jumbo. I just think he can use all the help he can get and if he’s riding the tour (but not the giro) then maybe one (or both) of them should be too.

        • Your point is far from moot, given that, say, Kuss was there at the sharp end of things during the Giro and now is looking pretty decisive, too – in this first half of the race, at least (let’s see later on). At the same time, we must guess that if the team had any hint that those athletes you name could be up to the task, they’d have had them in – as it happened with Kuss, indeed.

          Speaking of Kuss, an interesting point, if anything, could be wondering about what TDF is Adam Yates planning (or is UAE planning for Adam Yates). He’s often left behind in the very finale and ends up unable to help, but then it turns out he’s able to finish with the best of the rest or thereabouts, and surely ahead of Kuss himself (or at least on par). I guess that the team is more keen on keeping him as a GC menace of sort than asking him to give his all to put more direct pressure on Vingegaard (not that it was always possible, essentially just yesterday – or maybe they could use him to derail the Jumbo train on Tuesday anticipating an hard turn, unless Pogi had told the team he wasn’t fine, of course).

          Another rider I’m wondering about is Bjerg – looked on excellent form at Dauphiné, now having terrible results and generally not showing up quite much. Has something happened to him? (I wasn’t following so closely) Are they keeping him fresh for next weekend, a complicated one indeed? Or did he just force TDF selection just to fall short come the race? (Hope this can’t just happen nowadays).

          Soler and Grossschertner were clearly selected with long raids in mind, not surely in order to build a mountain sprint train of sort, the idea probably being to support Pogacar in a strategic scenario, and they were deployed accordingly – when they were (once, I think). But that plan failed big time and the team had to call them back, probably not even at the right moment. More to come from them? They must be hoping so in UAE’s team car.

    • Am presuming Tim Wellens would also have been at TdF, wasn’t he a big money UAE signing last year for spring classics and to support Pog. Must still be recovering from spring injury.

      Anyway, race nicely poised for a tough week of racing ahead.

  10. Now that the TdF has gone back to Puy de Dôme, what are the next/other mythical or historical climbs the Tour hasn’t been to in 20+ years and needs to revisit? I know it’s only been since 2008, but I’d like to see Col de la Bonette used again.

    • The Granon was back last year after a long absence.

      Some others would be the Cayolle in the southern Alps and the Superbagnères climb in the Pyrenees.

      I wonder if the Tour will go back the Puy soon, it was special to think about but in the moment without the crowds it wasn’t so good.

  11. Has the Cayolle ever been used much? It’s a narrow road through a National Park; the parallel Col’ d’Allos seems to have been preferred? The Cayolle is very beautiful though.

    Cime de la Bonette / Col de Restefond would be impressive – when was that last climbed? I seem to recall Froome crashing on the descent when he was still a comparative unknown, so maybe 15 years ago?

    Personally, I’d like to see the Col d’Allos / Col de Vars / Col d’Izoard trilogy used one day with stage finish at the citadel in Briançon – harking back to the Bartali-era Tours.

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